Hand-made presents are the best. Fact. From expertly hand crafted wooden cars to oddly shaped knitted gloves with six fingers, anything that has been made with time and care is ultimately better than anything machine produced, wouldn't you say? Unless the present is a pony.

For this project I like to think I ended up somewhere between artisan and amateur. These alphabet blocks are relatively easy to make and require only a few materials. Best of all, you can download my alphabet letters here! The only things you really will need are time and the motivation to get the finished, which is always a problem for me. Made from balsa wood, they are very easy to cut and sand, and are light enough for little hands to pick up.
You might choose just the alphabet, or add numbers or pictures. You could even do some word or name blocks to help your little one with their spelling!

This project involves the decoupage method, which you can read more about here.
Read on for the how-to!



If you're thinking about a holiday this May, (and if I were you I would be taking advantage of the non-face-meltingly hot weather in Turkey this time of year!) Catherine and Abit from Bazaar Bayaar are planning their annual cultural trip to Mardin.

Amazing landscapes? Check. Great company and home-cooked food? Check. More kilims than you can shake a loom at? Check. All your boxes ticked? Check!

On the ten day trip Catherine and Abit will take you to some of the most culturally rich places in Turkey including Sanliurfa, Mardin and the ancient city of Hasankeyf; a place I’ve wanted to visit ever since I moved to Turkey. Best of all, there are lots of crafty/foody stops included in the tour, so you can see traditional bazaars, eat local, home-cooked food and wander around ancient olive groves, all with the company of your expert guides!
You’ll need to sign up by 15th April, and remember, if you're coming from the USA or EU, you'll only need a tourist visa, so no paperwork - hurrah! If I had a holiday around then, I know what I’d be doing! Sadly, at that time I will be melting in a classroom somewhere in Istanbul. Sigh!



Since my last post about the difficulties of using Etsy outside of the USA/EU, I'm pleased to confirm that there certainly are some great sellers already using Etsy here in Turkey!

While browsing recently I came across HeraScarf, owned by Seçil Kutay. I immediately loved the modern infinity scarf styles in cosy knitted patterns, in colours from glowing emerald green to soft pastels. 

Seçil even makes silk scarves using a traditional marbling technique (known here as ebru - more on that soon!)

In Seçil’s other shop you can find delicately hand crocheted, jewelled and beaded peter pan collars (if you don’t know what I mean, you can read about this trend over here!). They would look fab over a simple sweater or sleeveless top.  

Take a look for yourself!



If you haven't heard of it yet, Etsy is the go-to online marketplace for lovers of art, vintage or handmade objects, jewellery, craft supplies and unique gifts. However, it seems that it hasn't yet made its full impact on these shores...
In the "Turkish Style of Art" Etsy group, there are some 233 members, and yet more in other groups. Although promising, that number doesn't perhaps do justice to the many fantastic producers who are currently limited to their commercial premises. Off the top of my head I can think of at least five such sellers who could really benefit from some Etsy sales!

I think that sellers in Turkey might be missing a trick. Even if they have online shops that will post abroad, Etsy brings a significant existing customer base that they could easily reach. In a market where online visibility is the key to good sales, this ready made audience could prove invaluable. 

However, the reality is not necessarily so straightforward. 

Beyond the lack of knowledge of Etsy's existence, here are some possible reasons why it hasn't caught on yet, and some problems sellers might have to face if they do decide to sell through Etsy...



Winter in Istanbul can be miserable. 

Nights draw in early, the traffic piles up, public transport becomes more crowded and stuffier and my boiler keeps turning off with each gust of bitter Lodos wind. 

However, I am still a winter person in my bones (the damp English weather has never left me, it seems) and there are still many charming things to see that will warm your cockles on a chilly January evening. 

So, take a different route home to avoid the metro/bus, go for a coffee instead of rushing home from work or enjoy the silence of the empty parks for a few minutes before you get your groceries. 

And most of all, take a second to capture a few images that will remind you of those colder moments when your clothes have melted to your skin in the heat of August.

(N.B Camera phones are completely acceptable. Who lugs a camera around with them all day anyway?)



I, like many a Turkish grandma, like doilies. 

Not the fussy, frilly sorts that said Turkish grandmas like to place over ever horizontal surface in the house. Some even drape them over the TV, so I'm told. 

Doilies made with cotton thread can take a long time to make (if you don't pull it apart in frustration halfway through), but the finished thing is just so lovely. Whenever I see it sitting on my coffee table, hiding those coffee stains so well, I swell with pride in a way that really isn't normal.  

I laboured over this one a while ago and haven't yet gathered the courage to start another one...

If, like me, you don't mind repetition and endless counting, you can find this lovely pattern here.

Ok, it might be slightly on the frilly side, but I'll allow one nod to granny-ness in my otherwise very non-frilly flat.  



I recently popped over to Eminönü, home to the Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarșı) where you can buy just about everything you need, never knew you needed or, indeed, wanted. 

Past purchases have been giant balloons, ice-cream shaped pens, balls of wool bigger than my head...you get the idea. 

This time I picked up some 5mm beads and used this great tutorial to make the beaded wrap bracelet (with just one wrap, as you can see).