Friday, 30 January 2015

Alke Schmidt... Tangled Yarns.

Our appetite for cheap fashion not only has continued to impoverish workers, put their lives at risk but also adds to the landfill and does little to wean us off our mass produced addiction.
Having the newest fashions on our back counts little especially if that pretty little dress is tainted with metaphorical blood -or in this case not so metaphorical.

Over 1000 people -many women and children- died in Rana Plaza in April 2013 yet most are still waiting for any form of justice or compensation.

1,138 pins... one for each life lost in Rana Plaza. 1,138 and counting @AlkeSchmidt
Alke Schmidt is an artist who addresses these same points adding a voice to the workers through her art work inviting us to consider the contradictions and ambiguities of a trade that spans centuries.
Poignant and beautiful her works are a reflection of her concern and care with the issue of sustainable fashion and our collective responsibilities rather then offering us a definite political statement.
Her exhibition of paintings, mixed media pieces and some collaborative works with local students and the artist Della Rees at the William Morris gallery felt like a natural extension to Mr. Morris' philosophies and politics but on a global stage. The often violent and brutal complexities of the textile industry, particularly the cotton trade, is highlighted through stitched, painted and printed work expanding through the decades up to the present day.
I think had he been around now that he would definitely be standing alongside Alke fighting the injustices experienced by workers in the garment trade!

Deeds not words ©AlkeSchmidt reminiscent of Morris's political banners...

Unfortunately the exhibition Tangled Yarns ends this Sunday the 1st of February but if you can go before then I urge you to go and have a look for yourself!

Alke's work left me inspired, moved and able to ask questions and demand change... though it's not an unfamiliar subject to me because the whole concept of Craft Guerrilla was born as a response to the unfair and immoral way workers in sweat shops are undervalued and exploited in the name of affordable fashion and consumerism.
Yet almost 10 years on these injustices still continue!
Sadly the term sweat shop has its roots further back in history as the term is a deviation from "sweater shop" used in New York city back in the 1800s for garment workers who toiled in cramped, unsafe conditions at the hands of uncaring employers literally sweating due to those conditions.

Calico madames ©AlkeSchmidt. The juxtaposition of the beauty of the cotton frocks and the horror of slave labour (cotton fields) in American history.

It's sad that the term still exists at all but it shows how little has changed.
Sure, slowly things are improving but is it enough to expect the High Street to carry all the responsibility?

"Child's Play" ©AlkeSchmidt The cotton trade and the uncomfortable truth in child labour.

Personally I think it also falls on to us and though I don't agree that boycotting is the answer - offering the prospect of unemployment to these workers is hardly the answer either! - I do think we need to demand clothing companies to investigate and invest in the whole process from field to factory to shop floor.

End of Empire ©AlkeSchmidt In 1931 Mahatma Gandhi visited cotton mill workers in Lancashire. Though he asked  for a boycott of English cotton in India he still received a remarkable welcome.

So what can you do?
  • Write a letter to those High Street clothing companies and show your support for those workers and also to them and how you'd like to see a positive change in the way they do business.
  • Recycle, up-cycle and mend your garments plus make a conscientious effort to buy less cheap clothing and instead save up for quality items which you know will last! Also make a point to seek out a company's ethical credentials... after all it's your money so you should. It's your right!
  •  Take it to social media! Apply pressure to companies you know are exploiting workers or working with factories that are and ask them to take action. After Rana Plaza Matalan believed they had no responsibility to the workers yet through twitter campaigning they did step up and provided a compensation package. 
  • Ask questions! Empower yourself with the knowledge that you are making a difference by asking the right questions (How can you afford to sell such cheap clothing? for example), it might not be necessarily a comfortable subject to think/talk about but the right questions can promote thought, discussion and ultimately a change

“There are no foolish questions and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions.” Charles Proteus Steinmetz

Here's a short film interview of Alke by documentary filmmaker Leah Borromeo.
I hope you'll agree in saying that she is an amazing woman and artist...
We salute you Alke!!! 

If you'd like to know more about the artist please visit:

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Giftwrapped... a great little helper for Christmas!

I'm a sucker for a beautifully wrapped gift which means that I'm pretty much like a 2 year old when it comes to boxes and wrapping... I tend to be in awe of the packaging rather then what's inside! OK not entirely true as the contents also make it but a well presented, amazingly wrapped present can easily make an ordinary present look quite sensational!
"Giftwrapped" by Jane Means shows you exactly how to do that!

Jane's a really clever lady and I love the fact that she manages to show us how to wrap it up perfectly in a variety of styles. There's a bit of everything ranging from vintage, french chic, bright & modern to the classic look. Plus she teaches a few tying techniques to show you how to make perfect bows!
And achieving beautifully wrapped gifts isn't that difficult especially with this title at your side to guide you! She makes it look so easy!!!

This step by step guide is the perfect companion to any lover of packaging and gift wrapping. It shows us a selection of techniques including furoshiki (a Japanese gift wrapping style of wrapping using fabric) to the more complex pleating which is ideal for round objects like sweet tins.

Also she cover a few basics like wrapping a bouquet and a bottle which done properly actually elevates it to something quite grand rather then just a house warming gift!
It also means you can buy a lesser expensive bunch of flowers and through the art of gift wrapping transform it into something which looks like came out of a Chelsea flower shop!

There's also a page of resources, stockists and a list of tools which make it even easier to try your hand at gift wrapping successfully without feeling like it's all too much. It is in fact nicely laid out and made to look like anyone can achieve the looks quite easily and at not a great expense which I actually think is important. I also love the selection of embellishments she uses and makes us rethink on what we can use... adding a vintage brooch or a sprig of rosemary might not be in your arsenal of gift wrapping materials but she shows us that lots of things can be added and actually look pretty fab too.

Packed with amazing tips and inspirational ideas this beautiful book will get you wrapping like a pro in no time... and I'm not talking Jay-Z Rapping either but it'll make you a free-styling, original gift giver with the most amazing gifts that will stand out under the tree!
From creating the perfect label, wrapping the best new baby gift to producing the most wonderful looking parcels all ready to wow and impress your friends and loved ones!

Published by Jacqui Small this title not only covers the basics but also shows us an array of creative, clever ways to get it right with the aid of some great photography. Practical, clear and well explained this book is the perfect gift for any paper fiend... I already have this earmarked for my partner's mum as she has the most amazing "Christmas Wrapping" studio in her house! Now all I have to do is make sure I wrap this baby in the best possible style inspired by this super book!

Special Craft Guerrilla blog reader offer:

To order Giftwrapped at the discounted price of £16.00 including p&p* (RRP: £20.00), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG252.
*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Digital yarn bombing with Bulmers... all in the name of COLOURFUL living!

Bulmers cider have been around for a long time... in fact the two Bulmer brothers (The fabulously named Percy and Fred pictured below ) starting things way back in the 1890's.
Apparently, and to no surprise to us, it was all down to their mum who advised Percy to go into the food & drink business because "it would never go out of fashion"! See... mum does know best!!!

Joined by his brother they travelled through France in the early 1900's studying the process of champagne making and transferring that knowledge into cider production which then earned their libation the nick name "The English White Wine".
The Bulmers family have gone on to produce one of the UK's best loved ciders adding distinctive and fresh flavours to their repertoire... I must admit that I'm quite partial to the crushed red berries and lime cider!
Now with 7 flavours (and more to come!), the entirely British made brand is produced with a blend of beautiful and tasty apples by the hand of some genius mixologists at Broome farm. With such talent there's no surprise Bulmers continues to achieve serious accolades since the royal warrant was received from king George the V.
Wowzers that's some seal of approval!

So what does Cider and craft have in common you ask? Well they both use ancient techniques handed down through the generations so when we heard they were launching a #livecolourful digital campaign using yarn-bombing we jumped on it!

So if you'd like to get involved, win a prize on the way and do a bit of Guerrilla knitting then this is a great campaign! You can find out more via the official Bulmers Website here:
As you know we love a bit of fun Guerrilla behaviour, drinking cider (responsibly of course!) and entering competitions, so what is there not to love?!

And don't forget that through yarn-bombing you'll also be doing your bit of craftivism too. It's the perfect opportunity to get your message out and about!

"Tag your photos using #livecolourful to enter the competition and show off your handy craft work!"

So here's a few easy tips on how to get started:

• Knit your apple -if you can't knit don't get in a tangle, a great alternative is a pompom- so make one or as many as you like! We encourage acts of kindness and fun, non evasive yarn bombing as a way to get some joy and colour into the greyness of winter so get to it!!!

For knitter here's a cool free pattern from Natural Suburbia©
For Crocheters here's a cute pattern too from MissDolkaPots©
And for a quick pop pom tutorial look here

• Write your message on a tag and secure it to your apple.... You don't have to be political, nor does it have to relate to a social issue, you can in fact just add a message wishing a bit of happiness to someone. You might have heard about Guerrilla kindness well... Guerrilla kindness is an intentional, anonymous acts of kindness performed in playful, creative ways. And it can be as simple as making someone smile with a bit of yarn-bombing.

Here's the message we added to our cute apples...

• "Sew" the seeds of love and compassion and you will harvest the sweetest fruit! 
• No man is an island... your actions are not without consequence. Please think before you act.

This is a digital campaign so the yarn bombing will be in fact on line... For my entry I added my apple to a tree that looked like it needed a little loving!
You want to share  your message with people so try to photograph your tag with your message but maybe adding it to your entry too will help as you might not be able to read it in the photos!

Remember it's a DIGITAL campaign so don't forget to take it away with you... you might want to re use your knitted apple as a nice X-mas gift for a friend... the knitted apples can also make handy little pincushions! A great little stocking filler, don't you agree?

•To win a fantastic array of prizes add  a snap of your little apple on to Instagram or twitter but remember to hash-tag #livecolourful and you can tag us too (@craftguerrilla) to show us your handy work... we'd really love to see it!!!
If you'd like to see other people's yarn bombing you can check for the hash-tag #livecolourful or by checking out Bulmers twitter feed (@BulmersCider)...

Get your twitter handle on some tree cosies down at the farm...

If you'd like to win the chance to have your twitter handle added to Bulmer's knitted tree cosies which will be keeping the trees nice and toasty down at Broome Farm then get tweeting! Don't forget the hash tag #LiveColourful... and it's as easy as that!
The deadline for submissions is the 16th December. 

The fantastic Lauren AKA Deadly Knitshade is the amazing artist who's adorning the orchards with her handy work!
We think she's amazing and you can see her in action here...


A little bit about Yarn Bombing// Yarn Storming// Knitted Graffiti// Guerrilla Knitting and what you need to know:


What is it?

It's a form of modern graffiti which is mainly done to provoke a reaction in a nice, friendly and non threatening way.
There doesn't have to be a message or purpose behind it. Some choose knitting graffiti or yarn bombing as simply a means of creative expression though many individuals and groups across the world have adopted this art form as a way to protest against social injustices, world issues and so forth. Protesting through craft is also known as Craftivism. It's also a way of enhancing public spaces through non invasive, non damaging, non permanent urban art.

Why do it?

Basically we do it because we believe it's a gentle way to get important messages across as well as that it's great being able to add a touch of fun and colour to the world!

Though we encourage yarn bombing we also encourage our "bombers" to make items which people can take away so please remember to leave them within easy reach of people and also to be responsible... though yarn-bombing isn't illegal we'd like to remind people to use their common sense!

Yarn Bombing is less damaging then any other form of graffiti and if anything it makes us look at where we live and revalue our surroundings.
It can also bring communities together so if you fancy doing something on an even bigger scale get the word out that you're looking for knitters for a fun project. It's a great way to meet other people in your area and possibly make some more friends too!

One of the main reason in my opinion why it's not totally frowned upon is that removing these pieces of street art is simply done using a pair of scissors so they are considered and deemed as not as destructive as traditional street art.... so yes, we definitely want more of these fuzzy shenanigans happening in our beautiful but sometimes grey capital!
Lets face it London winters are dark so adding a little dash of colour is sure to raise a few eyebrows as well as a few smiles plus it's FUN!

What are the legalities and laws surrounding "Yarn-Bombing"?

Groups like Knit the City have done large scale projects without experiencing legal action and we've done some smaller scale projects too and we've never encountered problems with the law apart from a few smiles from the old bill up in Birmingham who request us to "not leave it there forever", which is fair enough!
So if you are driven to do your bit of yarn bombing please don't forget to check that your piece has been removed after a few weeks as it really doesn't look very appealing either if it gets all grubby, water logged and yucky! By not taking down your pieces after a reasonable time you'll then be adding to the "littering" problem and we really don't want that!


Get involved... 

It's easy and don't get too hung up on your little apple being perfect or not... please don't let it stop you. We are believers that the actual act of making is as important as the result! 

Please share your handy work with us, honestly we really want to see where you've been yarn bombing! Have fun and lets make this winter a little bit brighter!


 **Please drink responsibly! For further information and help please visit:**

Friday, 21 November 2014

A LUSH bit of Christmas Art!

LUSH have been for a long time one of our favourite hand made companies! Back in the 1990's a really good friend introduced me to them; then known as  Cosmetics To Go; by way of a catalogue packed with amazing natural and eco friendly products from lipstick to baby shampoos. 
The fact that they were around then was a surprise as it wasn't really the "IN" thing.

But things were slowly changing and consumers were looking for a healthier body and not just a sane mind and spirit! Luckily LUSH are still here which I think is a sign of their visionary powers! They started off small but retained their ethics and a philosophy -which many people now share!- but now have shops all over the world... see, you can be a "hand made"company and not have to sell your soul to the corporate devil to achieve success!

One of my fave LUSH scents... The Smell of Weather Turning. A beautiful and original perfume...smells of fires and damp forests.
As a green baby- thank you mum for always looking out for natural alternatives!- this company was naturally one I'd be attracted to and I'm still a fan!
They are a great success story and I love how they keep up with trends and are forever evolving remarkably without ever losing their soul... or ethics. 

Fresh faced and clean! Fresh face masks for lots of skin types... just don't attempt to eat them!

So this Christmas they've teamed up with a few talented designers like Jonathan Kenyon, Creative Director of Vault49, a New York design studio that specialises in creating branding, advertising, design and art to offer something new. Check out his "White Christmas Packaging", it's Nordic Pop/ German Techno meets a snow boarding Santa!
We love LUSH products and we love the fact that they've collaborated with so many renown and amazing artists... who knows maybe one day they might even work with us! 
HUM a crafters hand cream to help soothe the "crochet claw"? Now there's a good idea... Just putting it out there lovely creative head of Lush products!

LUSH interview with Vault49 on designing White Christmas packaging -

If you'd like to read more about the collaborations please follow the links:

For further info and products please visit:



If you would like to win a copy of the LUSH graphic Novel On the trail of Sandalwood smugglers just answer the following question in the comments. We have two copies to giveaway so enter as many times as you like but please keep to one entry on each platform (Twitter, Face Book and Instagram).
If you are answering below we ask that you provide an email address so we can contact you.

What was their company name before they became LUSH fresh hand made cosmetics?

*The winners will be picked at random from all entries on Sunday the 7th of December 2014.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Origami Home by Mark Bolitho

This has to be by far one of my favourite books that I've reviewed this year!
When this landed on my desk I was left in awe because as a child I was obsessed with making furniture and accessories for my doll's house.

Origami expert Mark Bolitho does just that! Not that it's for dolls' houses but it does lend itself very well for this but this publication is perfect for lovers of design and interiors too.
His little folded art works are absolutely beautiful and you can make things like recliner chairs, coffee tables, potted flowers and even pets.
They are amazing just as they are and you really don't need a doll house to make the projects. Though I'm gutted that this book wasn't around when I was a kid as my Barbie would have had the swankiest pad on the street!

Mark Bolitho has been Chairman of the British Origami Society for 35 years and though he had a successful career as an accountant he traded in the paper work for paper folding and we're honestly pleased that he has made that choice.
Working for clients like the BBC and Hewlett Packard have undoubtedly brought  his art of paper folding to the general public prompting further projects with many others in  Japan, Canada, France and Sweden to name but a few.
The popularity of origami isn't looking to fade anytime soon and so it shouldn't... with amazing talent like his and great books like this one then it can only grow.
Author of several books including the aptly named Creaselightning (which is also his web site name) we tip our folded paper hats to him not only for his artistic talent but you know us... we also love a good pun!

The BIG Lottery Fund and the BBC challenged villages across the UK to come up with ideas for new businesses! ©BBC/TBLF

With over 30 project explained step by step including how to furnish each individual room (or sets as Mark refers to them) with a selection of sweet, quirky and fun projects we're sure it'll leave you inspired to make your own.

Everything is covered here from the living room, loft room to even a terrace. He also shows us how to select colours and patterns to construct your ideal set and a huge plus point is that he has also added a few pages of very nicely explained basic instructions with detailed diagrams so you don't feel overwhelmed before you tackle the projects.

The book is divided by rooms and there's a great mix of styles of furniture from Shaker to mid century which will please just about anyone.
An added bonus is the handy pocket in the back cover which is filled with an amazing array of origami paper sheets... flowers, geometrics, you name it. It's there!

Though the little me would have imploded with excitement a more mature guerrilla has sat down and though loudly quietly squealed at every page I am now beginning to construct a Standard Lamp to gift to another excitable little girl who has room in her doll's house for some great hand made origami treats! 

A great gift for any origami fan or even novice and especially for those, like me, who despite their age still love making miniature furniture. The mix of furniture designs, along with the unique and fun presentation style, will ensure that The Origami Home appeals to anyone with a love for design and interiors, as well as paper folding enthusiasts!

Available via Jacqui Small Publishing... we hope you'll enjoy it as much as we did!

To order The Origami Home at the special offer price of £16 including UK P&P, telephone 01903 828503 or email, quoting the offer code APG267 and the book ISBN 9781909342514. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Christmas hand made gift directory...

As you know receiving hand made is wonderful but gifting it is even better!
So every year I take it upon my self to come up with a massive array and selection of various projects that I hope to make.
All you need to do is check out my Pinterest board "Hohoho Holly molly time to make". Packed full of ideas and good intentions though the title pretty much sums it all as it implies a need to hurry and get making!
Truth be known that I usually leave it until there's hardly anytime time to make anything! Come mid December the panic sets in and rather then hitting the High Street I opt for a little bit of Hand Made retail instead.
Really, there is no need to panic! Next year I'll start early...oh, OK, right...that's what I said last year!

If you're anything like me then don't fret, there are lots of ways to buy hand made so no excuses and no panic attacks...
there's a whole host of on line shops and communities like Etsy and Folksy but to name a few plus numerous fairs -come December and there seems to be one every day!- popping up all over town! And it's not just in London. Everywhere seems to have at least one or two but hey... that's a good thing right?

So here's my top Christmas craft crushes which I think you might like too... I personally think they'll be perfect Christmas gifts for all : Man, woman and child! Enjoy!

  • For the twitcher, classy birds or lovers of nature: Yvonne Ellen set of four plates...

available to purchase via Etsy
  • For your beautiful kiddo, niece or nephew a great vintage inspired design. Mind you I could just about squeeze my head into this! Bauble hat by Ampersandcommodities....

Via Etsy

  • For your little foxes or even for a big nature lover! These are not just for kids... Little fox by Jane Foster!

Via Etsy

  • For every cycling dude or lady dude -and no beard or moustache required as you'll look too cool for school as you peddle alongside the gentry! Leather jacket optional. Petrol Gage Bike Bell by Beachy Toes...

Via Etsy

  • For a bright fashion lover of any age! Pretty awesome don't you think? Knitted necklace by Rhea Clements. Available in a great selection of colours ....

  • As you know I love a good biscuit so if you have a friend with a sweet tooth then this is perfect! Biscuits...well cushions really, by Nikki Williams...

Via Nikki's on line shop

  • For those who'd like to make their gifts. These bright and fun fabrics would make amazing cushions, totes, tablet covers, clothing and even a tent! Beautiful fabric by Rachel Powell so you can make something nice to give...

Available via Rachels' shop

  • For the crafter meets activist (yes, that's right a Craftivist!) what better gift then a book? Check out  "Craftivism: The art of craft and activism" by the wonderfully talented and god mother of craftivism Betsy Greer. Balaclavas not included but you can knit your own...

Available on line or ask your favourite book shop to stock it!

  • And for that bloke who loves the outdoors and has just about everything! Hand made mountain range wallet by Trelabela...

Available via Etsy

  • For that man who's good with his hands... oh you know I love a man who knits! Nelson Collar kit by Wool & The Gang!

Via the Wool & The Gang website

  • A years subscription of this great magazine, The Simple Things, which anyone will love... lots of great articles and not just stories about crafts either, though there's lots to keep your hands busy! From nature, manly pursuits, recipes, family projects -yes and some crafty tutorials too!- to mindful & ethical shopping. It's got it all!

Via website

  • And finally because I'm a sucker for anything with animals on it here's a great gift for any nature fiend and Christmas lover though I suspect these would happily hang around the house all year long! A set of 4 tree decorations by the fabulous Abigail Brown. Also check out her dolls... totally amazing!

Available via Only Tiny

I hope you like my choices... and I hope that you'll agree that buying hand made from small independents and designer makers is the way to go! Together we can share with the world the value of craft, well designed and well made goods.
This year don't buy mass produced and if you can't buy hand made... Make it yourself!!!