Monday, 29 December 2014

Seven reasons you won’t catch me complaining about Facebook, or see me jumping ship to another social media platform…

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Seven reasons you won’t catch me complaining about Facebook, or see me jumping ship to another social media platform…

If, like mine, your Facebook newsfeed is scattered daily with page owners feeling disheartened by the changes being made to the way business updates appear in your newsfeed, you might (also like me) be getting a teeny tiny bit fed up of the grumbling. Maybe? Just a bit? I am! It doesn’t mean that I don’t still love the beautiful things that the page owners make, or that I’m no longer interested in the brands I follow – I’m just tired of the moaning! Here’s why I haven’t jumped on the bandwagon…

  1. I happily accept the generous freebie! The business service I get from Facebook – albeit diminishing a little each year – is free. It costs me nothing unless I opt-in to paid advertising. I use lots of digital services to help run my business – PayPal, a web host, and email client, banking, etc.etc. – and each of them charges me. Rightly so, too! We’re none of us in *business* to offer charity, and I’m cool with that.
  2. I accept that things move on: times, they are a-changing! Okay, so Facebook used to offer us more, and its offering to business users has reduced over time, but that’s life! I’ve been running business pages on Facebook for almost five years now, and had a personal profile for about three years before that. In the beginning, almost everything I posted was seen by almost all of my page ‘fans’. How cool was that?! Thanks, Facebook, you got me off to a really good start! But – and here’s the thing – back in 2009, there were about 100,000 pages, posting an average of once every 15.7 days! Less than once a fortnight, I kid you not! This summer, Facebook estimated that approximately 30 million – THIRTY MILLION! – small enterprises were running Facebook pages, each posting an average of three times daily. Is it any wonder that photos of my latest cushion or my scatty ramblings are less likely to hit your newsfeed?! Would you really want to hear what I – along with every single other page you follow – have to say three times a day?
  3. And you know, it’s my responsibility to engage my followers. If you see and like my posts, or photos of recent commissions, or snaps of my workspace, then you interact with me. If I’m boring, you scroll past. It’s really not rocket science, is it? Plus, the guys at Facebook also offer us some really fab information about our pages, called Insights. Insights can give a page owner loads of really useful statistics about which posts are most and least successful, and even what time of day our followers tend to be checking their newsfeed. We’re handed a really powerful business tool on a plate, and if we can’t be dynamic enough to roll with a few punches and adapt to a couple of rule changes, then tough luck! Seriously, I’d love for you all to see everything I post, but in the same way that I don’t see every single airing of an M&S television advertisement, it’s just not going to happen. It’s *my* responsibility to get *my* publicity seen by as many people as possible by posting lively, interesting, engaging and timely content, even if that means paying for advertisements to reach my followers. You know, like in the real world ;)
  4. I like it in Facebookland, and I’ve made friends there! Over the last few years, the number of people who follow my page has increased steadily, and I really like those guys! Some of the people there are customers or even repeat customers, some are my own friends and family and some are just random lovelies who join in with the nonsense and say nice things about my work.  Do you know that this month, one lady saw a penguin hot water bottle in Asda, and told me she thought of my middley and his penguin obsession when she saw it?! How lovely is that? Someone I’ve never met, someone who lives inside my computer, thought of my son and pointed me towards a gift she knew he’d like! I’m not going anywhere, no sir, I’m staying right there on Facebook!
  5. Which leads me to this: other social media platforms just don’t work for me. I’ve tried them all! Twitter is too fast-moving for my product. Almost everything I make is a unique commission, or has a heavy degree of personalisation, and my sales are generally driven through relationship-based marketing. I know it’s not really that nice to think that my Facebook interactions have a goal of sales, but ultimately I’m there for a business presence and happen to be making buddies and having fun along the way. Twitter moves too quickly for Hop Stitch Jump, and needs me to be succinct, which you might have noticed is not my strength. It’s a fantastic platform for driving traffic to your website, and perfect for impulse purchases. We didn’t get along that well. Instagram? Try as I might, I can’t take enough photos in a week to be successful there! Google+? Too few of my target market use it. LinkedIn? Too corporate networky! TsÅ«? Too new, not proven enough, I suspect it’s a flash in the pan, a knee-jerk reaction to Facebook’s changes. I’m not going anywhere, no sir, I’m staying right there on Facebook!
  6. This social media lark can be really time-consuming. Of course, I could have a gentle presence in each of the major social media networks, but I fear I’d be spreading myself too thinly. Right now, Hop Stitch Jump works for me and my family by offering me masses of flexibility so that the top of my list when the children are awake is being there for them, and letting me work evenings and weekends. That won’t be for ever, though, and a more conventional, Monday to Friday full-time schedule is approaching faster than I’d like. When that time comes, and all of my children are in full-time school, I hope to get my evenings and weekends back to share with my family, not running five social media accounts! There might be a time that I can juggle them all, but that time has not yet come! There are some busy periods when I literally have to ignore my email inbox ping-pinging and my Facebook notifications ding-donging, because I would never get around to the important business of actually making! And finally...
  7. Nobody wants to interact with a page that moans and grumbles all the time, right? I can hold my hand up to having 'unliked' a handful of pages over recent weeks, simply because I can't bear to hear any more complaining about how Facebook changes are going to ruin their business, or because they are are posting obvious gimmicks to encourage interaction almost daily. If I like the photos and stories that a page posts, I naturally interact, and therefore I keep seeing that page in my newsfeed. I could hazard a guess that I'm not the only unliker, and therefore, that there's something other than the changes in the pipeline that might be having a detrimental effect on Facebook reach. What do you think?
There is no getting away from the fact that Facebook - along with other social media platforms - is going to keep moving the goalposts and bending the rules. In fact, it's entirely their prerogative and we've all done well to get this far for free. Yes, it makes it difficult for business to keep abreast of the changes, and yes it can be a bit of a pain in the rear, but all successful businesses have to stay current in both real and virtual life. It *is* possible for page owners to reach more of their followers by either working hard to post engaging content or by paying to target posts more closely. Page owners are wrong to say they're being forced to put their hands in their pockets to make a success of a service that has so far been free. And in all honesty, if a business relies entirely on an one of the popular social media networks as the way to reach existing and potential customers, then Facebook making a few changes is least of their worries.
So there you have seven reasons that I'm staying put on Facebook for a while. How about you? Do you run a page and have a different take on the changes? Or if you only have a personal profile, how do you feel about Facebook changes streamlining your newsfeed? Will it change the way you interact with the pages you've chosen to follow? I'd love to hear...
Catherine x

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Why I can't take in any more commissions for Christmas, and why I can't encourage people to copy my work...

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"You see the handprint cushions? They were inspired by MY children, whose hands I held on a late winter walk as we stepped across stones in the stream. I shed a tear at the speed my six-year-old's hand had transformed from other, pudgy, almost-two-year-old hand I was holding..."

I have turned down many, many requests for custom items this month, and it makes me sad. Not just sad that I can't grow my business at the speed that my customers can support me with, but also sad because in all honesty I could do with the extra boost to Christmas funds! Like everyone else who celebrates Christmas, it's pretty expensive for us, too. It's also my son's birthday in December, and extra money would be really useful. But I just can't take on any more work at the moment. Bear wih me...
I'd love to be able to help people out when they come to me a few weeks before Christmas, but I have already been working really hard for months to maximise best use of my time in the run-up to the festivities. I've been taking Christmas orders since July, offering an early reservation scheme to those who follow me on Facebook, because those are the people who are with me all year, and I think it's only right they get first dibs! Then there are people who have only just heard about my work, and who are really keen, so I save November for them. But still there isn't enough time.

Here's why I can't keep squeezing in "just one more cushion" or that Doodlebroidery commission that "would mean the absolute world" to your mum. You see, if I take on three more orders, that's another day's work. Like everyone else, there are weeks when I'd love to be able to tag a day onto the end so I get time to do everything on my job list, but - like everyone else - I'm stuck with the seven days! I'm also stuck with postal cut offs, and you are too: you need to receive your orders in time to admire them, wrap them and send them on to your Granny or your sister.

Bigger than all of that is that if I take on too much work, I risk jeopardising every commission I have in my order book. Nobody wants to think that the special embroidery they've worked hard to save for gets rushed off late on Saturday night after I've entertained a hall of five-year-old boys and I'm too tired to give 100% of my attention to the positioning Granny's glasses! When you commission a piece of work - something handmade, unique and extra-special - there's an unspoken agreement that there will be extra attention to detail and a piece of the maker in the finished item. If we makers take on too much, that is lost. 
And here's why I can't recommend someone else who might be able to rush you off a copy of my work. I have put almost five years of my life into Hop Stitch Jump. I have worked late at night - sometimes through the night - to build a business that helps to make ends meet while allowing me to take care of my children, too. It's hard, it's not that glamourous, and it doesn't pay that brilliantly, but I love the flexibility it offers us as a family and I have enjoyed every minute I've spent learning new skills and pushing myself. You know what else? It's MY work. Those are my ideas, my skills and my expertise in that near-perfect embroidery of your child's beautiful family portrait. Before those entirely handmade cushions that are designed and washed and cut and embroidered and piped and zipped and ironed and filled and packaged, there were mistakes: there were zips I couldn't attach properly, embroideries that were too big for the cushion fronts, handwriting I wasn't happy with. You see the handprint cushions? They were inspired by MY children, whose hands I held on a late winter walk as we stepped across stones in the stream. I shed a tear at the speed my six-year-old's hand had transformed from other pudgy almost-two-year-old hand I was holding. I went home and drew around three little hands, each one an echo of the one smaller, and I made myself a cushion. My own children and our memories of that lovely day are in every handprint cushion I make for you and your beautiful families, in the very fabric of the gifts you give. I didn't do all of that to hand it over to someone else at the last minute.
I'm genuinely sorry that I can't guarantee any more commissions in time for Christmas. I am very grateful to those of you who have already booked in to keep me busy in January, and to those who have ordered cushions for Mother's Day instead of Christmas. I am delighted that so many people are happy to give gift vouchers instead. Your dedication to supporting handmade is amazing! Thank you all.

Catherine xxx

Sunday, 7 September 2014

What do you get when you cross Angelina Jolie, Versace, embroidery and a wedding dress...?

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Wowzers, what a week it has been!  If there was ever a time that I didn't expect to drop everything for a work-related excitement, it was the first day of school. Who would have thought that Angelina Jolie's wedding dress would have been literally covered with Versace's version of Doodlebroidery by Hop Stitch Jump? Wait, scrap that! Who would have thought that Versace embroider children's drawings?! Not me, that's for sure, and I can't believe how many people have been in touch to let me know they've told people that they saw it at Hop Stitch Jump first! Huge thanks to those of you who have championed me this week: you're amazing.
When the photographs were released by Hello on Tuesday, my phone began to beep almost instantly as my more celeb-savvy friends saw the link between the gown and my work. It was a busy couple of days, culminating lots of lovely and exciting new orders, some possible new working relationships with bridal stores and this press release. But first, one more look at THE dress of the week! 
Amazing, isn't it? I've often been asked to embroider children's drawings or messages from loved ones as a wedding gift, and I have thought it would be nice to include something really unique into a wedding dress - possibly in the lining - but I never imagined a celebrity couple of Brangelina's stature would incorporate so much into their wedding day, and so boldly! I respect Angelina's efforts to shun fashion in favour of family on possibly the most talked-about day of her life. Never has she been in a brighter spotlight and still she kept her beautiful children at the forefront. 

There's no doubt that this dress is not for every bride, and I imagine that those without children of their own would be horrified at the thought of childish scribbles on their beautiful gown, but not Angelina. She embraced everything it means to be a mum and paraded it beautifully. I admire her for it.

And here's the press release...

Yorkshire Business Woman Paves The Way For Angelina’s Statement Wedding Dress

Wakefield textile artist Catherine Knowles has been inundated with orders from around the world since the photos of Angelina Jolie’s wedding dress were made public this week. Specialising in the embroidery of children’s drawings similar to those adorning the Hollywood bride’s gown and veil since 2010, Catherine is now being recognised as a leader in her field as the A-List couple follow suit.

“My inbox has been pinging away since the photos of Angelina Jolie’s dress hit the media earlier this week! Versace’s embroidery on Angelina’s wedding gown mirrors the type of work I do every day. It’s a beautiful way to involve children in a big day, and I’m not at all surprised that other brides are inspired.”

The wedding dress, designed by Atelier Versace, was covered in embroidered versions of drawings created by Brad and Angelina’s six children, and has been at the centre of fashion and celebrity news coverage this week. Catherine said, “Angelina managed to incorporate her  family story into her wedding dress, and made their children feel like a special part of the special day, just as they are every day. With every commission, my customers tell me that they want to create something that captures a moment in time and that will include their children in their home. By including their children’s artwork in the very fabric of their wedding, Brad and Angelina have echoed their sentiments exactly.”

Doodlebroidery from Hop Stitch Jump transforms a child's drawing into a wonderful, and entirely unique fabric keepsake, perfect for parents, grandparents, teachers or even for the budding artists to keep for themselves.  There are no computerised embroidery machines involved; it’s all about understanding the child’s interpretation and paying close attention to detail. Catherine tells us that she works tirelessly to remain as true to the original artwork as possible, studying the drawing closely and using the colours the child has used.

Catherine’s commissions are many and varied, and have included the restoration of 40-year-old handwritten notes, special first drawings to be hung on the wall and collaborative pictures from a class of five-year-olds to present to their teacher. “I can recreate drawings and messages onto almost any textile item. Most of my work is framed or on cushions, but I especially love working on heirloom table runners embroidered with messages and drawings from a whole family: I love the thought that a moment in time has been captured for the family and will be at the centre of the table for every celebration for years to come.”

Featured in a special 2013 edition of the BBC show Songs of Praise, which focussed on Wakefield’s thriving entrepreneurial spirit, Catherine’s work is commissioned by parents and grandparents alike. “In my opinion, there is no better way to preserve the magic of a child’s imagination, and it appeals to anyone who can see that magic sparkle.” Although her customers haven’t yet included big-screen stars, Catherine has an established customer base both in the UK and overseas, with commissions coming from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand, and even from remote places such as Ascension Island. “My clients tend to email me photographs of the child’s drawings, which means they can be in any part of the country, or even the world!” She is also part of Created In Yorkshire, a cooperative craft shop in The Ridings Shopping Centre in the centre of Wakefield.

Originally from Leeds, mum-of-three Catherine had a fulfilling career as a teacher at schools in Chesterfield and Doncaster before following her creative yearnings and starting her textile career and her business, Hop Stitch Jump. She now works from a home studio in Normanton.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Inspired children

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Inspired by the Inspired

It was the first day of the half term break and my daughter crept into my bed for a snuggle while the boys were happily tipping soft toys out of the bucket in their room. I love mornings like that: my husband had already left for work, the children were all feeling the chilled out vibe of no commands to "Get dressed", "Eat your breakfast" or "Clean your teeth." There was some animated nonsense on the TV and I was catching up with the very important things that might have happened in Facebookland since I last checked about eight hours earlier!

As she glanced at my phone, my daughter gasped, "Wow, what was that, Mummy?" as she scrolled back up the newsfeed. She'd seen an image from Caroline Rose Art - one of the many pages that sprinkle beauty onto my screen - and she wanted more. There it was, instantly recognisable as a 'this is my thing and I want more of it' moment, and at just six years of age. We spent a few minutes looking through the photos on Caroline's page and chatting about her work. I explained all about collages and that we were looking at beautiful scenes made from lots of small pieces of paper. She was most smitten by this amazing street scene:

Street scene collage by Caroline Rose Art

Our leisurely breakfast was peppered with questions about types and colours of paper, how to cut fancy edges, whether to use a glue stick or gloopy glue and if you can eat spiders and slugs. Happy half term! Then, almost immediately the last Cheerio was swallowed, a miracle happened: my daughter cleared the table of all pots, all ... by ... herself! And of she scurried to the paper drawer and my pencil case for scissors.

It began ...

... and it continued ...
 ... and then it was finished ...

... and boy, was she delighted!

She was so very, very proud of her work in this beautiful new medium that she wanted to write to Caroline Rose to tell her all about her exciting paper adventure! The wonderful Caroline was very obliging and gave me her address, and off we trotted to the postbox. Roughly one gazillion times a day for the next five days, my girl asked me if the postman had been/was going to come/would come again today!

Caroline and I exchanged a few messages, and I have to tell you that she is a lovely, kind-hearted lady. She knows what it is to capture the creativity of a small person and to run with it, to encourage it and to reward it in a way that will make it grow.  She wrote back to Beatrix, using an actual pen and actual paper, and sent a very special parcel in the post. 

That evening Beatrix read the letter from Caroline Rose over and over again, and I watched as my little girl had found something new outside of everything she had known before: she was inspired. She hadn't been instructed or directed, nobody had suggested that she 'might like to' create something. She had seen something, it had moved her, she had an idea and she went to make it happen for herself. Then she shared her work with someone else, a stranger, and got really lovely feedback, something it took me over thirty years to manage. She is on Cloud 9! Her beautiful gift, however, is not even on the wall yet; we're looking for a pink frame! 

 You can find Caroline Rose Art on Facebook and buy her utterly beautiful work on Etsy and on Folksy.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Christmas Shopping Event in aid of SJPA.

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Christmas Shopping Evening
Friday 22nd November 2013, 6pm - 9pm
St. John The Baptist Catholic Primary School, Normanton

 It's here: the very first Christmas Shopping Event  for SJPA! This is not your typical school Christmas fair! You won't find a bottle stall or a white elephant table; it's definitely a time for the grown-ups! Prepare yourself for Normanton's shopping event of the year and be part of the first of many successful shopping nights in aid of the school's PA. With something for everyone and every budget, save yourself the hassle of the shopping centre and tick off your whole gift list under one roof.

The evening will be opened at 6pm by the beautiful sound of the school choir singing your favourite carols. Alongside a fantastic array of high quality items, many of them handmade by local businesses, you will be able treat yourself to some Christmas baking and a glass or two of festive tipple to kick start your season in style with a child-free night to remember.
Here's a taste of the businesses and items that you can expect to find on the night. And if you see anything that takes your fancy, why not make it easy for yourself and write a list of things you want to watch out for? With the added bonus of helping to raise funds towards the school's outdoor classroom, it's sure to be a wonderful evening.

We are delighted that Zoe will be joining us with her handmade homewares from Vintage and Retro fabrics, such as sausage dog draught excluders, wheat bags, oven gloves, hot water bottle covers, peg bags, pin cushions, door stops, baby snugglers, crochet baby booties and dribble bibs. She also has a fabulous range of oven gloves, all British Safety standards approved. Pop over to say 'hi!' on Facebook.

Booby and The Beads
Sharon offers a host of wonderful breastfeeding jewellery, dummy and toy clips, personalised key rings,small crochet items and ornate jewellery display stands. If you're looking for emergency contact/"If I Get Lost"/Medical ID bracelets and key rings, then here's your chance to buy peace of mind! In addition, Sharon will also be offering mini manicures and nail painting on the night, perfect for the weekend! PayPal payments are accepted for bespoke orders. Say hello on Facebook and on Twitter @BoobyandtheBead.

Little Shop of Lathers

Claire makes fabulous natural, handmade bath, body and shower products, including bath bombs, shower tablets, soaps, hand and feet treatments, body scrubs, facial treatments, lip balms and bespoke gifts, all with no chemicals or preservatives. Little Shop of Lathers is able to accept debit/credit cards on the night. Find out more at, on Facebook or on Twitter at @shopoflathers.

The Stationer
We are really pleased to be able to welcome Susan and Robert from The Stationer on Normanton High Street into school for this event. They will be bringing along a selection of beautifully handcrafted wooden toys, along with a range of the ever-popular Melissa & Doug wooden fun! You'll also find some fantastic educational games and puzzles from Orchard Toys on their stall. The Stationer will also accept personal cheques at this event.
Delgled Crafts
With a range of lovely crafts, Dela will have something for everyone and every budget on display at her stall! Items include fused glass pieces to add light to your home, decoupage
items and small sewing projects. Dela is happy to accept personal cheques for purchases made at the event.

Sandy Fryer
Sandy is a fabulous local artist and poet, and unsurprisingly her product range is based around her wonderful work. On the night you will find small paintings (some of local scenes), paperweights, bookmarks, Christmas cards and poetry booklets. Sandy's range for children includes colour and rhyme books, and art to colour. Some of her colouring books include images based on Bible texts, making them the perfect quiet activity to take along to Mass! You can see some examples at

Pampered Chef

We are very grateful to Gaynor for standing at the event as a fundraiser stall, with a 
percentage of sales on the night going to SJPA funds. Pampered Chef specialises in high-quality kitchen tools that make cooking quick, easy and fun, and that make getting together as a family even more enjoyable! As well as ordering from the extensive catalogue (including cheque and card payments), you will also be able to watch a demonstration at Gaynor's stall. For a sneak preview, visit Gaynor on Facebook.

Hop Stitch Jump 
Make memories last a lifetime with Doodlebroidery, an embroidered version of your littles one's amazing artwork! Catherine will be bringing along some examples of commissions to give you a feel for the work she does, and you'll be able to place orders on the night. There will also be a range of ready-to-buy wall art and fabulous dinosaur hoodies! Personal cheques will be accepted on the night and PayPal for commissions. Pop over to Facebook to see more and say 'hi'!

Sisters MC Photography
Award-winning photographer Sarah will be joining us to showcase some of the amazing portrait work she undertakes at the Wakefield studio. Sisters offers an amazing package range that includes special photo shoot parties for your little princess, pregnancy and baby portraits and makeover shoots, and has some great value Christmas offers to share. You can see more at or on Facebook.
Felt Like Art

Lesley makes her own felt by hand and uses her creations in the most beautiful wall a
rt and cushions. Her range depicts nature and landscapes and is very striking. From poppies and peacocks to fairies and flowers, you'll be amazed to see what can be made from felt. If you'd like a better idea of the items you can expect to see in school on the 22nd, please visit Lesley at Facebook.

We are delighted to welcome Maxine along to school for our shopping evening, and look forward to being able to give you more details very soon about the beautiful floral items on offer and the exciting demonstration you can see on the night!

Gail Draper Knitting
All her own designs, Gail will have a wide range of hand knitted items for children and ladies. With beautiful baby cardigans, fantastically fashionable handwarmers and the most amazing children's character hats, you are sure to find every you need to beat the cold this winter!

Created In Yorkshire
Lynne will be joining us with a fabulous selection of handmade goods stocked in the award-winning shop in Wakefield. Items include tile coasters, Christmas decorations, stunning wooden signs, pocket mirrors, badges and fridge magnets. Add to that a delicious range of sweet trees that make a wonderful gift and then the ultimate Christmas table centerpiece, and you'll agree there's something for everyone! If you'd like to see more before the 22nd, please pop over to Facebook.

Following the tradition of Avon making your shopping easy, Tracy will be joining us with Avon! If you are looking for  gifts or just something to treat yourself, you're sure to find something worth ordering!


You'll find Karen among her varied range of fabulous wooden, crystal and glass jewellery,perfect for the ladies in your life. She'll also be bringing along some special Christmas items, including children's door hangers, wooden and beaded decorations and wooden plaques. Visit Jewelbox on Facebook to get ideas for your Christmas list! Personal cheques will be accepted on the night.

Cupcake Central
You'll be amazed by the range of sweet treats Lisa has to offer! She'll be bringing along beautiful cupcakes, boxed shortbread, gift wrapped traybakes, chocolate toolboxes and makeup kits, wow! Added to that are gingerbread houses complete with gingerbread men, and Christmas baubles filled with chocolates, yum! Lisa will accept personal cheques on the night.

EDITED 08/11/2013 to add two further businesses. Wow, what a night it's going to be!
Baht 'at Designs by Ruby Shoesday
Vicky will be joining us with a lovely selection, including beautiful ladies' bags. Whether you need a large messenger bag for every day use, or a beautiful clutch to finish your Christmas outfit in style, the range of unusual fabrics is bound to have something to suit you! Take a look at her website or visit her on Facebook.

Liah Made It!
We will also be joined by Liah and her hand-painted glasses, wish stones and cute cat doorstops! These all make wonderful gifts for someone who is usually difficulty to buy for!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Two reasons you MUST have lining paper in your house

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Just 2 of the 101 reasons you need lining paper in your life...

Disclaimer: this blog post has no work-related content from me. It's the school holidays and my days are tiring! Still, creativity takes many forms, right?

See this roll of lining paper? It's from Poundland, and represents one of the best value singe pounds that a parent could spend in the school holidays. It's 7.5m long and is strong enough to get it wet with gloopy glues, paint, etc. Seriously, do not waste your money on rolls of craft paper that are twice the price but offer half the options because they're pretty flimsy in comparison.
I'm all for encouraging creativity in my children, and try my hardest not to stifle it if it takes a form I wasn't expecting, but sometimes, when it all gets a bit messy, I'm as twitchy as the next mum. I think I'm pretty cool with mess for the most part - as anyone who's visited my house in the middle of the day will know - but I definitely have types of mess that are more acceptable than others. Motionless mess is fine, like the pile of paper and coloured pens you'll find surrounding Beatrix for approximately 12 of her 13 waking hours! Mess that moves a little way is cool too, if annoying. That's the kind of mess that Jasper makes; he fires cars off ramps, they fly through the air and land, usually in the kitchen, before travelling a few metres further. No problem, though, because it's fairly predictable. The kind of mess I'm not so good at is Abel mess: his mess is mobile. He carries pots of glitter, sprinkling their contents with every step. He stores sand from the sand pit in his trouser turn-ups and empties it when he lays on the sofa. His paint-covered hands go everywhere with him and he touches every single surface on his travels. So I like to contain mess, or more accurately, take it outside.

We have a dark-ish and relatively unused corner of our back garden that lends itself perfectly to mess: the grooves in the decking make it easy to wash dirty debris and the rest is flagged. There's no lawn to kill, and if it gets really messy, only our immediate neighbours are witness to the destruction because that part of the garden is completely enclosed. Lengths of lining paper cut to the height of the children's reach, plus a bit more to catch the bulk of the mess that drips down, simply attached to the fence with drawing pins, and ta-da! Messy fun outside. Fill your boots, kids, and when you're done, hose yourselves down under the outside tap!

Use old takeaway pots for the paint: you don't need a pot for each colour - mixing it up is half the fun! 

 It's interesting just to sit back and watch them get stuck in: when they went outside, they naturally placed themselves in age order!

And they left in age order, too! First the little man had had enough of bold moves, then the middle man had finished and filled his circles so it was time to leave, then the boss lady, who had used all of 'her' space for a masterpiece scene.

And when you need to contain an indoor activity? Stick the lining paper to the kitchen floor using masking tape, lay the children down and draw around them, then let them turn their own outline into a dress-up doll! This is really fun to do as a sticky activity, using scraps of fabric and paper to make clothing collages.

This is not Beatrix glowing: it's her hair! Check out her choice of dress, though - the girl is so Mama, it's scary!

We've also used the paper to write large picture menus for our cafe (which only sells wooden food) and to draw place settings for the diners. Do you use lining paper for craft activities? Please share your ideas!