Twelve ways of #Craftmas: The Screw It Moment

Born out of a loathing for the corporate exploitation of Black Friday Sales and Christmas marketing, #Craftmas aims to get word out about the artists, artisans and craftspeople making beautiful gifts. Why buy a mass produced piece of plastic when you can gift an exclusive and interesting piece made by a creator-maker looking to make a living.

Support #Craftmas by using it to Tweet about your favourite makers, by using the hashtag as a Christmas shopping directory or simply by retweeting!

It may sound cheesy but I love everything I make.”

Jules, of Hook Frog, has a real passion for her yarn creations, in what ever form they emerge. A newcomer to selling her craft wares, she has already proved herself prolific in the number and range of items she produces.

“From pot holders to face scrubbies, hoodies, caridgans, hats, cloves, scarves, bunnies, blankets, cartoon characters & slippers,” she adds. “I honestly enjoy designing and freehanding stuff – I designed & made a blanket of Claptrap (a character from Borderlands), a Tetris pillow & I am mid making a cartoon character for my sister in law for Christmas.”

A background in computing and technology has proved the ideal starting point for this crafter – the mathematics and calculation inherent in crocheting mean her brain is ideally suited to working from patterns and working freehand. However Jules never imagined that she would find joy in craft – preferring gaming and gadgets for a long time.

She explained: “A couple of years ago I hit a ‘screw it’ moment in my life and ended up with three awesome tattoos and the last year or so decided to shave my head (again) and also wear dreads. I started making my own dreads. Then at the end of 2018 a work colleague was giving away some yarn & I thought it would be great for making some dreads. Unfortunately – or fortunately – she also gave me some fibre fill.

So I start to look at some dreadlock making videos on YouTube and in the list was a crochet video and, well, that’s when it happened. I was literally hooked – pun intended. I have a bag full of wonky rectangles that I made those first few weeks and now I have a sofa of animals, cushions and a stack of scarves, hats and all sorts.”

Jules has drawn inspiration from gaming, from the internet and taking on board ideas from various fandoms popular with people she knows. Seeing the pieces Jules produced, friends and colleagues started making requests for custom items – particularly children’s toys – and Hook Frog was born. Now she is striking out into sales and hopes that she can produce so much more, with plans to establish her own website in the coming months.

To buy from Jules contact her via Instagram – @hookfrogdblcrochet and Twitter – @hookfrog.

  • Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Jules recommends: Niknaks Hereford – hand painted glasses (on Facebook as Niknaks Hereford); Happy Berry Crochet – I made my first Amigurami patterns with her and her tutorials are fab (

Twelve Ways of #Craftmas: The Colour of Stories


Born out of a loathing for the corporate exploitation of Black Friday Sales and Christmas marketing, #Craftmas aims to get word out about the artists, artisans and craftspeople making beautiful gifts. Why buy a mass produced piece of plastic when you can gift an exclusive and interesting piece made by a creator-maker looking to make a living.

Support #Craftmas by using it to Tweet about your favourite makers, by using the hashtag as a Christmas shopping directory or simply by retweeting!

I read an awful lot, and sometimes when I’m picturing a scene I start to think about how different features could be represented in colour.”


Art began as therapy to Suzanne, of Pop Paints, as she faced battles with the education system to ensure that the special educational needs of her child were met, but flourished into a business. The qualified lecturer had always been crafty from childhood but a need for a distraction revived her creative side.

I had what I called my ‘making things box’,” Suzanne said. “Which was a shoebox that I put scraps of interesting paper, toilet roll tubes and stickers in for creating my masterpieces. My fondest memories are of sitting around the kitchen table with my Nan and Mum to make Christmas cards. We’d all be covered in glitter, and my Nan would teach me how to make papercuts or create 3D effects or lay out the most beautiful lettering.”

The comfort from this memory of making went on to play an important role in her life.

She said: “Life with a child with special needs can be chaotic and when I was trying to work, attend school meetings and keep up with planning and marking, my mental health really suffered. Fluid art was initially a therapeutic tool for me because it allows me to switch off and focus solely on colour and movement; then the more I was creating, the more I was being told I should sell my work. It was a daunting prospect but I’m really glad that I had supportive people around me when I took that step.”  

Suzanne finds inspiration from all around her and sees her experimenting with odd items around the house to create different effects – whether it be toys, packaging or even kitchen utensils. “Sometimes it works,” she said. “But sometimes it creates total disasters.”

Suzanne, of Pop Paints

Initially starting her creative business on the kitchen table, Suzanne now works in a quiet corner of the house – safe from the disturbances of family life.

Suzanne’s works are magical, dreamlike paintings, often echoing the images of deep space more familiar to astronomers. She said: “I tend to love my brightest, most colourful paintings but I get most positive feedback for my beach scenes and dark space pieces. I find it hard to choose a favourite but I do love a piece called Juno, which is named after the Queen of the gods in Roman mythology and is in my Night Sky series.” 

Suzanne’s pieces are available to buy through her Facebook page, Pop Paints.

* Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Suzanne recommends: Rinske Douna, a Swedish artist whose work inspires and astounds. She can be found at

Twelve ways of #Craftmas: Hooked on Helping

Born out of a loathing for the corporate exploitation of Black Friday Sales and Christmas marketing, #Craftmas aims to get word out about the artists, artisans and craftspeople making beautiful gifts. Why buy a mass produced piece of plastic when you can gift an exclusive and interesting piece made by a creator-maker looking to make a living.

Support #Craftmas by using it to Tweet about your favourite makers, by using the hashtag as a Christmas shopping directory or simply by retweeting!

It was coming up to Christmas and I was seeing a lot of social media posts asking for warm clothing – I couldn’t afford to donate much money but I had a stash of yarn so started to make items that I could parcel up and send off. It kind of snowballed from there.”

Kaz Molloy is an occasional vendor of crochet goods, but a full time creator of winter warmers for those in need. For her crafting has been a lifesaver for her and has turned into a series of good deeds with untold value.

Originally from Birmingham, Kaz has lived on the Isle of Bute, of the west coast of Scotland for 17 years. Over the years she has dabbled in card making, sewing, jewellery making and decoupage – but has found a love of crochet which unleashed her creativity.

Since a diagnosis of womb cancer at the end of 2009 her life has changed a lot. “I’ve been left with long term side effects of the treatment so am virtually housebound,” Kaz explained. “My crafting has been the only thing that has kept me sane – well, almost!”

Just over a year ago she found her own way into craft activism. As she started to make items such as wristwarmers for the homeless her efforts resonated with friends and Facebook followers and the balls of donated yarn started rolling in. Sitting in an armchair by her kitchen window Kaz kept making more and more and parcelled them up and posted them to homeless outreach groups across the UK.

Since I started doing this last October, she recalled. “I’ve sent out 51 parcels which included 363 pairs of wristwarmers and 73 scarves.”

Kaz Molloy

Kaz added: “I put the same amount of effort into my scarves as I would if I was making them to sell. Just because someone is homeless doesn’t mean they should have to make do with inferior items.  All my items are made with love and hopefully the bright colours will bring a smile to the face of the person who receives it.”

Although Kaz rarely sells her wares she will be at a Christmas Craft Fair in the Isle of Bute Discovery Centre today, November 30, between 11am and 4pm and some items are occasionally listed on her Facebook page. She also has a blog page where you can follow her activities.

Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Kaz recommends:

Felt Isle is a friend on Bute who does fab felt textile work. Rowanberrybute is another who knits lovely items. Off island there is Rowanberry Designs who makes the most amazing lampwork glass beads and Connor Viking Blacksmith.


Grief Stalked Me

Two years ago I wrote this, running to recovery after two pregnancy losses.

Two years further down the road, blessed as I am, I still carry the memories of being the quarry.

I did build on this, in a positive way with Bringing Change

“Grief Stalks Me

“I’m having to run at the moment. I’ve made a commitment, despite being awful at it. The only bonus and problem is that it gives me time to think. The thinking generated this:

“I run, 

Grief stalks me in the trees, 

Camouflaged against the leaf line,

Hits my heart with dart.

I drop,

Paralysed and stymied 

Gasping for air 

Reaching for memory.

I get up, 

And run again, 

She still lurks within the bowed branches,

Waits for me to pass through shade, her arrows steadied and waiting.

I run, Grief stalks me.”

The House Is Ashes – Now What?

Now we’ve burnt down the house – how do we clean this mess up?


Malene Thyssen,

For too long those of us with the privilege to have not needed to struggle for shelter, for food, for enjoyment in in life, have lived in a world where we believed everything was fine. Even as the house started to burn down around us, we were able to convince ourselves that the fire was a blip, a anomaly.


Newsflash for those slow on the uptake – this isn’t an anomaly – this is the new normal.


We may now be in the cinders of what is left of our house and we need to take a careful and hard look at ourselves as to how the blaze began. Where did this come from? How did it take so viciously? It burned so quickly and from nowhere it seems.


Another bulletin – just in – it came from somewhere. It came from the heart of neglect and it was a slow burn which reached the gas cannisters in a moment of opportunity.


There have been people left behind for so long, there have been those cast outside for want of the material, for the want of education which elevates, for a culture which has promoted expertise as a further layer of snobbery rather than a resource for all to use and benefit from. The sneering elements of our social groupings have come to the fore as critics or, worse still, as exploiters of this neglect. Meanwhile we, those who have the advantages of security, have expectation of more whilst giving less. As we give less, we struggle to find ways to occupy ourselves, to make ourselves sedated against the outside and its suffering, its horror.


Anyone who has worked in the public sector knows this suffering, this horror – in the United Kingdom alone. Teachers, police officers, NHS staff and council workers are amongst those on the front lines and see what neglect truly means. What it means to our children, to our elderly, to our vulnerable. Bearing witness to this causes damage which manifests in different ways, we need to acknowledge this and show support so it becomes a motivation to be better rather than to become a hardened shell of bitterness and complacency. More than this, we need to alleviate their workloads by carrying the burden of making change which raises more people up than just a select few.


Personally I will not engage in the political about this, in terms of party political activism, and I will remain on the outside. That is for others to pursue and I wish them well in good intention. My activism will be on the home front and I will fight each little battle my own way.


It is going to take more effort though than tossing cans in a food bank collection, reducing our waste and putting money to a collection – these small duties should be the minimum – we have got to make actual connections with people in their lives in a meaningful way and whether they deserve it or not. There is no deserving poor – there are people trying to live their lives with their own choices – poverty is a social state not a moral punishment and without choice there is no freedom.


We have made it to higher ground, in our resources and our advantages, we must bring everyone along with us.


• I know so many work in so many different ways to do what I am calling out for – please give them a shout out here or Tweet me. Lets bring some good news, like a light in the darkness.

Baubles To Advent: Not Uplifting But a Call To Arms

Get into the Christmas spirit with this year’s must have item – the luxury advent calendar.

For just £35 you can get a £280 worth of M&S beauty goods behind 25 doors, Yankee Candle offers 24 doors of scented tea-lights and a mere £120 will get you a John Lewis gin calendar.

I’m not feeling it. I live in a country where the United Nations is currently investigating the poverty problem. I don’t feel like indulging. I want family, friends, warmth and time, not consuming to excess. I know there’s people out there struggling to survive, never mind contemplating opening a door to a different variety of artisanal gin each morning.

Last year, heavily pregnant with the twins and still off to work each day, I felt really quite helpless in the face of all the news stories around the disastrous impact of Universal Credit on families. I saw several people suggesting #FoodbankAdvent – to put aside an item for the food bank each day of advent. I mulled this over and realised that it would, by Christmas Eve, be much too late for the food banks to actually distribute the food. So I spent time researching food banks and tweeting the heck out of them – spending 25 days from November 8 2017 giving shout outs to food banks and encouraging people to donate each day – with the hashtag #BaublesToAdvent. Each set of tweets went out with jolly gifs along a Christmas film or song theme.

At the end of the time I also handed over my haul of goods to the food bank – it didn’t seem important to shout that out then.

This year, on restarting the countdown with the hashtag of #BaublesToAdvent2018 I found I struggled to choose and put out jolly gifs. Foodbank donations aren’t an uplifting Christmas event – it is a struggle for survival – its about deciding that we all have a duty to make sure everyone is provided for, without judgement. This is a call to arms, to fight to leave no-one in hunger.


So instead I’ve made two videos, just to help people understand what to do and why it is needed, and I will be showing everyone what I am doing and why I am doing it each day.

I’m lucky that I’m able to do this – I really know this – not everyone is. Please though, do what you can. Give your money, give food, give your time to your local food bank. If I had the resources to stump up for the G&T calendar I’d do even more…

Short-Shorts: The Last Sunset

Persisting. Tonight the sunset has prompted a short-short story:

The sunset at the end of the world painted itself onto the sky in a pattern Ayar had never before seen. The sunlight trailed shades of pink, orange and purple across the clouds as it melted over the black hills of the shadowed moorland. Dylan couldn’t bring himself to watch it and had retreated deeper into the grey stone house at the top of the hill, waiting for everything to stop. He had taken the tablets that had been issued to all by the government and went to lay on the bed, numb and calm under their influence. Ayar, ever the optimist, kept her huge and watery eyes opened wide, afraid to blink, just in case she needed to remember the detail.

Standing at the gate of Kimble Cottage, beneath the overgrown rose arch, she was savouring the details, as they had warned that the darkness that would fall with the last drops of the sun would be unending. She did not feel anxious, holding the pills in her hand, but felt calm for the very first time in her life. There would be no tomorrow, so her anxieties had all fallen silent. Instead of being hit with her usual evening headache, she felt a lightness, almost a compulsion to dance. Calm washed over her as the last of the light retreated over the hills.

She turned from the place she had seen the very last of the sun and walked to the other side of her trimmed lawn, each step of which she knew well enough to cross in the lightless night. It was strange looking up into the sky without the reassurance of the stars.

Ayar could smell the jasmine which, oblivious to the coming apocalypse, continued to fill the air with its seductive scent. As she looked over where she knew the dry stone wall stood at the edge of the garden, she could not see any glow from where the city had been and felt relief. There were no cars on the road as there once had been and, out there, in the house in which she was born she was with those she loved the most. Her beloved Dylan and, within the upstairs of house, her sleeping daughter Adelaide, who slept under the spell of a reduced doseage of the pills distributed for the children. Ayar still did not quite believe that the end was coming, but she wasn’t willing to let her only child suffer, if suffering was all that was left.

It was just them in the end, that was Ayar’s whole world, everything that she held close would be within her reach.

A Year To Save A Dream: I Don’t Want To Talk About It

“1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”

– The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz


Today was a day away from the comfortable little bubble of home. Away from my beautiful girls and back into the real world. “Keeping in touch days” are a way of keeping parents on maternity leave connected with the working environment in the UK – and today was my day to go in and be back part of my team for the first time since the arrival of the twins.

It was good to be back around these people again. They’re warm, funny and people I trust – I have missed them. Everything was as it always was – the scenery, the gossip and the little bouts of giggles. Time had passed but perceptible change hadn’t come to the office. Comfortable and reliable. My heart thudded to a stop against my ribcage though, when one of my colleagues said she had read my blog.

One of the biggest issues I have around my writing is actually sharing it with people. I worry about the quality lacking in some way and the idea of people reading it and seeing my shortcomings writ large brings sheer terror. Of course, I’m always glad to see the numbers tick up on the visitors counter and am happy to know people are reading. I’m always grateful to my dear friends who cheer me from the sidelines, but always in the recesses of my brain I think it kindness rather than merit.

Worse than the sharing is the onward step of actually talking about it. It drives me into self-protecting jesting. I chirpily mention to my workmate that maybe I’d be able to write a bestselling novel and never come back to work. I’m not really sure why I decided to joke about this. Really, that’s the dream.

But I don’t want to talk about it.

Everyone knows that wishes spoken aloud never come true. Add to that the unspoken fact that anyone who talks about writing a novel probably wont write one. I mean, who do they think they are? Who do I think I am?

I pause after making my joke as my colleague asks me if I was writing the novel. Now I know that I am working on something I hope to shape into a novel. I hold my breath. My first instinct is to just smile and deflect the question in some way. Who do I think I am? I’m no JK Rowling and it’s not like I’m Stephen King. But neither were they, until they were. All writers start somewhere and how the hell can I expect to be read if I can’t even talk about it. How can I share stories and worlds with people if I can’t find the words to describe it?

“Well they say it’s best to write about what you know,” I start. Against my instinct I actually start to say actual out loud words about the story I’m working on. Not my most articulate account of it – but I am saying it to another person – without agonising over it first. My colleague is kind enough to listen to my non specific ramblings without any visible signs of judgement. Like I say, these are people I can trust.

This isn’t a big tale of a victory over imposter syndrome, but for me it is significant progress. Saying it out loud makes me accountable. I’m a believer in being impeccable with my word – saying what I mean. In talking about it I feel I have to deliver. By not saying anything I will never have to produce anything and I can pretend my ambition doesn’t exist. That way, if I fail no one will know. By speaking this aloud I am compelling myself to act, to not live in dreams but to live out dreams,

I don’t want to talk about it – but I’m daring myself to try.

A Year To Save A Dream: Building The New

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Dan Millman.

Another day at the keyboard and driving myself forward to get in the habit of considering, on creating and on making change for myself.

I’ve spent too much time in the past, too much energy on focusing on the shoulds in life. You know those ideas our little internal narrator carries as being part of your acceptable standards – “I should work hard on these exams so I can get a good job”, “This relationship is okay so we should settle down” and the evergreen favourite: “I should be better”. Little, meaningless benchmarks which become a complex and codified structure for us to berate ourselves within once we fail.

It is peculiar really, how we co-opt these ideas in to our own subconscious. We speak the words in our own voices, that being the way that causes most harm because we only use them to hurt ourselves. And we, as you might imagine, are the traitor on the inside.

The shoulds were so ingrained with me that they contributed to my workplace stress becoming overwhelming and I had to enter into a period of therapy. Many people consider this idea with a sense of shame. I wear it like a badge of honour, it was the point at which I, that is to say what I consider to be the “real” me, actually began. I started seeing the shoulds for what they are and started to be kinder to myself. It allowed me to open the door to a love that wasn’t settling, that wasn’t an archetype I felt I ought to take on. I became free. Sure, it opened me up to the risk of hurt. I did get hurt, I did suffer loss, but it started to be on my own terms.

I got a taste of freedom. And I liked it.

Of course this was only a small part of the world in which I operate. At this point in time I am on maternity leave. This will, in less than five months come to an end. With it comes a return to work and, inevitably, a loss of a sense of freedom being away has given me. This loss seemed to hit me heavily in the last few weeks and any momentum and creativity I did have dissipated.

It took me a little time and a lot of emotional wrangling to get my head around what I needed to do to shake this funk. In embracing my freedom I seemed to be afflicted by a loss of industry. With no should there was no driving force behind making change, nothing it appears to motivate. Also the shoulds started to regain a foothold around motherhood and my relationship – I started behaving in ways which fitted an internalised vision of the nuclear family instead of taking up my own space and building into myself a sense of needing time and space for creation.

I discussed things with the boy and tried, in my usual hamfisted and clumsy way, to explain that I needed help to get myself back into a sense of forward motion. I don’t ask for help easily, ever, but I have the luxury of having an actual partner in my life who understands me, respects me and helps me, without ever being requested. We agreed a way of working both of our creative natures into the day – he works best at night whereas I need the light to even get started. We carved up the care of our children and the care of each other.

I turned to my own thinking on the matter. Instead of being chased by should I needed to be running towards something. I’m not trying to keep up with an appearance to complying with any expectation – I am chasing my potential. I need to go full force, not into battle but into building, into creation. That is truly the best of the woman’s way. Not in breaking, but in the entire power of Gaia, taking what we are given, wholesale destroying and making anew. Turning any lot into creation, into home, from the very darkness in us which takes life itself, binds it to our life force and births it into the world.

Not all women have children, but all women have the power to be mothers, to bring creation and change into this world. Now is my time to embrace that.