Craft Wars – UK vs USA

In my opinion, the UK has a serious lack of craft television shows. Apart from the jewellery making channel which shows repeats of beading techniques and kits to buy, there is not much else out there. And I’m a telly addict, so I know these things.

Since starting this blogging journey, I’ve investigated the differences and similarities between the US and UK craft worlds. I’ve received fantastic support from both my home and overseas readers.

My research led me to discover the most enthusiastic craft reality show which recently started on American TV network TLC.  Craft Wars is hosted by Tori Spelling (she’s no Martha), and sees contestants battle it out in teams to create popular craft items in one hour. Dramatic! Watch below and then join me again afterwards for my thoughts.

Contestants use surprise materials from ‘Michael’s Craft Closet’ – which looks like a crafter’s dream. A panel of judges will assess their efforts and eliminate the worst contestant. The final two will compete in ‘The Master Craft’ creating a playhouse out of school supplies for a prize of $10,000.

The contestants are what you would expect for reality TV – over the top craft obsessives. There is a heavy emphasis on DIY and building and no project is complete without some shouting and a glue gun. (I’m not complaining, I’m a craft glue addict). I only wish I had TLC so I didn’t have to rely on summary clips online each week.

The reviews for this show have been highly amusing (just Google Craft Wars and you will see the divided view of Americans) and I noticed that (my favourite website) Craft Fail have picked up on the episodes. Here’s a link to the thoughts of one viewer:

http://jenstrendspot.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/craft-wars-review.html

Then we turn to the UK and the most recent of craft TV shows, Kirstie’s Handmade Britain. A quintessentially English presenter, exploring new crafts, embracing UK makers and entering country shows.

There are no glue guns held like a weapon and shouts of ‘GLITTER EMERGENCY!!’ here. Nice, calm, English crafting and machine embroidery lessons…..couldn’t be more of a contrast!

I can’t help but love both. We all love Kirstie. Her posh, approachable persona allowed us to enjoy her craft journey and perhaps inspired us to try new crafts along the wayIt was screened at a moment when the general public also cottoned on to the fact that craft is actually awesome. Good timing.

Some of my my UK readers may know that the BBC were scouting the crafting world for contestants for a new show called Paul Martin’s Handmade Revolution. I can’t imagine the competition including British people shouting for pipe cleaners or being quite as theatrical as the US competitor. We will do it in our very British manner a la Great British Bake Off.

I’m not sure these shows represent the general craft population of each country. Perhaps they do so in the most stereotypical way possible. I’ll leave that to you to decide. All I know is that Craft Wars makes me want to do a supermarket sweep style trolley dash in Hobbycraft and cover my sewing supply boxes in glitter spray.

Now where’s my glue gun?!

Claire x

Happy International Yarn Bombing Day

I recently discovered that June 9th is International Yarn Bombing Day. The origins of yarn bombing (or knit graffiti) are often debated, but it is said to have begun in Texas, USA in 2005. Colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn are displayed in public places, often by anonymous crafters.

It got me thinking about whether I would ever have the confidence or skills to participate in a yarn bombing. What motivates people? Is it just a fun way to express creativity, or are there statements to be made? Whatever the idea behind a yarn bomb, it sure is a fun way to decorate a street or item, and it’s bound to make people stop and smile.

My yarn bombing research led me to rediscover all the recent knit graffiti I had seen online and in the national and local news.

Some of you may have seen the recent press about guerrilla knitwear artist Olek’s crocheted outfits for Anthony Gormley sculptures on Crosby Beach, Merseyside. Although the sculptures have been on the beach since 2005, Olek wanted to transform the sculptures into something new. She says “By covering them and giving them a new skin, I made them more alive”. Would this be the same for a tree? Or a railing? I know if I discovered a branch covered in a multicoloured plethora of yarn, it would certainly make me notice the tree when I would have otherwise walked on by.

Source

It’s said to be technically illegal to yarn bomb (considered a form of graffiti), but many local knitting groups are embracing the trend and I even discovered a recent yarn bomb in the nearby city of Norfolk.

The Norfolk Ninja Knitters spruced up lamposts and sculptures outside the City Hall, but sadly the council removed the yarn bombs 🙁

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These yarn bombs I found on Pinterest are really inspiring….

I love this London phone box, with Big Ben as the backdrop!

Source: www.knitthecity.com / Image © Knit the City

This one would really make people think twice about dodging parking fees…..

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I wonder how long this tree yarn bomb took?

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Have you spotted a great yarn bomb in your area? Have you ever yarn bombed?

Claire x

 

 

My Week In Pictures

Although I had intended to share makes and bakes this week, it has been busy, eventful and celebratory over the last few days, with not much time for creating. So I thought I’d share a snapshot of the memories I created, via Instagram.

You can follow me on Instagram here.

*Be warned: there may be many pictures of a persian cat named Tammy, who should really have her own fan club.

(1) Looking at old photos of Grandad on a recent visit (2) Peppermint Teapigs delivery

(3) New Cath Kidston bike seat cover (4) Finding a parking spot at the station bike racks!

(5) Masters Graduation! (6) Amazing Camomile Tea at Laduree

(7) & (8) Graduation Macaron treats at Laduree

(9) & (10) Lovely handmade card & crochet flowers from crafty friend

(11) & (12) Vintage button shopping

(13) Herman the German friendship cake

(14) Blossom on a rare sunny day in Cambridge

Finally, I couldn’t post without also sharing the most gorgeous box of macarons I treated myself to at Laduree. I couldn’t resist the sweet little Hello Kitty box . Needless to say, they didn’t last long!

Claire x

A Handmade Challenge

Handmade Scrabble

One of my new year’s resolutions for 2012 was to make my own bread. Another was to always have a craft project on the go and to make or buy handmade gifts. I also decided to explore upcycling and always have fresh flowers in the house. Many things to keep up with, but all small, achieveable challenges.

 

I’d managed it all until last weekend when feeling poorly, I popped in the local bakery and bought a (super tasty) loaf. I figured that over the course of a year, the odd slip up is allowed, provided I buy local and handmade.

My locally purchased loaf and homemade mantra got me thinking about handmade items in my life and the potential in every day objects. My creative side was drawn to my oversized collection of jam jars and random boxes, igniting the possibility of yet more craft projects.

I’ve planned some creative and thrifty weekends in May with friends. We’re working on a list of things to try. I am determined to find a new and hopefully pretty purpose for my jam jar stash. Maybe some of them will even end up as upcycled gifts or decorative vases for the fresh flowers in my house.

Not everyone appreciates the time, effort and love that goes into handmade items (maybe even bread kneading can be an art!), but I love nothing more than gifting and receiving handmade.

If you like to buy local and share my love of handmade, why not support UK Handmade’s Buy Handmade Campaign?

Do you buy handmade? Are you a maker? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Claire x

 

Macaron Love

My close friends will know that I’m a little bit obsesssed with French Macarons. Light and chewy in the middle, a bit size treat and fat free which I constantly remind myself of. That means I can have more right?! Next week I’ll be visiting London for my Masters graduation and will definitely make a stop at Laduree for a box of treats, I can’t wait.

Periodically, I’ll bake a batch to share with others, but many don’t even make the construction stage and jump right off the baking sheet and into my mouth. These almond meringue sandwiches are a real delight, so it only seems right to share a recipe for Strawberry and Vanilla Macarons.

I’ve adapted it from a Marcus Wareing recipe and one from a Love Food book called ‘Macaroons’.

Ingredients

75g Ground Almonds (gives the chewy and slightly nutty flavour)

115g Icing Sugar

2 Large Egg Whites (room temperature)

50g Caster Sugar

1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Food colouring (your choice)

Good quality Strawberry Jam (for filling)

Makes 16

  • Place ground almonds and icing sugar into a food processor and blend for 15 seconds. Sift mixture into a bowl.
  • Line a baking sheet with baking paper. I have this nifty silicone macaron mat which my sister gave me for Christmas from the wonderful Squires Kitchen. It makes piping the rounds much easier later on.

  • Whisk egg whites until holding soft peaks. Gradually whisk in the caster sugar to make a firm glossy meringue. (Hold above your head to test!) Whisk in the vanilla extract. (Sadly my life is without a Kitchen Aid, but my good old Kenwood handmixer does the job).
  • Using a spatula (I love the silicone ones), fold in the almond mixture into the meringue, one third at a time.

  • When dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, add a splash of food colouring and continue to cut and fold the mixture until it becomes shiny, with a thick ribbon-like consistency. I need to invest in some good food colouring pastes, as the cheap stuff doesn’t produce a nice vibrant colour for macarons once baked.

  • Pour the mixture into a piping bag. My tip is to place the piping bag (I’ve used a disposable today for ease) into a glass and fold the top over. It’s much easier to fill this way and keeps it sturdy.

  • Pipe small rounds onto the baking sheet. If you don’t have a silicone mat, you can mark circles in pencil on the sheet with a round cookie cutter or similar.
  • In hindsight, I would have tried to have keep my piping ‘flatter’ so as to produce a smooth macaron after baking.

  • Tap the baking sheet firmly on the work surface to remove air bubbles. Leave macarons at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 160 degrees / Gas Mark 3.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, cool for 10 minutes and carefully peel of baking paper. Don’t be tempted to pull them off before they have cooled as they will stick to the baking paper!

  • I used Bonne Maman strawberry jam to sandwich pairs together, as I think it’s the best you can buy in the supermarket and the jars are super cute for vases and craft projects afterwards!

  • Enjoy with a cup of herbal tea. I put some on my favourite childhood plate (Bunnykins – anyone remember?) & they didn’t stay there long!

Unfilled macarons will keep in an air-tight container for 3-4 days or can be frozen for up to 1 month. They are best eaten at room temperature an hour or so after filling.

What flavours would you try when making macarons? I like rosewater and lavender tones and pistachio is a perfect flavour. Let me know if you try them and what flavours you explore.

Lastly, how cute are these patisserie boxes from Lakeland?

Claire x