Polka & Bloom on Etsy

Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday Links :: Fore Edge Painter, Stitches, Hiraeth

Pretty messy desk
When I was taking new pictures for the shop last week, I made a bit of a mess on my desk. That's nothing new to be honest, the desk is usually invisible underneath piles of fabric or papers or whatever. Atleast it was a pretty mess this time. ;-

I love learning new (fancy) stitches, but some of my favourite stitches are still very simple ones, like back stitch and star stitch. So this post on TextileArtist.org about the power of simple hand stitch had me clapping my hands. :-)

Multi-Dimensional Illustrations Weave Together Mysterious Narratives. Beautiful!

Create Your Own Landing Page for Instagram by Meighan O'Toole. I'd been meaning to do this and that post inspired me to finally get it done. Controlling your own content is so important, even if it's just a landing page. :-)

This picture made me laugh. :-D {via SwissMiss}

Hiraeth by Aoife Inman. The Elsewhere blog is worth exploring if you like writings about place.

Ten drawings for creative people, to motivate and inspire from Red Lemon Club.

A Centuries-Old Art Form Hides Within the Gilded Pages of Antique Books. I had no idea this art form existed but it is AMAZING. Do watch the short video in that link to get the full effect of this magical art.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Review: Dutch Label Custom Labels



A little while ago, Dutch Label Shop got in touch asking if I'd be interested in trying their custom woven labels. I occasionally get requests like this, but I usually turn them down because they are usually not relevant to this blog or any of my interests. But it just so happened that I'd been thinking about getting some labels made for the quilts I make, so this was a perfect match!

Dutch Label Shop provided me with store credit so I could try out their labels, but other than that, I was not compensated for this review, and the following is my honest opinion of the product and using their site!

There's a discount code for you at the bottom of the post in case you want to try out Dutch Label yourself. Yay! :-)

Dutch Label Shop has a wide variety of labels, for lots of different types of handmade goods. Labels you can customize to a great degree with your brand colours and logo etc. They have size and care labels for garments, as well. All the labels are woven (not embroidered or screen printed), washable, and available in iron-on or sew-on versions. You can order low minimum quantities, but the prices per label drop quite dramatically if you order larger quantities.

Dutch Label Review
I decided I'd make two different labels, a double-sided for adding to quilts and one with a design on one side only to sew onto my handmade bags.

Both of my labels are woven logo labels, which can be pretty much completely customized how you want them, so my review is of this type of label.

The other option for labels is basic woven labels. These can't be customized with your own logo, but instead you can use a range of symbols and fonts to create your labels. There aren't as many colours available for the basic labels, but the price is cheaper, so if you don't have a logo/need super specific customization for your labels, I'd definitely check out this option.

On the woven logo labels page it's not completely clear that the size you make your label is the exact size it will be made. Luckily, I'd come across another review of Dutch Label and they mentioned this, so when I set about designing my labels, I kept this in mind.


These are the label designs I uploaded, click on the image if you want to see them full size. The double-sided label measures 2" x 3" which means it will be 2" x 1.5" once folded. The one-sided label measures 2" x 1.5". As you can see, I added a nice wide margin, about 1/4" on all sides to make sure all my text and logo were 'safe'.

When you have designed and uploaded your design and have selected the quantity you want, you also have the option of getting a photo proof (for a small fee) of how your label will look before they are all woven and shipped to you. Since I had store credit, I decided I'd say yes to this option. I thought I might as well test the process as much as possible, right? ;-)


I was happy with the photo proof they emailed me a few days after I uploaded my designs. And then I could just sit back and wait for my labels. Except, I was worried that I'd get slammed with customs fees plus Royal Mail's hefty handling fee. So I had the labels shipped to my sister and then she sent them to me. But it wasn't too much of an extra wait and then I had my shiny new labels! :-D

Dutch Label Review
In case you're wondering what the labels look like on the back. I quite like the watercolour effect on the back of the double-sided label.

The colours are not 100% like the image I uploaded. I think I could have made more specific colour choices, so that's something you should definitely look into if you order labels and the colours must be just so. For me it's not a big deal and I am pretty happy with the result. I love how vibrant the colours are! The photos make the darker pink look more red than it is in real life, for some reason my camera thinks it's more of a red colour..

Dutch Label Review
I sewed the 'bag label' onto the Time Warp bag I made a few years ago. I used a fancy stitch in a thread colour that matches the bag.

For this label, I decided to only use one colour, because I have no idea what colours future bags I make will be. And I think it would bother me to have a multi-colour label that maybe didn't go very well with the fabric in question. I used the dark pink for this label, because it's more likely that I'll make a bag that matches with pink than with green.

I'm really pleased with how the label looks on my bag! Although I felt a little bit self-conscious when I went out in public with it the first time! But that's silly, coz who's going to know that I made the bag AND put my own label on it?! ;-D

Dutch Label Review
My 'quilt label'. I added this to a quilt I already had. Ripped the binding seam so I could attach it and sewed it closed again. And now all my future quilts will have this label! :-)

Here I used the multi-colour version of my logo. It's a nice pop of colour on the back of the quilt. And the quilts/quilt backs I make are often pretty scrappy so the label will probably blend in nicely with most fabrics.

Because this label type is meant to be sewn in, it actually does have a bit of extra edging along the short edges. If you scroll back up, you can see it in the other pictures of it.

I am really happy with both my labels! I found it relatively straight forward to design my labels, although there are so many ways to customize them it felt a little bit overwhelming (but in a good way!) I didn't take advantage of their customer chat, but by the sounds of it, they're very helpful. Check out my friend June's review of Dutch Label too. She made different labels from the ones I made, of course, and it's always nice to have something to compare with.

If you need labels for your handmade goods, I'd definitely recommend Dutch Label. And if I need more labels at some point, I'll come back myself. One little extra thing that impressed me: I had ordered 50 of the quilt label and 10 of the bag label, but I received several extra labels of each one. Maybe it was a mistake, but I hope not, because it felt very generous and something nice for a company to do to surprise and delight their customers. :-)

A few tips if you go ahead and make your own labels:
• If you don't need a label with a particular logo, check out the basic labels for a cheaper option.
• If you do need a particular logo but are unsure of the process, stick with one colour for your design to keep things simple.
• If your custom logo has a lot of detail, stick with a white background because some of those details may get lost on a colour background.
• It may be worth it to get a photo proof of your design. It would be a shame to order 500 labels and it turns out they weren't quite right!

So now, if you're inspired to try Dutch Label for your label needs/wants, they are offering 15% off on their site. Type in this code at checkout: carinascraftblog15. It is valid for 60 days after this post was published (on July 18, 2018). Thank you, Dutch Label! :-)


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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Prime Day to Support Indie Makers!

Tree of Life pattern

Amazon is currently celebrating their 'Prime Day', but I think it would be better to support indie businesses. Crafters, artists, makers etc. People who add so much beauty and inspiration to our lives. That's worth supporting, I think!

You can always find your 'Alexa' gadgets on sale some other time. ;-)

I'm sure you have lots of favourite makers, I know I do!

If I am one of your favourite makers (teehee), you are welcome to check out the shop on my own site. It's not fully stocked yet, but It Is Coming Back! Something I didn't think I'd be saying for a long time to come. But I found a workaround, woohoo!

Anyway, I'm celebrating this soft launch of the old/new Polka & Bloom with a wee discount of 23% off all embroidery patterns with this code: INDIEPRIME. Valid until tomorrow, Wednesday 18th, 2018. Why 23? Because it's a prime number! ;-D

And because I'm using Payhip to 'power' the shop on my own site, the code is also valid in the Polka & Bloom Payhip shop where there are lots more embroidery patterns available, plus sets and ebooks.

If you do check out the new polkaandbloom.com, I'd love to hear what you think. Especially if you encounter any problems while using it! xo C

Cozy Curlicues pattern

Calavera Sugar Skull pattern

Summer Bouquet pattern

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday Links :: LEGO, Sketching, Proven├že

Driving through the gates for the very last time. We have officially moved out of the flat we've lived in for the past 8 years. :-) Just the small matter of unloading the huge van. #tiredalready
Five years ago, I posted this picture on Instagram. I took it as we were driving out of the gates to the flat, where we used to live, for the very last time. How time flies! Then it was just a matter of staying at Tony's parents' for a couple of weeks until we could move into our house. All our stuff was packed into their garage. Completely stuffed in there!

I am really trying to follow this advice from Austin Kleon! :-)

Austin Kleon also has an interesting blog post about LEGO advertising through various decades.

Lovely Photo Manipulations Utilizing Stock Photography. Pretty spectacular. Especially the ones with the Moon. ♥

Years ago, I did a lot of sketching, every day. I kinda got out of that habit, but this year I'm determined to get back to it. I've signed up for the Sketchbook Skool SkoolZine (newsletter type thing) and I am really enjoying it. A newsletter I'm actually looking forward to! I hope one day I can take one of their kourses, but for now I am also enjoying their YouTube channel. Highly recommended if you want some sketching inspiration.

Speaking of sketching, this post Prepping For Paris - Extra-Special Items To Consider Bringing has me thinking about which extra-special items I want to bring to New York to add to my sketchbook while there.

This past week I've been listing to Birdy, I love her voice. I've been playing this Spotify playlist on repeat.

These photos from Proven├že... I wish I could just hop and a plane and go there!

Felted Wildlife Perch on Found Objects.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

New Embroidery Pattern :: Bookmarks!

Bookmark embroidery patterns
With my quest to read more books this year, I needed more bookmarks! Yes, I could just have used an old envelope or something but where's the fun in that? When you can make your own? With embroidery?

So I designed a handful of patterns to go on bookmarks, check them out here. Of course, they can be used on other things too. AND for two of the designs I made them into a repeating border type design which would be great for..well.. borders. And edges and other narrow things! ;-)

Bookmark embroidery patterns
So far, I have stitched up three of the bookmark designs, I hope I can get the final two done soon. I'm usually reading more than one book at a time. Do you do that too? I don't think I've ever not done that, because what if you're not in the mood for one particular book? I need variety! ;-)

Buy Bookmarks Pattern


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Monday, July 9, 2018

Photography Tips

Taking pictures
Hello! I have been hard at work (in spite of the heat wave!) taking pictures of my pattern embroideries, because soon I will be able to have a shop on my own website again! I really thought that wasn't going to happen in the foreseeable future, but it will! More about that later, first I wanted to share a few photo tips with you.

PS No Dala horses where harmed during the shoot of these pictures! ;-)

Taking pictures...
This tip works best for taking pictures that are lying on a surface, although I suppose you could use it against a standing background as well.

Use different colours of card underneath the things you are taking pictures of to act as a contrast. I have two large sheets of card, in pink and light blue which I use for most of my blog pictures. I used it for some of my new product pictures too.

I also have a pack of solid coloured paper that is a bit larger than an A4 sheet, so most of my embroideries will fit on those. I randomly bought that pack years ago in Lidl for very little (see what I did there?!) and it has come in handy so many times. Look out for cheap paper!

Or completely free paper! I still have all the wallpaper samples I used in my 'wallpaper quilt wall' a few years ago. Wallpaper samples are usually A4-ish size so they won't fit large hoops, but for most of my embroideries they're ok. Or you can put two pieces together to create a background with added interest.

Taking pictures...
This is where I usually take my blog, and other, pictures. On my work table in the studio, with plenty of light coming in from the doors to the garden, to the right of the picture. You can see my two large cards sheets here.

I use a stiff, and slightly shiny, piece of card held with two clamps as a reflector to get rid of deep shadows. It's usually on the left of whatever I'm photographing, but I had to move it for this picture or all my props (!) would have been in the shade.

My props are mainly skeins of embroidery floss, fake flowers, various scissors, buttons, ribbon and other pretty things.

Taking pictures...
I knew I wanted my pictures to be square, so I put two pieces of washi tape on the screen of my camera to make a square 'view finder'. It really helped a lot with getting the right angle and distance and saved me lots of time!

This tip might not work if you're taking pictures with a smart phone, because the tape will make the phone think it's human touch. But who knows, try and see if it works. ;-)

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

In Which I Say The Word Japanese A Lot

Mandalas to Embroider in Japanese!
Ok, this is veeeery exciting! Mandalas to Embroider will be published in Japanese!! I have known about this since the end of last year, but yesterday I received a parcel from my publisher with a few copies of the Japanese version! I did not expect it this soon because I think it will be a while yet 'til the Japanese version hits the stores in Japan.

When the postie knocked to deliver the parcel, I was on Skype with my mum so she got to 'be there' when I opened it. When I realised what was in the parcel I said very loudly "OH MY GOD!!" and my mum was all "what is it, what is it?!" :-D

I am a big fan of Japanese craft books, some of my favourite craft books are Japanese. Even though I can't read them, there is just something special about them. So to have one of my books published in Japanese is truly a wonderful thing. I mean, never in my wildest fantasies did I imagine that one of my books would be translated to Japanese!

The Japanese version is a little bit different from the original. Although whether any of the text is different, I couldn't say since I can't read it. ;-)

The main difference is that there are no iron-on transfers. I don't think there are, generally, in Japanese embroidery books. Atleast not in any of the books I own.

If any of you can read Japanese, is the title the same as/similar to the English title?

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Sunday, July 1, 2018

My Work in Homespun June 2018

Homespun June 2018
My Nature's Jewels patterns is in the current (June 2018) issue of Australian Homespun. It is actually a reprint because the patterns was originally commissioned for an issue of Homespun way back in 2012 (with my name on the cover, no less!!).

It's funny how you remember things. I have very clear memories of working on this embroidery when we were in Wales with Tony's family in 2011. I remember very clearly sitting in the conservatory of the house we were staying in, working on those satin stitch circles and looking out over St Brides Bay. :-)

The magazine is available in shops now, but not for very long because it's taken me ages to actually post this. The magazine is also available on Apple Newsstand, Google Play and Zinio.

And if all else fails, you can also get your hands on the (PDF) pattern here.


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Friday, June 29, 2018

Friday Links :: Woodblock Bowie, Calendar, Tshirts

Blake and lavender
I was trying to take a picture of the glorious lavender in our front garden. But Blake just had to get in the picture. It's like he has a sixth sense for when I'm taking pictures. Of course, when I'm actually trying to take a picture of him, he'll look the other way. :-D

A Disgruntled Federal Employee’s 1980s Desk Calendar. {Via Austin Kleon's newsletter.}

Tshirts with translations of what British people actually mean. :-D

A Project to Immortalize David Bowie in Traditional Woodblock Prints.

GeoGuessr. A game to see if you can guess a random place on the planet. I spent way more time trying this than I want to admit. ;-) {via SwissMiss}

The sketchbook pages by Julia Yellow are inspiring.

Mollie Makes has a list of 30 hashtags to use on Instagram if you love sewing.

I love a painting process post.

Some books related tweets. Support the books/authors you love!
This:

And this:




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Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday Links :: Flickr, Mandalas Giveaway, Feminist Art

Cap Gris Nez
I somehow fell down the rabbit hole that is my Flickr account. Just scrolling through page after page of photos from years ago. I think I opened my account in early 2005 (!) although I didn't really use it much until my trip to California that summer.

It is a wonderful thing to have, this record of (part of) my life. So many things I've forgotten. And I found a photo of a painting I did many years ago. I gave it to a friend of the family and I thought I only had a blurry print photo of it, so I was very happy to come across a nice clear photo of the painting.

I really, really, really must get on with making printed photo books. I treasure the one I made for 2010, but that's the only year I made one. I do have some for our honeymoon and our first trip to Wales. It really is a lovely thing to have a photo book to flick through...

Pop over to Feeling Stitchy to read a review of Mandalas to Embroider, and a chance to win a copy of the book. :-)

Beautiful Intricate Landscape Paintings.

I came across Rebel Women: The Great Art Fight Back on the iPlayer. "Out of the tumult and fervour of the late 1960s emerged a generation of artists who set out to start a revolution. As women around the world joined forces to fight for liberation, the formative art movement of the last four decades was about to explode into being. " It's worth an hour of tv watching time if you're interested in women's/feminist art. It's available for a few more weeks. But just FYI: it has nudity a plenty so you might not wanna watch it at work or with little ones. ;-)

Dreamlike Landscapes Grow from Sculptural Portraits.

If the human requires help, what should a service dog do?

Defunct Old Cars Given New Life as Pools and Pizza Ovens. The caravan turned into a pool made me chuckle. :-)

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Books That Are Like Old Friends

Reading: A Small Place in Italy
I finished the stack of library books, so I've turned to an old favourite until I get a new pile of library books. A Small Place in Italy by Eric Newby. It is still in print, although with a different cover.

Here's what the book is about (from Goodreads):
In 1967 Eric and Wanda Newby fulfilled a long-cherished dream when they bought a run-down farmhouse in northern Tuscany, in the foothills of the Italian Alps. They were the first foreigners to live in the region. "A Small Place in Italy" describes how the house was restored with the help of their neighbors, a colorful east of characters who quickly befriended the Newbys.

I bought my copy in Denmark, probably 20 years ago. Randomly picked it up in a sale bin, a bargain at just 29 Danish kroner (around £3.5), especially considering how many times I've read it, or atleast partially read it. I sometimes pick it up and start reading it but don't finish it. I don't always need to...it's just one of those books. Like an old friend where you can pick up as if no time has gone by even if it has been months or even years :-)

Do you have books like that in your life?

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday Links :: Truck Gardens, Dog, Orcas

Mason Jar Bouquet
I remembered that I was working on this pattern this time two years ago, the mason Jar Bouquet. Nice and summery bouquet of wildflowers. Get a copy here if you want to stitch your own bouquet. :-)

8 Things You Never Knew About the Tailor’s Clapper. To be honest, I'd never heard of a tailor's clapper until now!

Surreal Paintings by Matthew Grabelsky Take the New York City Subway for a Wild Ride.

Chelsea Clinton at the Hay Festival. Very interesting. And I was impressed to see how she didn't dumb down her answers to the little kids.

This is quite possibly the world's most blissed out dog. :-D

The Japanese Mini Truck Garden Contest is a Whole New Genre in Landscaping. The world should have more truck gardens!

Help the orcas! It's not right that these magnificent beasts are kept in the equivalent of a bath tub for the entertainment of humans. Ask Thomas Cook to Stop Supporting Orca Abuse.

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Different Icebergs :: Quilt Pattern Tests

Iceberg quilt
This is my original version of the Iceberg quilt from the Polar Bear Country ebook. The pattern is a little bit of a brain teaser, so I thought I better ask a few others to test the pattern before releasing it. I'm glad I did, although on the whole it was ok. But the testers spotted a couple of errors or made suggestions which make it a better pattern. So hooray for excellent testers!

Buy your own copy of the Polar Bear Country ebook here. :-)

Thank you to Jo at myBearpaw, Catherine at Knotted Cotton and Irina for their enthusiastic reviews of the ebook.

My testers very kindly let me share their photos of their quilt/tops. One of them is quite different from mine and I think it turned out pretty amazing!


First up, Nicole made her top from a mix of solids and prints. I thought it worked so well that I when I worked through the pattern to test it myself, I was inspired by that. See my second top at the bottom of the post.


Ruth, a fellow member of the London Modern Quilt Guild, did her version in these beautiful pastel colours. Isn't that fabulous? I really love her quilting too and the great name she gave her quilt because of the colours she used: sodafloat. Check out her blog post about it here. :-)


Here's a detail of Ruth's excellent quilting.

Lynette, also a member of LMQG, made this scrappy version using only fabric from her stash. It is absolutely gorgeous.

I am so excited that the quilt works both in solids, as in my original idea, and in prints - or a combination.

Iceberg quilt #2
Here is my second version. I used mostly prints for the iceberg itself and solids for the sky and water. In this version I used fabrics from my stash, so part of the iceberg in the water is lighter than I would have wanted. But I still like it. :-)

Buy your own copy of the Polar Bear Country ebook here. :-)
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