Why I love Cambridge (and a yarn bomb)

I honestly feel like I live in the best place in the country. We moved from the big smoke to Cambridge 6 years ago and I utterly love it. Probably more and more as time goes by. Today I want to share with you some of my favourite things about the city.

The green space and river

Although Cambridge is a city, unlike London, the green space and idyllic river scenes make me feel like I can breathe. There is space. And cows.

The River Cam on claireabellemakes

People row and live on boats. After the rowing races they chuck each other in the river. Good old traditions.

I am also proud to say I can actually punt (only took me 5 years to learn).

The River Cam on claireabellemakes

Cycling

You have to own a bike here. If you know me at all, in real life or through my blog, you know I’m obsessed with my bicycle. So much so, that I decorated it with bunting (tutorial here). It just makes sense to get around on a push bike.

Bicycles on claireabellemakes

Students

As much as it is busy and sometimes noisy with the students around, the city doesn’t feel right without them there. During the holiday periods the city feels oddly deserted and the buzz returns when term begins. It’s a love/hate relationship. I should be grateful, I wouldn’t have a job without all 22,000 of them.

Architecture

The city centre in Cambridge is filled with ancient buildings and inspiring sculptures. I find myself diverting on my journey to and from work some days, just to enjoy a different cobbled street or back path. Spaced along the river are wooden houses surrounded by pretty gardens and in the city centre a fun sculpture stands to pay tribute to a local eccentric who fundraised for charity his whole life.

Cambridge Architecture on claireabellemakes

A compact city

I love that you can reach anywhere in Cambridge within 30-40 minutes on foot or by bike. We never manage to leave the house without seeing someone we know. It’s friendly and compact. People stop to help each other and a good morning greeting isn’t unusual.

Creativity and that yarn bomb I mentioned…

Finally, it’s a creative city. People take up hobbies such as art, music, dance and craft. A yarn bombed lamp post or bike rack isn’t unusual.

Look as this guerilla knitting/crochet we saw today by the river. I wonder who could have put it there (*wink wink*)?! Perhaps they were inspired by Meredith of the blog One Sheepish Girl? She has declared today Sheepish Yarn Bombing Day!

Cambridge Yarn Bomb on claireabellemakes

Have you ever visited Cambridge? Or do you live in a place you love as much as I love Cambridge?

claireabelle

All images in this post are owned by claireabellemakes. Please contact me should you wish to use them.

I have shared this post on Handmade Monday – come see what others have been up to!

Cambridge Etsy Craft Party 2012

Etsy Craft Party on claireabellemakes

Over the last few weeks, I have been busy organising an Etsy Craft Party which took place on Friday 24th August. What’s a craft party you ask? In the words of Etsy…

“Craft Party is a time to get to know your neighbours and exercise your creative spirit. Craft Parties take place around the world when communities come together to participate in art, craft, design and DIY in every form. Anyone can organise a Craft Party and anyone can participate — the power is literally in your hands!”

Etsy arranged a simple ‘meet-up’ site with leaders inviting their participants and planning activities. What caught my interest, was that it was a global craft up, with parties taking place around the world, at the same time. Fact fans may like to know that almost 500 parties took place, with close to 5000 participants. That’s a lot of crafty people!

Fellow bloggers Crafty Painter and Suzie Makes put their thinking caps on to help me organise. The parties were sponsored by American craft store Michaels (think Hobbycraft)  who kindly provided a FREE box of supplies! Check it out!

Etsy Craft Party on claireabellemakes

We were over the moon about this! Paint, papers and scrapbooking materials galore! If these goodies didn’t ignite creativity, we were stuffed!

We had organised a picnic (yes, I know British summer sucks) and planned to dash to the local pub if the rain made an appearance. We rocked up to the local green with cakes and craft supplies aplenty. A small crowd at first, which grew to 23 in total throughout the afternoon.

Etsy Craft Party on claireabellemakes

I knew almost all the people who attended, via our newly formed WI group, but many of the attendees had not talked to each other before. Some new faces came along too and shared their fantastic scrapbooking and book binding skills. As cheesy as it sounds, it really felt as though sitting in a park, collectively crafting, brought us all together as new friends.

Etsy Craft Party on claireabellemakes

Naturally there was an immense amount of cake. We ignored the rain (see the drops on the lid of the bakewell tarts) and stuffed our faces. Sugar overload. Probably not a good idea with embroidery needles and scissors around!

The theme for the craft party was ‘Wish You Were Here’ so we planned some crafts to reflect our city. Bicycle themed embroidery and wooden painted postcards featured.

Some people indulged in papercraft. Look at the fab page from Miss Dotty’s smash book!

Etsy Craft Party on claireabellemakes

Some made friendship bracelets (quite apt for all the new friends made) and learned basic crochet stitches, whilst others came with in-progress projects.

By the end of the afternoon and 5 hours of crafting under the threatening grey skies of Cambridge, we had experienced a few rain drops, made some pretty things and all gained stiff backs and dead legs. Picnic blankets are not all that comfy it seems!

Etsy Craft Party on claireabellemakes

Etsy UK and Etsy US tweeted us throughout and we posted updates of our makes on Instagram. Although some parties such as NYC wouldn’t take place until hours after ours, we had US twitter followers commenting on our party. The Brooklyn party was on a much bigger scale (queues aplenty) and Vancouver even had an after party planned for theirs, but our small picnic somehow still felt as important.

It was a fabulous afternoon. New friends made, new crafts learnt. Sharing out the unused craft supplies at the end of the afternoon came with great excitement. You’d think we’d all got a new pair of shoes or a sparkly diamond ring each. It’s amazing how exciting crafters can get about a new pair of scissors hehe!

We decided ‘crafternoons’ should be a regular thing. Inspired by Etsy’s idea, we shall meet again.

Please also take time to check out this fabulous post about the NYC craft party by starcrossed smile!

claireabelle x

Bicycle Love

You cannot turn a corner in Cambridge without a cyclist whizzing by. There are rows and rows of bicycles at the train station and around the market place. There’s something about cycling in this city – it provides escapism and heritage on every street.

Dutch Bike

I love my dutch bike. It’s the perfect way for me to travel around Cambridge and remain eco-friendly, whilst saving a pretty penny on transport costs. All things bicycle themed make me smile. If it includes a pretty basket, then all the better.

I kept seeing great bicycle themed items on Etsy, so I decided to create my first treasury. Have a look and let me know what you think. I think most of these will be making their way onto my wish list!

Bicycle Treasury by claireabellemakes

Do you cycle or have any bicycle themed items to share?

Claire x

A Bicycle Ride & Afternoon Tea

Living in Cambridge gives me every excuse to travel by bicycle. In a city where there are more bikes than cars and the cycle lanes fill up the streets, you could look out of place without a bike.

Dutch Bike

We haven’t had a car for 6 years now, (get us – eco friendly!) so my custom Dutch bike gets me around and ensures I can access all the best places to take tea in the city. This weekend, the boyfriend, the bike and I, took trip along the river to the Orchard Tea Garden in Grantchester, Cambridge.

Many people punt along the river to the historic team rooms, which are surrounded by meadows and beautiful countryside. We took a little walk once we arrived in Grantchester and passed some stunning cottages topped with thatched roofs with pretty gardens infront. Quintessentially English.

English Cottages in Grantchester

Wandering past the idylic meadows, we found gardens and passageways with pretty flowers and trees. How lovely is this classic lamppost and spiralling tree branches?

English Summer Flowers

As we approached the orchard, the clouds gathered over head and we wondered if we would be able to take our tea outside with the rest of the visitors. It was 2pm and the gardens were starting to get busy with tourists.

The orchard was first planted in 1868 and first became a tea garden by chance. A group of Cambridge students began the traditional of taking tea in the orchard in 1897 and The Orchard Tea Garden was born.

Orchard Tea Rooms, Grantchester, Cambridge

We opted for tea and a scone to share. They were GIANT! Clotted cream and jam were a must. We debated whether cream or jam was spread first.

Afternoon Tea

I was slightly disappointed to learn that the tea wasn’t loose leaf, but the queues were rather long, so I forgave them. The scone was utterly delicious and I couldn’t help peeking at other tables with lunch plates and fresh cakes. There were plenty of birds enjoying the orchard with us.

Afternoon Tea

We spent a good two hours in the orchard enjoying our tea and remarking how lucky we are to live in Cambridge. Moments like these make me realise how the traditions, history and beautiful settings confirm we chose the right place to live.

We’ve decided to make a list of all the things we want to enjoy in Cambridge; some touristy, some simple and some magical. I love lists. One of these list items includes a sub list of 5 other places to take tea. I am sure I’ll be sharing these with you in blog posts to come.

Finally, we took a wet cycle home along the river (typical English summer!) and arrived back to this little fluff ball who had wedged herself into the bean bag.

A blog debut for our persian cat Tammy 🙂

Persian Cat Tammy

Where are your favourite places to have tea?

Claire x

Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair

You can never be bored at the weekend in Cambridge. There is always something happening and despite the tourist season being in full swing (I swear it gets earlier every year!) I decided to wander into town to check out Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair at the Guildhall.

The Affordable Vintage Fair started in 2005 in Leeds and now tours to more than 30 cities and 6 festivals around the UK. Cambridge’s fair this weekend displayed a vast array of dresses, jewellery, bags, crockery and cake. It’s not a proper vintage fair without tea and cake, right?

The atmosphere was relaxed with many sellers willing to share tales. One stall holder was still jet lagged from a recent trip to the US to source 50s swing dresses. Needless to stay I stopped at this stall to admire the polka dots and lace adorned frocks for a while. Although vintage clothes were not on my shopping list for the day, I took time to lust after all the 40s shirt dresses and hand sewn lace tea dresses.

Local vintage boutique Jemporium Vintage were in attendance with a great selection of demin cut offs and sunglasses.

I had to stop myself from buying vintage clutch bags as there really isn’t space in my wardrobe for any more!

How fabulous is this stall of vintage Vogues?!

I had already contacted my favourite vintage market stall Retrovert to reserve some items, so I headed there in excitement to collect my goods from Sophie and Jane.

As well as beautiful crockery, the stall had numerous baskets of vintage lace, doilies and retro nick nacks. I couldn’t resist taking a snap of this vintage icing set!

These retro tumblers were £12 for the set and Sophie had kindly reserved them for me. I am so impatient and realised I should have also reserved the tea cup I had my eye on too. Luckily it was still available and I parted with £5 for this china Mayfair beauty.

After leaving the fair I spotted many people around the city in vintage get up and some fab victory rolls too! Only made me wish I had worn my vintage frock which I adjusted last week.

Claire x