Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Crafty Christmas Gift Making

Every Christmas I find myself getting excited about making at least one handmade gift for the special people in my life. The gift options are endless, but usually fall into a handful of categories. Today I wanted to share with you a few of my handmade gift giving ideas.

Christmas Stockings - I wanted to make my little one a Christmas stocking. The added touch of the holly was inspired by a stocking project I found on Martha Stewart's website. You can also find other great stocking projects on the website. Click here for some added inspiration.

Scented Sachets - Scented sachets are easy to make and are great gifts that can be given on their own or in combination with other items. Check out our sachet DIY project  and make your own.

Book Cover - Making a book cover, for the avid reader on your gift giving list is a fun project. You can dress-up your book cover or keep it simple. Include an interesting book and you have a gift that is sure to please.

Pyjama Pants - One of the projects that our beginner sewing students make is a pyjama pants. They can be supper easy to make and there a lots of fun flannel prints you can choose from, for a fun winter or holiday theme. Great patterns are available via Burda or Butterick of example.

Teacup Pincushion - A Vintage teacup can be transformed into an ornate pincushion, for the sewer on your list. Check out our DIY instructions on how to make one.

Votive - Add a little Japanese tissue paper, and transform a plain glass votive candle holder or hurricane holder into something more dramatic. You can play with this and have lots of fun using a world of interesting paper.

Earrings - I love making jewellery as a gift. It you have a sense of the person's style then go for it. It is amazing to see your gift worn all year long, not just during the holidays. If you do not think you can make one, then give the gift of how to, by gifting a copy of this great jewellery making book.

Crochet Hat - I love making crochet hats and they can be made in a wide range of yarns in countless colours. If you are new to it, start with a simple pattern and go from there. There are many amazing yarns available at specialty yarn shops; however, an inexpensive and accessible place to start is online. Good sites to visit are Bernat and Lion Brand Yarn, their yarn is also available at craft and yarn shops and the websites have great tips and patterns available.

Fabric Handbag - Giving a handmade fabric handbag, is a gift that I never get weary of giving.

Scarf - Consider natural dyes for the creation of an original scarf. You can check out our post on making natural dyes, for some helpful tips on how to get started.

Join me over the next couple weeks, as I provide some great DIY projects that will make wonderful gifts for the special people on your list.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Creative Stamping

Stamping is a fun craft that can be done with a number of materials, paints, inks, and other pigments. I have enjoyed stamping for many years, and like many of you was introduced to it as a child. Growing up in the Caribbean, I can remember using potatoes, okra and other materials to make stamps. About eleven years ago, I took a stamping workshop in Toronto (beaches area), and I had so much fun that I dove into stamping for several years. I used it on mostly paper craft projects and made custom invitations and albums. I also incorporated it into my Verona Collections, silk scarf designs. I now use stamps in scrap booking and other craft projects, and wanted to share a quick method for creating a potato stamp. I also wanted to share a great little project using rubber stamps.

First you start by selecting your design. You can draw your design onto your potato or you can use a prefabricated shape such as a cookie cutter. You can also use an apple as an alternative to a potato.

Press the cookie cutter into the potato so that it cuts into it by about a quarter inch. Leaving the cookie cutter in the potato, use a knife to cut away the space around the outside of the cookie cutter.

When you are finished cutting out the shape, remove the cookie cutter. You will then be left with a  raised shape.

Apply paint or pigment to the surface of your design. I used an acrylic gold paint with a metallic finish. You can dip your stamp into the paint or use a brush to apply.

Press your stamp onto the surface of your project and lift off gently. It is a good idea to test your design on a scrap piece of paper or fabric before printing on your final project piece.

As you can see with the three examples I did, each time I used the stamp I got a slightly different result. This depends on how much paint or pigment you apply, and how much pressure you use when you press the stamp onto the surface of your project. You may want to play with your stamp to see what effects you get.

I added some gold glitter to this piece, along with a satin ribbon on one end. I also cut the corners with a decorative cutter. This will make a great GIFT TAG!

I also used two rubber stamps to show how much fun you can have with stamps. You can transform a not so attractive piece into something interesting and decorative.

This plain black lamp and lampshade, has been given new life with some gold fabric paint and my two rubber stamps. It looks a lot more interesting and ornate. I wanted the effect to be slightly faded, so I did not press firmly in some areas.

Well I hope that this little project will give you some inspiration for making your own stamp or for trying a stamping project of your own. There is lots you can do with stamps and this is just the tip of the iceberg. You can add decorative elements to cushions, curtains, walls or furniture. With the holidays just around the corner, you can even make your own gift bags, wrapping paper or cards using this great craft technique.

Have fun stamping!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Preparing for Craft and Trade Shows

Many designers and crafters sell their products at craft fairs and trade shows. Many of us have already had several shows this year and may have a full schedule of events for the upcoming holiday season.

However, do you feel that you have gotten the best out of the shows you have attended? Will you like to get more from your show? Have you met your yearly sales target to-date? Will you like to find new ways of improving what you do or will like to share what works well for you?

Well, with all of these questions in mind Crafted Spaces has an upcoming FREE online session on Friday, October 28th, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. This interactive session will focus on the discussion of "Preparing for Craft and Trade Shows." We will focus on how to select the right shows and how to get ready for shows. We will also discuss, how to connect with customers and how to meet your target sales, plus other helpful tips.

We started looking at other aspects of this topic earlier this year, and did two post that we feel are very helpful to this discussion. Here are the links to those post:

Show Evaluation Worksheet  >>

Selecting Craft and Trade Shows >>

If you will like to participate in our upcoming session, please follow the link to Crafted Spaces TV, where  you can RSVP for this event or join us live. You are also invited to listen to our upcoming Wednesday, October 26th, 2011 Crafted Spaces Radio broadcast on this topic.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Making Natural Dyes

Our segment on textile art and design has been a lot of fun. For many years I have been transforming silk and other fabrics to create my Verona Collections designs. On various occasions I have explored the use of natural dyes, but primarily I use reactive dyes. The dyes I use are synthetic, but non-toxic; however, I wanted to further explore the use of natural materials for dying.

Natural dyes can be derived from plants, fruits, insects and other sources in nature. For centuries cultures around the world have perfected natural dying techniques. I researched this further and found countless books on the topic and will continue to explore this topic further as I expand and transform my own work.

On Wednesday, September 21, 2011 on Crafted Spaces Radio I shared how to prepare a natural dye bath and other tips for dying. Here are some images and further instructions.

Freshly picked Goldenrod

Start the process by separating the flowers from the rest of the plant parts and use as much of the yellow as possible. If you choose to include everything, this will influence the colour.

Place the flowers into a large stainless steel pot (thrift store find) covering with water reaching 2/3 of the pot or approximately 9 cups of water. You can also place plant material into a pantyhose (white) or wrap in cheese cloth. Please keep in mind that the material you chose to wrap with may also influence the colour of your dye bath.

Simmer for an hour and leave overnight in the pot.

Strain away the flowers from the liquid and there is the dye bath (right). It has an amber tint. You may discard remaining flowers.

Measure out eight cups of die bath and place into stainless steel pot.
(option 1) Add a 1/2 cup of table salt to the dye bath and stir.
(option 2) Prepare a fixative solution of 1/2 cup salt and 8 cup water. You will then place your damp fabric into this solution and boil for an hour. Then rinse your fabric and place into your unsalted dye bath. 

Place your damp fabric into dye bath and simmer for 1 hour. You can leave it soaking in dye bath overnight depending on the depth of colour your desire. To create a tie dye effect, twist your fabric and used a rubber band to secure. You can also place your fabric untwisted into the dye bath for complete coverage of fabric.

Silk Before

Silk After

 When finished, remove from the dye bath and rinse in cold water until water runs clear. Hang to dry and iron as needed.

Finished Project!

The final result is more muted than I anticipated, I twisted my fabric which significantly impacted the results. If the fabric was untwisted more colour would have penetrated the fabric; however, I wanted to see what type of tie dye effect I was going to get. Next time I will try using a mordant such as alum and compare the results. I hope that you enjoyed this project and for more details visit Crafted Spaces Radio for the episode that accompany this project.

It is recommended to use pots and other utensils that are dedicated to your dying projects. Do not use items that are also used for cooking or will otherwise come in contact with your food. I also suggest that prior to using any natural or other dyes, that you confirm the possible harmful nature of what you are using. Work in a well ventilated space and wear gloves as an added safe guard. There are lots of great resources available on this topic, so take the time to visit your local library or do some research on the internet. Have fun!

Some books on the topic include:

Wild Colour by Jenny Dean
The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing by Eva Lambert
Natural Dyes by Linda Rudkin
Harvesting Color: Making Your Own Natural Dyes by Rebecca Burgess
Eco Colour by India Flint

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Review: Simplicity Fabric Guide

Today's book review is focused on the Simplicity Fabric Guide: The Ultimate Fiber Resource, which was released this pass July 2011. I do have to say that I am really impressed by this book. I have wanted such a book for a long time and I'm happy to add it to the library of resources here at the studio.

Featuring over 500 photos, this book presents a brief history of fabric, provides information about different types of fibers, includes a handy testing chart and presents a catalogue of fabric types with helpful tips on how to work with each fabric. You also get a guide for linings, interfacings and stabilizers. I also find the "Estimating Yardages" and "Fabric Width Conversion Chart" a very helpful tool. There is even a guide on needles, a stain removal chart and a chapter on threads.

This is a great book for both the beginner or seasoned sewer or crafter. There are lots of other reviews available on this book and countless sources for purchasing one. I have included a link to Simplicity at the beginning of this post. I will also like to hear your thoughts on this book and any other books you will like to recommend.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Silkscreening Art and Design

I was honoured to have guest Kingi Carpenter, designer and owner of Peach Berserk on yesterday's episode of Crafted Spaces Radio. Kingi joined us as part of our new segment on textile art and design. We had an amazing discussion on silkscreening, and Kingi shared with us her love and expertise on this wonderful design technique.

Kingi's designs are fun and bursting with energy and colour. Her store is a must visit whenever you are in Toronto. She has over 200 original prints in her collection and there is always something new. I have been a long time admirer of Kingi Carpenter's work and the half hour show was way too short a time period for all the questions I had. We also had questions from our chat room, which I hope we successfully addressed.

If you have not had a chance to listen to our interview with her, visit us at Crafted Spaces Radio to do so now. It was so much fun chatting with her and I'm sure you'll enjoy listening to our conversation.

Kingi has also been generous to offer our listeners an opportunity to WIN a copy of her book "Silkscreen NOW" along with a Peach Berserk Hoody OR the choice of a Silkscreening Workshop at her store and studio at 507 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario. Remember to leave a comment and/or email us at for your chance to win one of the two great prizes. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on next weeks Crafted Spaces Radio show on Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. est.

Listen to interview >> Click Here!

Peach Berserk

Monday, September 12, 2011

Your Business Plan - A Clear Outline of Your Vision

by Yvette-Michelle Cottle Darby

Earlier this year Crafted Spaces was fortunate to have Dr. Cheryl Cottle of Cottle’ Professional Consulting contribute a post to our blog titled; Developing a Business Plan. This post was part of our “Business Tips” and has added great value to this section of our blog. This post however, is meant to further expand on the question; what is a business plan, and why do I need one?

The task of writing a business plan can be a “daunting” and rather time consuming task. It does require some research and the analysis of some data. However, the rewards far out weigh the difficulties. A business plan is more than just an intimidating, boring document, invented by people to make things difficult.

A business plan is an extremely valuable tool to you and your business. It is a formal statement of your business’s goals and outlines why you feel these goals are attainable. The plan also outlines how you plan to accomplish your goals and the tools available to do so. It is an invaluable tool as you shape your business, develop your brand and work towards getting your products and services to your target audience. A business plan can be utilized internally or externally. You can use it as a guide and reference for what you want to achieve and where you will like to go with your business. It is usually a required document when approaching potential investors.

You may say; well I do not plan on going to the bank or approaching any investors; so why do I need to take the time to draft a business plan? I simply do not have the time nor can I afford the time needed to dedicate to such a task. However, I suggest that you do not have the time not to dedicate to such a task. Think of it like this; taking the time to develop your business plan can save you valuable time and money while developing and growing your business. It by no means guarantees your success, but it goes a long way towards ensuring success. Further more, you do have an investor, yourself. A mistake that many small business individuals make is not identifying themselves as their biggest investor. Your biggest investor therefore deserves a clear picture of where your business is at, where you will like to go, and how you plan on getting there.

A good plan will accomplish several important things; assist you in developing a clear statement about your goals, helps you to take a look at the feasibility of your business venture and provides valuable insight into your industry and target audience. The process of writing your business plan is just as important as the plan itself, as the process allows you to think deeper into the various aspects of your industry and effectively develop the goals of your business and its benefit statement. A business plan can also be a valuable tool when bringing others on board and can provide them with a clear outline of your vision. This will allow others to be more effective members of your team and facilitate the growth of your business, by better tapping into the skills and expertise available.

Get started today on your plan. There is never enough time or the right time to get started, so dive in. Pay carful attention to “Cash Flow” and understand how critical it is to the success of your business. Be specific about how you plan on achieving results. Do the legwork and research required for learning more about your clients, competitors and your industry as a whole. Gain an understanding of where things are at and where they are going. Analyze how the industry currently impacts and or will impact your business. As an added word, seek help when needed. There are many government agencies and various websites available that will assist you in the development of your business plan. However, it is also recommended that the services of a professional be employed. It is also recommended to revisit your plan regularly and rework every three to five years.

This post is written by Yvette-Michelle Cottle Darby and was previously published on - and CPC Women in Business blog.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chalkboard Paint Facelift

Our new DIY project is fun and easy. The technique used can be applied to countless other pieces. The piece we used is a mini storage unit that was purchased at a local thrift store for just $3.99. The face of the draw units were painted in a stencilled pattern and might have been used in a child's bedroom. Chalkboard paint was used to paint over the stencilled pattern and it provides a new surface to label the contents of the draw units.

Over the years I have used chalkboard paint for a number of craft and decorating projects. You can use this product to transform almost any object into a writable and erasable surface. You can also add a touch of style and ornateness to the finished piece by adding interesting embellishments. For this unit we added a beautiful pair of decorative knobs; which were purchased from Michaels craft store.


This little unit has been used at our studio to store some of our stamping supplies. One of the great benefits of covering it with chalkboard paint, is the ability to easily label the draws by writing on the surface.

This is a latex paint and can be washed off with soap and water. I used a sponge brush to apply the paint onto the draw units; however, I have also found that a sponge roller also works well. When applying your paint, use even strokes in the same direction. A second coat may be needed to cover existing finishes.

Project Piece
Chalkboard Paint
Sponge Brush
Hardware or Decorative Element (optional)
Tape (optional)

  1. Lightly sand the surface of your project piece
  2. Clean the surface after sanding with a damp lint free cloth
  3. Use tape to mark off the desired area you plan to paint (optional)
  4. Using a sponge brush or roller, cover the area with the chalkboard paint
  5. Let dry based on instructions
  6. Reapply a second coat as needed
  7. Condition for use based on instructions
  8. Attach new hardware or decorative embellishments as desired
You can choose to lightly sand the surface of your project prior to applying the second coat of chalkboard paint.

View our video to learn how you can transform a piece of your own.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Creating With Paper

On our Crafted Spaces Radio we have been looking at "Paper as a Design and Craft Medium." Over the pass few weeks we have been looking at working with paper from different perspectives. We also posted a paper craft project and have had the honour of talking with guests on the topic.

Stacy Altiery, InkSpot Workshop

Last Wednesday, August 24th, we were happy to speak with guest Stacy Altiery, Graphic Designer and Owner of InkSpot Workshop and Fire Hydrant Press. Stacy launched her company in April 2008 and works from her home based workshop in Atlanta, Georgia. She specializes in a full selection of personalized "paper goodies." Her fun, bright, and modern note cards, invitations, stationery and other unique gift items are available off of her website. Stacy shares with us her creative venture and love for creating unique paper products. Listen to our interview with Stacy on our episode titled "Designing with Paper."

Lizz Aston, Fibre Artist

On Wednesday, August 31st, we have two guest joining us; Lizz Aston and Nadia Tan. These creative ladies are both based in Toronto, Ontario. Lizz is a Fibre Artist and Nadia is a Film Editor, Visual Artist and Designer. On our episode titled "Artful Paper Creations," we discuss why these ladies have chosen paper has an art medium and further explore their work.

Nadia Tan, Film Editor and Maker

You are invited to listen to our segment by visiting our show achieve at; We will also like to thank Freedom Clothing Collective for their support in this segment.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Under Wraps

This is a fun project and is easy and quick to do. I love reusing and repurposing things as a tiny way of supporting a healthier environment. I therefore repurpose glass jars; such as pasta sauce jars and jelly jars, to hold various items in my studio.

Today on our Crafted Spaces Radio we presented this DIY project, as part of our segment on the use of paper as a creative medium. The project uses a beautiful Japanese tissue paper (larger jar), purchases from The Paper Place, Toronto and a small sample piece of scrapbook paper (smaller jar). The tissue paper is quite light and therefore some care is needed when gluing to the jar.

Listen to the show and follow along as you work on your project:

Listen to internet radio with Crafted Spaces on Blog Talk Radio

Materials Needed:
Glass Jar(s)
Japanese Tissue Paper or Other Decorative Paper
Glue (Mod Podge)
Measuring Tape
Twine or Ribbon (optional)
Hot Glue Gun and Glue Stick (to attach cord or ribbon)


1) Clean jar(s) to remove any grease or other residue
2) Measure the circumference and height of the jar(s)
3) Cut your paper to the desired size

4) Using brush, apply glue to your jar and place one end of paper in place

5) Continue applying glue to the surface of your jar and move around the jar removing air bubbles with your fingers
6) Apply glue to the top and base of your jar gently pressing with your fingers

7) Cut off excess paper on the ends as needed

8) Let your project dry (based on instructions on your glue)

9) You can further embellish with twine or ribbon or as desired

Enjoy your new container!

I hope that you have enjoyed this project and invite you to share your projects with us on Facebook > Click Here!

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