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Advent calendar - DIY...

Woodland Forest 2013
Rustic 2012
Over the past couple of years I have made the boys their Advent calendar.  It has been so much fun to do and they absolutely love it.  But this year, to be honest, I am stumped.

I don't know what is wrong with me but I have lost my mojo.  Work is full on, worrying over certain aspects in our life and money pressures are taking their toll.  I am exhausted.

This years calendar will have to be simple, cheap and easy.  There I said it - a quick fix.  I've just over a week to make it, which hopefully will be enough time. eeek!

What are you up to?  Do you make your own Advent calendar or use a shop bought.  Do tell!

If you'd like to see how I made my previous Advent calendars they are here...

Meet the Maker - Jo Waterhouse (plus giveaway!)...

An important part of Littlegreenshed, I feel, is to support small independent businesses.  Artisans, designers, makers, small shops etc... all doing what they do so well.  One such person is Jo Waterhouse.  I have been a fan of Jo's work for a long time now, falling in love with her fish (above) and more recently her glove cushion.  Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have seen this beautiful cushion in my home.  After having lots of you enquire about it, I thought I'd share more about Jo and her work here... over to you Jo!

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do? 
Hello, my name is Jo, I'm a printmaker and also a treasure hunter. I'm a real home-bird, I like to make and find things for homes: mine mostly and yours too if you want. My stuff often gets described a described as quirky, which bugged me at first but I've made peace with it now - it's probably a pretty good description of what I do. 

Can you talk us through the processes behind one of you pieces? 
Yes, the fish is a lovely thing: it was one of the very first things I made and has become a bit of a mascot, so much so that sometimes people refer to me as 'the fish lady'. Which is nice. The idea for the fish came when I was sat behind my antiques stall with my friend Karen: we sit and talk all day, it's a very nice time. I carved the shape of the fish from lino - I didn't sketch it first or anything because I thought it would be nice and wonky but as it turns out it was pretty neat. Then I printed it on to tracing paper and exposed it on to a screen for printing on to fabric. I tried printing on to fabric direct from the block but the colours were never deep enough for me. So I've had that screen for a while, and from time to time I bring it down to print a fresh batch of fish. Once they're printed I cut and sew them together and stuff them, usually whilst watching telly. 

You are an avid collector of ‘toot’, I am too! Can you tell us where you go, and what are you looking out for? 
Yessss. Toot is the best. I go to lots of places - car boots and markets. And because I'm at car boots so often spending money I sometimes get invited to peoples houses/sheds to buy; that part can be a ruddy dream! It can also be very disappointing. I'm always looking for things with the right feel: that look handmade or well designed. Sometimes really badly made is nice too. I'm also looking for stories: I'm a real sucker for the romance of a loved item with a story. It is amazing what sort of things can turn up and also a bit depressing the amount of stuff there is out there and most of it is completely useless. 

You have just opened a pop up shop, can you tell us a little about it? 
It's a shop-in-a-shop on Exmouth Market, at a shop called Family Tree. The owner of the shop Takako invited me in for the Christmas period and I'm so grateful because it can be really cold on those markets. I will still do some markets over the festive period but I'll have time to thaw in between times too. We're open everyday in December up until Christmas eve, from 11am-6pm so there's not much of an excuse not to pop in. It's at 53 Exmouth Market (EC1R 4QL). 

What is your inspiration behind opening the shop? 
I'm always looking for that perfect space for sharing with people and to realise easily those ideas I have in the shower or whilst I'm cycling about. A shop is a really nice space because it is a place where people can interact, or not interact: people are comfortable in shops and receptive to creativity in a way they wouldn't be in other places. Sometimes I want to make things that are more fine-art-ish than retail-ish but I would still put them in the shop because I can present them in the way I want. 

What is a typical working day for you? 
I have a couple of working day formats . . . The 'up at 3am, sell, sell, sell . . . crash' market day. The 'sleep late and play at being arty' day the 'up at 8 and try to be productive before shop time' day And endless variations in between. 

What do you love most about what you do?
I love the fact that I don't have to do it if I don't want to. I can be quite free and say yes (or no) to projects, which is really nice because I can make time for learning and - those are my favourite things to do. 

You have a love of plants, can you tell us which is your favourite at home? 
Well - I love Pileas: those little characterful ones that look like saucers on sticks. I have lots of those, and I sell their babies in the shop (gosh that sounds barbaric). But I have a real fondness for my old gammy plants - I have one called Licky Tongue and one called Fingers, who are lopsided cactus friends. I also have a new friend on the cactus shelf which Rosalie (Schweiker) planted up - it's a single sausagey cactus of around 6 inches and she's planted two small round succulents at the base of it . . . geddit. So that's pretty damn hilarious. 

If you could collaborate with any other artist / maker, who would it be and why? 
Hmmm. I'd like to work with some people with real, concrete skills: maybe letterpress people, bookbinders or someone who makes amazing websites. I'm probably over thinking this but collaborating with someone amazing and creative would be so grim. It's like the old 'who would you invite to your dream dinner party?' question - good in principal but imagine if you actually did have Gandhi and Marilyn Monroe in your living room it'd be awful: I'd spin out. So I guess the really truthful answer is: no-one, because I am afraid of being in a room with people I don't know for too long. I already collaborate a lot with my friend Rosalie and it's really nice, and next year I'm going to make a book with my friend Hannah so I'm not entirely antisocial. 

If you were stranded in the wilds what item would you want with you to survive? 
A knife? That would be handy right? I reckon I'd be really good at surviving in the wilds. I think this because I've watched some telly programmes about it, so I hope my faith never gets tested. But then again I didn't ever learn printmaking properly, I just saw people doing it and went for the 'look confident' approach at my print room. So, yeah, I'll be fine. See you out there. 

Where would you like to be in ten years? 
I'd love to have some books under my belt by then - a children's book for sure. I also have endless written bits that I'm pulling together into small books at the moment but it takes real guts to show them to people. I'll have some kids by then I hope, so that'll keep me busy If I do achieve those things it'll just be straight on to the next plan: I'm no good at taking stock. Where we'll be geographically I just don't know: the world is our oyster. A lot of people are leaving London now, it's quite exciting, seeing so many people I really admire making amazing lives and businesses in different places. I reckon we'll follow suit pretty soon, as a bargain hunter (stingy person) it seems ridiculous to live in a place where living costs are so out of whack. Your place looks nice: maybe we could come live with you?

Thank you Jo!  Yeah, I have a small room you could squeeze into, more the merrier!! 

Jo has kindly offered one Littlegreenshed reader a chance to win her lush cuddly fish toy.  Perfect Christmas gift for your child, a child you know or for yourself!! (I want it).  Just complete the widget below.  Winners will be announced on Friday 28th November.  Good luck!

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Nature in the Home - weekly pick...

#Natureinthehome submission by daria.bright
Each week I am staggered and humbled by the amount and quality of images submitted to my little project #natureinthehome.  People worldwide using the hashtag and playing along.  It is a wonderful thing!

This week I chose this image by Russian florist daria.bright.  Not my usual style, but I love it nonetheless. Her gold top is awesome and really sets off those stunning blooms.  A hint of Christmas sparkle I think.

If you head over to my facebook page, you will also discover this weeks 'nature geek'... go see.

This weeks top 8 picks was: (click over here to see who they all belong to)

See you next week for some nature beauty!

Crafting the Seasons at Liberty London...

A couple of weeks ago, I dashed up to London to attend a very special gathering at a very, very special place.  I was one of a handful of guests who were invited to craft at Liberty of London.  Oh yes, a chance to play with all that Tana Lawn fabric.

The day was organised by the lovely Katy and Charlotte to thank the original crew who helped launch #stylingtheseasons. You may remember my monthly submissions which can be seen here.

Libertys was in full Christmas swing.  My good chum Laura and I spent time in the Christmas shop bedazzled by the lights and this years must have Christmas decorations.  Then on to the fabric floor. Now, let's be honest here, I'm not much of a sewist.  My sewing machine and I are not particularly good friends.  But, I do appreciate the beauty in Liberty print and wish with all my heart that I could sew something spectacular with it.  (perhaps one day I shall).

The afternoon of crafting was in the Heritage suite.  A beautiful wood panelled room, with stunning leaded windows and chandeliers.  It was opulent, it was everything that a Liberty room should be.  Inside I met up with fellow bloggers, some of these ladies I knew so well but had never actually met, blogging can be so weird like that. It was the perfect chance to finally hug and chat.

So there we were, sitting around a large table, with Liberty fabric piled high.  Afternoon tea was served, and we all set to craft.  I luckily found a fellow non-sewer in Alexis, and we happily chatted and shared the glue between us as we made our Christmas decorations.

Such beauty was around us, the people, the fabric, Liberty, Christmas.... that I found returning back the working week last week so hard!  Send me back to Liberty!

Thank you Katy, Charlotte and Liberty for such a beautiful afternoon.  And to Katharine Peachey for the gorgeous images.

My fellow crafters were:

Jeska at Lobster and Swan / Lisa Levis at Betty and Walter / Sarah-Lou at Lapin Blu  / Heather at Growing Spaces / Hannah at Hannah in the House / Tamsyn at The Villa on Mount Pleasant / Ruth at The Planned Adventure / Soumaya at Made By Molu  / Melanie at  Geoffrey and Grace / Jo at The Only Place / Laura at Circle of Pine Trees / Alexis at Something I Made

P.S. If you would like to join in with Styling the Seasons, all you need to do is style a surface in your home to represent what that month means to you. Share a shot of your styled surface and use the hashtag #stylingtheseasons. 

Meet the Shop - Muddy Puddles UK ( plus giveaway)

As a mum of two 'wild' boys, we have to get our daily dose of nature.  Be that the walk to school or a wild adventure at the weekend.  We like to be out in all weathers, so we need clothing that will keep us both dry and warm.  I recently discovered Muddy Puddles when I was looking for a new raincoat for Rufus. Muddy Puddles are a UK based company which sell good quality outdoor wear for children.  After chatting I just knew that I had to share their story with you...

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do? 
My name is Natasha and I am the Chief Mudder at Muddy Puddles. We sell wellies, waterproofs and ski gear for children from 0-12 years and are on a crusade to get children outdoors all year round. 

What was your inspiration behind opening the shop? 
I am most inspired by the childhood I had and the one I am trying to give my children. My sisters and brother and I were kicked out into the garden after breakfast and told not to come indoors until lunchtime. The unfettered liberation of exploring the outdoors and using our own imaginations was a very magical way to grow up. With my own children living in North London there is a little bit less space to roam in but we still have our best days together as a family when we all plan an outdoors adventure. 

What is a typical working day for you? 
I am very lucky as the Muddy Puddles head office is in my house which means I can attempt to juggle family and working life. Following on from the mad dash of the school run I come down to my desk and start the day with the usual tasks of emails and checking our site is looking good and fresh. Mid-morning a strong coffee is essential and then there tends to follow a series of meetings with our muddy team and potential partners we would like to work with. As we are a small business I am still fully involved with every aspect from product design and development to any promotions we are putting out, how it will all look and what we are featuring on our blog. If there is a chance I try and grab a quick lunch with my two year old in the middle of the day but otherwise push on through until 6 when I head back upstairs to the family chaos of bath time and bedtime stories. 

What do you love most about what you do? 
I love almost every aspect of the job but the part that inspires me the most is producing great quality but affordable products that really give children the freedom to play outdoors whatever the weather. 

What is your number 1 best selling item? 
Muddy Puddles was built on the back of our Original waterproof all in one suit which is still our bestseller today and can be found in forest schools, on farms and on children in parks across Britain. 

Do you have any tips on being outside in all weathers with kids? 
There are lots of ways to make outdoor trips in winter as well as summer a success. I find that making sure you know where you are going and what you are going to do is important on colder days. Then it is always good to add a bit of excitement and adventure to the trip. When I was a child our walks through the woods were always hunts for creatures called OggyPogs that could emerge from any direction. 

Where do you like to spend your rainy days outside? 
For my two year-old a lane full of puddles is still the perfect outing on a rainy day, but for the bigger two the most fun we have had in the rain is to climb a hill and go a bit crazy dancing, spinning and catching raindrops in our mouths. Then racing home full of the exhilaration of the outdoors. 

If you were stranded in the wilds what item would you want with you to survive? 
To be honest although I love the outdoors I am not brilliantly practical when it comes to the survival stakes so maybe a really good book to keep me distracted until someone came to rescue me! 

Where would you like to be in ten years? 
The Muddy Puddles dream is to clothe the world’s outdoor adventurers. We are a small team now who all passionately believe in this mission. If we have managed to achieve this in ten years and really are inspiring more children everywhere to spend more time outdoors, then we would feel immensely happy and proud.

Thank you Natasha, such a great interview and so lovely to discover that you have wild adventures too, not just a brand, you live it!

Muddy Puddles are offering one lucky Littlegreenshed reader a chance to win a £50 voucher to spend on any item in their Muddy Puddles shop.  Perfect timing, with Christmas on it's way and Winter around the corner.  Tog your little ones out in warming outdoors wear.

To enter, please complete the widget below.  Winner will be announced on Wednesday 26th November.  Good luck!

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