Ask Me Anything – The Answers (Part I)


Earlier this week, I gave my followers the opportunity to Ask Me Anything. Thank you for not leaving me here talking to myself and for asking super questions! I am posting Part I of the answers today, with Part II coming next week!

What do you actually like about living in the UK? Everyone always moans about it…but what do you like/love?! (Carla)

I’m lucky enough to live in the perfect place for me – Cambridge. As a city it offers me everything I could ever wish for; it’s small enough to get to know people and cycle around, and has a vibrancy like no other place. The river, the architecture, the creativity – all things I adore about living here. I wrote a post about Cambridge a while back where I gush even more hehe!


I also have dreams about living back in Canada. I did live there for 4 years and loved it (was in Calgary/Canmore)! What is your connection to it? (Fiona)

I was given a Canadian penpal in Brownies when I was 7 and we have written ever since.   We spend time with each other every couple of years and my first visit to Canada (Ontario) had me falling completely in love with the country. There is something about the positivity in people there and the way of life that entices me.

I spent Christmas in Vancouver last year which was awesome. Now some of my family members are located there and a whole heap of our friends have emigrated. I know we will always have an excuse to visit. That and my need to stock up on David’s Tea!

Downtown Vancouver and Coal Harbour

I recently opened an etsy shop. Have you got any top tips for marketing and making it a success? (Kat Got The Cream)

Network as much as possible! Most small businesses just starting our wont have a big marketing budget to play with, so write a strategy that suits you and is realistic. Most of my promotion revolves around social media which can be so powerful for getting your work seen.

Join Twitter chats (#cbuk / #HandmadeHour) to find other shops/blogs and promote your work. Don’t be afraid to tell people about your creations.  Good luck with the store!

claireabellemakes on Etsy

How do you keep track of all the ideas and projects you have? (Miss Dotty)

I have notebooks a plenty – I’m a big list maker. If I spot a project I want to try I will write it down. I brainstorm regularly and return to these notes on a regular basis.

In my lounge are two big picnic hampers of my WIP projects. I try to visit the baskets at least once a week to work on them. However, I can’t help but start new things all the time. Mostly the baskets contain longer running projects like knitting and crochet. The dreaded Granny Square blanket is coming together sloooowly.

Granny Square Blanket planning by claireabellemakes

Is the crafting/blog side of you fairly well-known or secret? Does everyone in your home/work life know about this side of you? (Craft My Escape)

Ooh good question! All my friends and family are aware of my blog and creative side, although some of the closest people to me don’t read my posts (G and my parents!). In fact, most of my friends are crafters and bloggers too which is great because we share so much.

My work colleagues are aware of my creative side and know that I sell accessories, but they do not know about my blog. I prefer to keep it that way as it is quite personal to me.

Where do you get all your amazing ideas from e.g. this post. So original and different? (KnitnRun4Sanity)

I’m not sure I’m an amazing ideas person, but thank you! I think this post came from my nosey side. A lot of the time when I’m reading other people’s blogs I wonder things about them…..I thought this would be a chance for people to be curious in case they were feeling the same.

If I do have an idea I like – I’ll jot it down. Much of inspiration comes from the online world, other makers, pinterest, books, my environment.

Oooooh, what is your favourite home cooked (by yourself!) meal? (Onetenzeroseven)

This is a hard question, but I think it is Sausage and Butternut Squash Stew. It’s one of those meals where I just chuck everything in (with lots of sage) and hope it turns out right. I serve with fresh crusty bread. If we are talking about desserts, I always make this marshmallow cheesecake!

Easy Marshmallow Cheesecake by claireabellemakes

Thanks to everyone who asked a question and shared a fact about themselves, it was really fun. Do be sure to visit everyone I’ve linked to and share the blogger love!

Keep an eye out next week for Part II.

Happy weekends!


Instalife: February

Where did February go? I’m already collating Instagram pictures and it seems like January only just began! I had a quiet month of taking more time for myself and my health did improve slightly, yay!

I haven’t had a big migraine since the beginning of February, so that’s something, but I have felt very fatigued which has been hard. In March I’ll go to London to see the specialist  again so I’m feeling a bit more positive.

Anyway, you are probably wondering what I’ve been up to, so here is my Instalife round up for February.

Baking February Macaron making with Dizzy / The finished treats 

Home made Sweet Potato Crisps / Thorntons Dessert Chocolates = AMAZE

Cambridge February Cambridge looking pretty at sunset / Pink bicycle on the market square

Preparing for #SheepishHeartBomb / My finished yarn bomb garland

Craft February

Evening jewellery making / New wooden stamp set

Cute new elephant print fabric / Amazing sewing themed buttons

Life February

Tea time for one / Daffodil blooms to will Spring to arrive

Snuggles with Tammy / Valentines outfit

What did you get up to in February? If you’d like to follow me on Instagram, you can find me under Claireabellemakes.


Instalife: 2013 Begins

Happy Monday lovelies!

It’s been a while since I’ve done an Instalife post, but I thought I’d share with you my quiet January pics so you can see what I’ve been up to. Despite a short holiday break with friends at the beginning of the month, January was pretty crappy due to migraines. So, I didn’t really get up to much!

January Instagram Claireabellemakes

Sampling my Forever Nuts (pink!) tea from Canada / Starting a new book /Learning to Crochet leaves at the WI Botanic Gardens project / Winning a stunning tea set

January Instagram Claireabellemakes

Beginning a baby blanket / Finishing blanket at top speed for baby who arrived early / Topping up my pile of granny squares / A crochet coasters DIY guest post

January Instagram ClaireabellemakesTammy having a snooze / More bicycle clips from friends / A snowy scene at Trinity College Cambridge / The best tea cup ever in the kitchen at work (found here)

I don’t mind if February stays at this same pace – I’m definitely going to take it easy for a while. 2012 was a whirlwind!

What did you get up to? You can follow me on Instagram by searching for Claireabellemakes.


Instalife: Autumn in Cambridge

Instalife Autumn has begun claireabellemakes

Autumn in Cambridge makes me feel content. My daily bicycle ride to and from work has allowed me to enjoyed the misty mornings and crisp air and the colours have been just stunning. Although I’ve been unwell and tired for most of October, there have definitely been some highlights, even if just the simple things….

– Painted Street Pianos dotted about Cambridge for the ‘Play Me I’m Yours Project’. This has lifted me every time I hear one being played.

– Snuggles and blanket time with my kitty and some comfort food and cakes.

– Lattes and pumpkin carving dates with G and the first mittens outing of the season.

– Thoughtful presents in the mail from friends and finishing crochet presents for another friend.

– Sharing my vast collection of craft books on Instagram and being slightly embarrassed by the shocked response of my followers….

– A busy month for my Etsy shop, an international sale and some fabulous magazine features.

– A wonderful mug swap from cupcakemamma and a beautiful crocheted baby hat for my expectant friend by Lemons for Lemonade

What did you get up to in October? I’m looking forward to November as I plan for my first craft fair, attend a friend’s wedding and celebrate my birthday. I’m determined to finish some long term craft projects too and appreciate the last few leaves of the season!


Thrifting: Charity shops vs. car boots

Today I have invited fellow blogger Fran to share her thoughts on thrifting – one of my favourite things to do! Enjoy!

Hi – I’m Fran from Skulls and Ponies. I’m very honoured to be here blogging for Claire – I adore her blog (don’t we all?) so was very excited when she asked me to write a guest post for her. Today – I’ll be writing about something I love – finding a bargain.

The term ‘thrifting’ is commonly used by American bloggers to describe the activity of bargain hunting in ‘thrift stores’. Here in the UK – we don’t have thrift shops as such, but we do have an abundance of charity shops and car boot sales.  In the blogging world it’s becoming more and more common to refer to ‘charity shopping’ or ‘car booting’ as thrifting. At first, I was a little reluctant to adopt this terminology, but let’s us be honest – it is so much of a better description than ours!

I am a massive fan of thrifting – I love charity shops, but then I love car boot sales….but which is better? There’s only one way to find out….(sorry…Harry Hill moment over)..a good old pros and cons list!

Car Boots


Scavenger hunt – A lot of fun can be had at car boots. For example, this year for my birthday my friends organised a scavenger hunt for us at one of my favourite car boots. It really was so much fun!

Thrifting by Skulls and Ponies

Great for collectors – if you collect something, then chances are you’ll be able to find your treasure at a car boot sale. I collect willow pattern china which is always so overpriced in charity shops and antique shops. At car boots however I can guarantee I can find a piece for less than a pound.

Thrifting by Skulls and Ponies

Cheap as chips – I have got some amazing bargains at car boots. My favourite pair of boots cost a quid and lasted much longer than any I bought off the high street.

Addictions – I’m pretty sure everyone has a car boot addiction. By that I mean something they always buy. For me it has to be shoes. I am always finding great shoes at car boot sales! Not for everyone, but I have no problem with wearing second hand shoes if they are in good condition. All of these were £2 or less!

Thrifting by Skulls and Ponies

Bartering – one of the things I love most about car boots is bartering. It can be a little intimidating at first, especially if people refuse – but most car booters are there because they want to get rid of their junk and making money is an added bonus.  I got this tea set down to £3 for the lot.

Thrifting by Skulls and Ponies


Seasonal – the main con for car boots is that it’s seasonal. Car boots only really happen from March-September and are also very dependent on the weather. The better the weather, the better your swag is likely to be.

Professional car booters – In Brighton at least, we have hoards of professional car booters. This means they hunt for bargains, and then double the price to sell at car boots and it drives me bonkers! One particular (and very central) car boot in Brighton I completely stopped bothering to go to, simply because no one would barter. For me at least, professional car booting defeats the point!

Getting up early – If you aren’t a fan of getting up early on a Sunday then chances are you’ll miss the best bargains. You can of course, go for the leftovers by turning up around 12 noon in the hope you’ll find some great bargains – but it’s quite risky as you might just be left with the tat. I’m an early riser, so for me the early slot suits me fine!

Charity shops


Your spending helps others – One of the great things about thrifting in charity shops, is your money is going to charity! I love that – guilt free spending – shopping that helps people.

Clothes – At car boots (unless you have no shame) you can’t try on clothes which means you have to guess. With charity shops – you always know you are getting a bargain – as you know it fits! I got one of my favourite red dresses from a charity shop and was so excited that it fit perfectly!

Thrifting by Skulls and Ponies

Finding a little gem – Sometimes with charity shops you won’t find anything you want to buy but then all of a sudden you’ll find something truly amazing that you can’t quite believe anyone would ever part with. For me it was these heart print shoes.

Thrifting by Skulls and Ponies

Books – No matter what, I always find at least one book to buy when I go charity shopping. Oxfam books is my favourite – all paperbacks are priced at £1.99 and the one I always go to seems to constantly have recent publications that I want to read!

Great for furniture – The majority of my living room is filled with furniture that is second hand – and the vast majority of it is from charity shops. Maybe in part that’s down to my tastes – but hunting around you are sure to find something. Near me there is a charity that has a big warehouse especially for furniture. I got a brand new Brabantia breadbin from there for a quid! I’d been searching for a standing lamp for ages so was over the moon when I spotted this one!

Thrifting by Skulls and Ponies


More expensive – This isn’t always true, but most of the time charity shops are more expensive than car boots which means you are going to need a bigger budget. This isn’t always a bad thing, as sometimes it means you can get better quality items. Just don’t get stung by charity shops over charging for items.

Less likely to make a purchase – For me at least 99% of the time I’ll come back with at least one item from a carboot, but when I go charity shopping I often come back empty handed. This in part is to do with the price, I’m probably pickier in charity shops but it’s worth mentioning as you don’t want to get your hopes up.

Location – I have a few charity shop sweet spots near where I live that have a lot of charity shops in close proximity with each other. For most towns however, charity shops are spread out which can make it a bit of a mission to find some bargains!

Ooh it’s neck and neck! For me though carboots are definitely my favourite. I think this is mainly due to the excitement I get – and being able to barter!

What about you? Carboots or charity shops?

What a great post, thanks Fran for sharing your thrifty thoughts with my readers! What handy tips. I am charity shop lady myself, as I’m not a fan of the early starts on a Sunday morning and all ours are in one street in Cambridge, convenient!