Welcome to my Country Days Blog!

I’ve lived in Devon for over 30 years and while I spend most of my time working in my studio, or in front of a TV camera or on an exhibition stand, country living does give me some time and space… to think about my next project!

A crafter in the country is never bored – nature is a huge treasure trove! Beachcombing, walking on Dartmoor, or rummaging about in hedgerows (while Richard pretends not to notice) produces all sorts of goodies. Shells, feathers, wildflowers, leaves – natural things are so often the ‘light bulb moment’ that gives me an idea for something new!

I have hundreds – actually, make that thousands ­– of ideas and projects from crafts to cookery to flowers that I thought I could share with you through a weekly country-inspired blog.

I love hearing from fellow crafters and swapping ideas and useful hints and tips, so do please feedback your comments on my blog, I’m sure it will be a lot of fun!

Gruffies rock!

I just love the Gruffies – have you discovered them yet? They are friends of the famous House-Mouse and Ellen Jareckie, the artist, has drawn both bears (Gruffies) and Hoppers (rabbits) as companions and as you can see from these cards – the occasional panda sneaks in too – I don’t believe she had named those.

The Gruffies and Hoppers CD is on the website and has oh so many bits for you to use. I love the images (obviously) but there are handy backing papers too. There are hundreds of pages of co-ordinating backing papers, inserts, decoupage, sentiments, bookmarks, mini cards and lots more!

The nice thing about Ellen’s work is that although the bears are ‘cute’ they are not simply suitable for younger people, they appeal to all ages and they never cease to make me smile!


Have a Birthday Margarita!

Have a birthday Margarita! But, come to think of it why limit it to just a birthday margarita, margaritas are for any day! The same applies to this card, if you have a friend that loves cocktails or specifically Margaritas (I am waving my hand here) then this is a perfect card for them.

You could extend the idea by using the card to accompany a present with all the ingredients to make a nice margarita – and then invite yourself over to try them? Just a thought, maybe it would be mean-spirited to give a gift and plan to consume half of it!

This image is by Lisa Audit and is in her cardmaking pad number 2 on the website. Have a look through the images on each of her pads, they are really interesting, a good mix and some outstanding ideas for cards – flowers, olive oil, coffees, wine, fruit and yes I’ll mention them again, beautiful flowers – have a flick through, they are all there to see.


Knitters are up in arms!

I am always fascinated to read about new and different crafts. Being what I would term a ‘lazy knitter’, I have been much impressed by the giant knitted bedcovers and cushion covers created using very chunky wool and huge knitting needles. To me, it looks much faster than ordinary knitting and I might just give it a go… but wait! Even better than that I may have just found the perfect answer to my quick and chunky knitting aspirations – arm knitting!

Needle-free arm knitting has arrived on the scene! It is such an amazingly simple concept you wonder why no one has thought of it before. If you already know how to knit, then you have a distinct advantage as picking up arm knitting is meant to be really, really easy. Quite simply, your arms stand in for the huge needles and everything is super-sized, from the massive skeins of wool (more like ropes!) and the patterns. If you are not already a knitter, experts say a quick arm knitting project will help build your confidence and encourage you to get more adventurous.


As ever, there’s lots of information available online, but a website that really caught my eye was www.simplymaggie.com Maggie describes herself as an ‘arm knitting expert and home DIY enthusiast’. Her website includes a range of patterns available for free including some lovely scarves and an amazing blanket. She makes it look so easy, I really think I might have to give it a go!

Elsewhere, I came across some great advice on how to solve arm knitting problems – my favourite was this FAQ – I confess this was an aspect of arm knitting that had me very worried!

What do you do when you’re elbow-deep in an infinity scarf and your doorbell rings? Don’t panic! Stopping in the middle of a project is both possible and surprisingly easy. Simply move each stitch, one-by-one, onto a stitch holder. “And what might one of those be?” I hear you cry! But being the imaginative crafters that you are, I expect you’d soon come up with the answer – the cardboard centres from sheets of wrapping paper –oversized toilet roll centres really. Carefully slide your stitches onto the cardboard roll and try to remember which arm your last row of stitches was on so that when you’re ready to get back to work, you can quickly pick up where you left off. Easy!

Have any of you tried arm knitting? If you have, I’d love to hear how you got on!

Photos copyright SimplyMaggie.com


My favourite Thomas Kinkade cards

We make gadzillions of cards through the year. Some are destined to be samples or demos for Create and Craft, some are just for family and friends. But these two cards are among my favourites and I have kept them carefully for months now. You know what it’s like when you have cards that should go somewhere or be for a particular someone and you think, no, I’ll keep those for now… and then never give them away!

Thomas Kinkade images are easy to use as the cottages are gentle and rural, pretty and easy to match colour-wise. The die used here is our Signature die Wild Rose (completely biased now) – and it is one of our best sellers of all time. I just LOVE it.

My personal choice is to die cut in white and then colour with Promarkers, or you can use any colouring medium that you prefer. You can add pearls, or not add pearls, ring the changes and it makes any card look fabulous with very limited effort!


Tom Mielko – for romantics everywhere!

One of my favourite artists over the years that we have been licensing is Tom Mielko. Based in Santa Barbara, California, his work is mainly coastal images especially of Nantucket on the Eastern Coast. I just love the romance in all the pictures we licensed – there’s a Tom Mielko project book on the website if this is your sort of style!

Here we have an anniversary card – just plain and not too sophisticated to copy, it shows (I think) a very subtle but romantic idea of a couple cycling together. I’m not sure if Richard would think it was romantic if I joined him on his frequent cycle rides, but then he is thinking more about keep fit than sightseeing!

I think this card demonstrates that if you have a beautiful image, there’s a wide range of occasions you can use it for – this could work for a man’s birthday, anniversary as we have used it here, female birthday or anytime card and so the list goes on!

Happy cycling – err I mean cardmaking! Smiles, Joanna