By day a PA at Cambridge University, in her spare time Claire Wilson is to be found cosied up in her craft studio, Persian cat Tammy on lap, making beautiful things. You might already know her as Claireabellemakes, the name behind her successful, rather beautiful blog (taken from a nickname given to her by her dad as a child).
Claire’s blog is filled with ideas and inspiration, together with her own recent projects, from home-made stationery and bicycle-inspired jewellery to knitted iPad cases. Her latest post shows dinky, colourful macarons, doughnuts and other foodstuffs, all crocheted in wool. “How cool are they?” she enthuses. “I want a pizza garland in my kitchen right now.”
Has she always been a crafter?
“My nan taught me to knit when I was a teenager and I’ve always done something crafty,” she says. “But it wasn’t until I finished my graduate studies in 2011 that I decided to start doing something more seriously. I started the blog three years ago and it’s looking more and more like something that will one day be full time. That’s the dream.”
At the moment, Claire is crushing on crochet. She says: "It’s a bit of a granny craft but it’s having a resurgence. I think the recession got us thinking more about make do and mend; people were going out less and wanting to find a new skill they could do quite cheaply at home. To crochet, for example, you only need a bit of cheap yarn and a hook – that’s it. Also people don’t want disposable fashion any more, they want something that will last and they can take pride in.
"The Great British Sewing Bee has helped and, in Cambridge, places like The Sheep Shop. I think crafting has become cool again – and not just for grannies!”
Claire started her blog three years ago after establishing a network of like-minded crafters online. She also helped set up the Cam City WI in 2012, which quickly became oversubscribed (there are now four more, and counting).
"I couldn’t believe how many people there were who were interested in the same things as me!" says Claire of the WI success. "I’ve found so many like-minded people through crafting, and it feels like a big, supportive community. That’s a big part of my drive.”
She continues: “I go to a lot of blogger events, such as a Cambridge bloggers meet-up in March which was great. Though of the 50 people there I was the only craft blogger. I’m also part of the Etsy Cambridge team.
“Consistently posting good content is the only way to keep followers interested,” she advises. “I’m super-organised, so I write and schedule everything in advance. A lot of my inspiration comes from Cambridge, going for bike rides along the Backs etc... Every time I leave the house I feel inspired.”
What advice would she give to any would-be crafters reading?
“Keep trying things until you find something that suits you. You don’t have to be artistic – I was terrible at art in school. Scarves are a good start, but they take a bit of patience. So maybe try doing something with clay first, or some hand sewing. Join a local ‘stitch & bitch’ group to help build your confidence.”
And if people like Claire make it all look so easy, remember even the pros get in a tangle...
“Last year I tried to make a jumper but got stuck on the sleeves,” she admits. “I almost abandoned it: it stayed in a bag for about six months without me looking at it. But The Sheep Shop have a brilliant drop-in clinic where you can take in something you’re stuck with and they’ll help.
"Each project is a challenge, and you learn something different each time.”
Claire also runs craft parties – details of which can be found online.