Thursday, 8 December 2011

Back to embroidery bliss

Withdrawal symptoms over, I am back to embroidery with a vengeance. No more empty train journeys, no more restless hands. I'm afraid I'm still very much on an animal kick though, but no real surprises there. I've being drawing a lot of mustelids recently (stoats and weasels), and aside from an idea for a cutey cute stuffy called 'Sneezil Weasel' (hopefully more details in a future post), I've mainly been drawing serene stoats. For those who are interested (placing her natural history curators cap on her head), stoats and weasels look very similar - however, the stoat is larger, has a black tip to its tail, and turns white or partly so in the winter (in the UK weasels don't turn white, but they do elsewhere!).
 
I worked on a few different sketches to inform my stitchy stoat, but could only find one to show you. I've been blogging a little while now and I STILL haven't got into the habit of photographing things RIGHT AWAY before I loose them or they disappear off into the mysterious toddler land. Will I never learn?
(Sorry for the low quality smartphone piccies!) 
Then I set to work on the train pulling my ideas together. I'd started work on stitching fur with my fox keyrings and my fox embroidery, but this time I really wanted to try and represent shape and form with my stitches, and you know what? I really feel like my work has paid off and I've gotten somewhere with this! Hurrah! 
Half four on the train and pitch dark outside! Winter in Scotland :)
Just some foliage to finish...
He looks so serene! Now I just need to iron off the pen and I'm done!
One of the things I love most about sewing and embroidery, is the kit you need. I  have always been attracted to hobbies that require a lot of STUFF. When I started to play floorball, did I want to play outfield where all you need is trainers and a stick? NO. I wanted to be a goalie. I wanted a fancy helmet, and gloves, and padded kit and EVERYTHING. I still love being a goalie for my local team (Go Chapel Floorball Club! - twelve years being their goalie and counting), and I still love browsing Floorball catalogues and drooling over the lastest advances and colours of goalie kit. Well, embroidery is much the same, and at the heart of it is thread, or rather FLOSS. There is a whole new nomenclature to learn in this new hobby. Floss...skein...bobbin...strands...and don't get me started on the names of all the stitches! I love it...I don't quite know how to pronounce everything...but I still love it. 

So I have stuff. And stuff needs to be ORGANISED. I do love to be organised.

 
It's like bringing order out of chaos. There's something just so satisfying about looking at all those little card bobbins wound with colourful thread. YUM. Oh and before you ask and think the colour-wheel in my head is all wrong, I'll be matching up the colours and putting them all IN ORDER when all my skeins are wound. Come on...I'm not mad...of course all the greens will be together and all the yellows and etcetera...at the moment I just fill each little compartment up then move on to the next. It keeps all the cute little bobbins propped and neat. And also, before you ask that next question you're thinking about....yes I order my books and DVDS by genre and author. Well, everybody does right?...RIGHT????
 
Hmmmm.....
 
Still haven't finished the old port ribbon box sadly. It's almost there though...hopefully next post!
 BLOG TITLE

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Socially mobile

Is it possible to feel withdrawal symptoms from hand sewing? It certainly feels like its possible. I haven't done hand stitching for about two weeks and it's making me kind of...well...twitchy. I have been busy doing other things at least, and I had the new issues of Mollie Makes to occupy me on the train to work but it wasn't quite right somehow. I love having the peace and quiet of train journeys to read and think, but I'm starting to think a train journey isn't right unless it looks like this.
Ahhhh train embroidery bliss
I know it's been a little quiet around here, but I have actually been doing things behind the scenes (I really have, really...HONESTLY!). I've decided to expand my social media dabbling a little bit and I now have a Facebook page. A lot of people have picked up my cards at the craft fairs I've done recently, and though I LOVE my blog, it can maybe be a bit detailed for those who just want to browse your products based on what they've seen at a craft fair (I LOVE the detail of blogs though, and I hope you do too!). So I took the plunge. If you are on Facebook and you want to 'like' me you can either go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Awkward-Niche/315672438459616 or click on the 'Like' button over on the right hand side of the page. Am I web 2.0 now?

I also took part in a craft fair in Broughty Ferry on the 19th, and I had an enjoyable day. It was very busy and lots of people passed through. We even had the lovely addition of a cafe provided by the organisers featuring tea, coffee, mince pies and even homemade soup! With Christmas music floating through the air it was certainly a craft fair with benefits! Sales-wise it was a bit odd. We were rarely quiet, but little money was changing hands, although quite a few people took my little mini Moo cards (hence the Facebook addition). In the end I actually had a really good day sales wise, thanks mostly to friends and family who came by to support me (thanks guys!), and some last minute decisive shoppers who bought several items from me just as we were about to pack up. 
All the stalls had Christmas lights!
The most exciting thing about the day? I sold two cushions! These were my first cushion sales, and it was great to sell something that I'd completely developed myself to my own designs and themes. There is something so gratifying about somebody buying something you have designed and made by hand. Although I do very much craft for myself, there is something wonderful and possibly addictive about that warm feeling you get when someone buys something you have made. But you know what? I even felt a little bit...well...sad in a way! It's weird to think I'll never see or touch those cushions again! Can you tell I'm very new to selling my creations?  However, this was outweighed by the comforting thoughts that these two cushions might be snugly placed on a lovely couch in someone's house right now! I LOVE that thought. Goodbye fox and monster cushions, enjoy your new home!
 
I've also joined a local crafting group over the last few weeks. A lovely friendly group of people who want to use the winter nights to create, swap patterns, ideas and techniques, and just have a friendly natter. I lug my sewing machine down to the local community hall and blast through a bit of machine sewing while chatting. It's a great way of giving me some focused machine time with no distractions (TV, chores, books etc.), and it's a great way to be inspired. Being part of this group actually encouraged me to look back over some of the crafts I made before I started to blog, and I found a lovely tunic dress I made for my daughter about a year ago. She only wore it once at a friends wedding and I promptly forgot about it. When she saw it again she wanted to wear it, and it has now become a tunic! It's great to see it again (it's the only item of clothing I've ever made here as I'm a little scared of clothes patterns), and it looks 
supercute with jeans!
It's actually making me feel a little more brave about attempting some more clothes for her. She DOES have a Christmas party coming up in a few weeks...maybe a linen tunic with some nice red details? Hmmm....oh dear...time to get out the sketchbook!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Fairs and fairs!

Wow, it's been a busy week so it's been a little quiet on here I know! Just got halloween out of the way and now I'm onto festive craft fairs already. It still seems a little wrong to be talking about THE C WORD so early...but when it comes to crafting you have you have to start thinking pretty darn early!

I had my first seasonal craft fair on Sunday, near where I live in Fife. It was a really good hall with lots of varied sellers. I had a great time and chatted to lots of visitors and to some of the local crafters (if you find your way here from picking up one of my business cards, it was great to meet you all! I really love talking to fellow craft peeps!) Unfortunately it was a bit quiet, and I didn't quite make my table money back (boo). Still, quite a few people picked up cards and a couple of them seemed keen to contact me later about special commissions. 

Next up is the Christmas Boutique Chic event in Broughty Ferry on the 19th of November. This is set to be all singing and dancing, with fairy lights and mince pies no less! I'm hoping this fair might be a bit busier, and hopefully I'll have a busy, chatty day, and maybe even make some sales too. Anyway, here's some pics from Sunday. I managed to finish a few more things to sell too and you can see them below.
Here's how my little stall looked. I hope it looks nice and bright and inviting. My mum came along to help out because it was local and to showcase her knitted bits and pieces which I also had on sale. Cheers ma!

Finally I now have three cushions completed, hurrah! I've developed a little theme for them, it's called 'sometimes you just have to...', and then each cushion has an animal and some text to  fit the theme. Each is labelled with a little tag that explains the theme too. So far I have
1. A fox with 'Be sly'
2. A giraffe with 'Stand tall'
3. My signature Awkward Niche monster with 'Be yourself'
I have another couple in the pipeline, such as a mole with 'Dig deep', and I plan to get to ten. I've noticed that all my work seems to be developing in themes, which I really love. It really fits with the semi-organised way I like to work. Of course, I still follow whatever motivates and inspires me, but working to one or two ongoing themes gives me a little bit of much-needed direction.

Here's a little close up of the monster cushion. Letters are fabric scraps that are blanket stitched on then bordered with a thick running stitch which creates a lovely raised border.

The reason I'm grinning insanely here is that's my Mum on the left posing as a customer. I just couldn't keep a straight face!

This shot shows some of my stuffed monsters and boxes of my Mum's knitted treats. There are knitted hanky cosies, and some lovely cotton dish scrubbies and gorgeous soft face cloths. 

Oh and finally finished, I turned my embroidered hare into a lovely stuffed heart. It really seems to suit being a heart, so I might do a few more.

Now I'm off to assault an old port box with a drill...tara!


BLOG TITLE

Monday, 31 October 2011

Halloween delays

I have a huge pile of sewing waiting to be done for this weekends craft fair (if you are in the area, I'll be at the Lomond Centre on this Sunday afternoon in Glenrothes, Fife), and I also have two big blog posts almost fully written and illustrated. Have I finished any of these things? No. Why? Well we don't really go for Halloween that much in the UK, but my toddler was at nursery today and they were invited to come in fancy dress as they'd be having lots of Halloween fun.

Well. This presented somewhat of a dilemma for me. 

Do I pop her in one of her dressing-up box outfits (which includes some carboot sale Halloween costumes), buy her a supermarket cheapy, or make one myself? There is also some history to this issue. My Dad made some absolutely AWESOME fancy dress costumes for us when we were kids, and no he didn't sew things, he soldered and hammered and the most amazing 3D creations from wire and wood and all sorts in his workshop. If I ever find some of those old photos I'll post them here to show you what I have to live up to. Plus, thirdly even, if I start making her costumes now...I feel like I will always need to make them. A shop bought costume in the future just wouldn't do. So what choice did I make? I chose to make her a costume of course! 

Goodbye to having decent stock for Sunday, and hello to a life of sweating over my sewing machine for last minute outfits! There wasn't much of a choice really :) So since I seem to have had a recent obsession over foxes...guess what my little girl dressed as today? Let's cut to the piccies! A little warning though. I only took the piccies when she got back home tonight, so everything is a little 'worn in', and she looks pretty tired too!
Awww tired toddler. Here's the costume front. The 'hat' with ears got a little stretched (it was only single layer fleece with no lining), and you can't see the cute gloves with paw pads stitched on in pink felt. The hat pattern was based on my hooded scarf pattern from my last post.
Love, love love the cute little tail! The main outfit was a cheap pair of leggings and a long sleeved top I picked up at the shops. I stitched on a white fleece belly, and made a cute stuffed tail that tied on with a ribbon. The colour match was amazingly good!
Phew...halloween is tiring! Hopefully back to your regularly scheduled broadcast next time!

Monday, 24 October 2011

It worked!

If you read my last post, you'll know that I've just had a major sewing-space tidy up in the hope that it would generate some actual renewed interest in machine sewing. And...it has! Hurrah! One of the first things I did was sew up some of the fox embroidery I finished and blogged about here. These little guys had just been sitting under a pile of fabric, waiting to be cut out and brought to life. Some felt backing and lovely ribbon hangers and rings and we have little keyring buddies! I did have to do a resew on a few of these as I got the ribbon angle wrong on the inside several times so they came out squint! I tried not to let this get me down and I had a break, then carefully took then apart and fixed them. I was not going to let a little setback ruin the positive affect of my tidyup!
Also, I whipped up a cute winter hat for my little two year old! I'd made a hooded scarf out of faux fur with animal ears for my brother last christmas, and a kids version always seemed so obvious but I'd just never got around to it. Well, thanks to my tidy I found a stash of white fleece, and some cute robot fabric I'd forgotten about for a lining, and here's the finished product. It took me a while to get pics as my daughter spent most of the afternoon dancing and I can't take good motion pics! She finally got a little tired and sat down so I whipped out the camera while she wore it to relax.

Love that robot fabric, so bright and cheery!
That is one tired little girl...
 For my brothers hooded scarf I just sewed together two side pieces, but after studying a few coat hoods I decided to add a sort of 'gusset' between the ears. This made it much easier to add the ears, and meant that the hood 'sat' much better. The whole thing was whipped up in no time, and I think I might even do a few more to take along to my next craft fair. If only I could get my daughter to come along and model them for me...

Monday, 17 October 2011

How about a tidy up?

I hate going upstairs to use my sewing machine.

There, I've said it. A lot of it is to do with the fact that it's usually at least 9 o'clock in the evening before I have any time, and by then I'm tired and just want to veg and watch TV or do some hand sewing. Its also partially to do with the fact that I am just intrinsically lazy. Anything that involves getting up or going somewhere else sometimes just seems impossible to me. The poor husbandbot has to cope with this reluctance to move every time I take a bath.

“Are you done?”
Me: “No, I'm not. I'm staying right here”.
Husbandbot: “Yes, but the water's cold now”.
Me: “I know. Can't I just top up the hot water?”
Husbandbot: “Forever?”
Me: “YES”.

Combine this with the fact that our study is so absolutely packed full of rubbish and is not a nice place to be, then no, I don't want to go upstairs to use my machine. The husbandbot works from home and he has to perch at a tiny desk while my sewing mess takes up a slightly larger desk, and a huge desk houses our main desktop computer and A WHOLE LOT OF STUFF. 
This actually shows my desk mid-tidy. I forgot to take a snap before we started!
Eek! Things stuffed everywhere!
Obviously the poor husbandbot needs more room, and I should tidy up my sewing mess too, but finding the motivation has been hard. We've been working so hard to spruce up the rest of the house, and there was just nowhere else for any of this stuff to go. However, after a couple of weeks of trips to charity shops and the recycling centre, we managed to shift enough stuff to come up with a solution. I would move to the large desk where I had room for my machine, all my bits and pieces and even some measuring and cutting room (Ooooooooooooo). The husbandbot would relocate to my old desk, and have much more room. Hurrah! So began a mad few days of shifting and boxing, but we are almost there. And you know what? I WANT to go upstairs now. Even if just to LOOK at my sewing supplies, all visible and arranged in nicely labelled tubs. Would you like to see too? Now, I must admit, don't expect to be blown away by fantastic studio space like some of those I regularly drool at on other blogs (maybe someday?), but I finally have room and things are organised. SEWING BLISS. 


Looooooook. It's not great but it's better right? I can see ALL of my sewing things at once. I love it! A few things need to find a permanent home and hopefully all the boxes on the left will move, but it's getting there!
I even got to dig out my old label machine. Boy do I love to organise and label things :)
These Ikea tubs were a great buy, and now I know what's in them all! 
Awww little label remains. I must find more things to label now...
This looks lovely and tidy, but oh my gosh I don't have nearly enough buttons! This terrible situation must be remedied, and remedied fast! (browses favourite button-selling websites)
Pattern pieces added to labelled files in a folder with labelled dividers. Am I going too far?
This old port box currently houses all my ribbons and trimmings. They are rather stuffed in for now but I have plans for this box, plans that involve a simple piece of dowling and some power tools. And before you ask, I don't think we've even opened the port. Mind you, I've been hearing recently that it goes rather well with cheddar. I love cheese so I may crack it open as the weather worsens and we need a bit of cheering up! 

You know what's best about this organising though? It has really inspired me. After I finished the final clear up, I found a little sketch of a hare crumpled in a box, and I grabbed some calico and my new frixion pen and this pattern appeared.
I can't wait to bring this 'Dappled hare' to life with pretty colours! Off now to spin around in my sewing chair and cackle at all the labelled tubs and boxes! Have any of you tidied your sewing stuff lately? I'd love to hear your stories!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Sketches reborn

I suppose, considering I've signed up to do some Christmas craft fairs, that I really should have spent the last week working on those notebook covers right? WRONG! Not when there are sketchbook sketches waiting to be turned into embroidery! So I spent one lovely, indulgent evening with my light box, and my new fabulous frixion pens (thanks for the top tip Lilipopo), flipping through my sketchbooks looking for sketches to turn into stitches. 

I did this while the Husbandbot was out though, as to me my sketchbooks are a very, very personal thing. I'm not really sure why either, I mean there's nothing dodgy in there in terms of content, but plenty of bad art! I know I have posted sketchbook pics in the past, but those were from a recent sewing notebook where I simply jot new sewing designs. My other sketchbooks contain just everything and anything. Any mad idea I have or sometimes I would just open them and put pen to paper and see what happened. I guess because of that they are sort of raw outpourings of what makes me ME. So yes, they are very personal. However, it's also a little sad to have them sitting gathering dust and not being used, so to sit and look through them, even though I cringed a few times, was a very fun process, and I now have a neat stack of linen blend all marked up ready to be sewn. Here are a few that have been through the whole process.

I love his pensive look!

Still on a bit of a fox kick after my recent fox embroidery, I picked out this sketch. It's from a series of sketches the rabbits from my last post came from. I was actually thinking about putting together a children's book called 'Superfox' with some of these sketches and ideas, but I never got any further than designing a few characters and jotting down some plot points. Maybe one day?
Ran out of the brown thread! Tsk!
A WIP this time, more rabbits from the same series, though different characters. For some reason, I love giving rabbits big hair. Must remind me of the animated Watership Down I think. 
Hmmmm...I'm not entirely sure what this is! Just a random sketch but not really that sure about it. Is he underwater? Why does he look so unsure? I think he doesn't work as well on linen as the rabbits do, so maybe I should keep the 'weirder' stuff for a plain cotton. We'll see. Any ideas for this fella? 
  
I've decided the two rabbit pieces and the fox will form a trio of little cushion covers, edged with maybe a more vintage-looking fabric that my usual bright choices. I think that might work really well. Tonight I really MUST get on with the pile of machine sewing sitting by my desk, but I haven't looked through those sketchbooks yet so.....hmmmm.....

  

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A rest and some rabbits

Well, I've come back from my holiday feeling lovely and refreshed, though I didn't quite get through the sewing I thought I would! I thought that since we were pretty much stuck in our little lodge in the evenings while the toddler slept we would need entertained; so we packed books, the x-box (we are currently loving Lego Harry Potter) and that big tub of sewing I mentioned. However, days jam packed full of cycling and swimming and lots of other things meant that we didn't last long past toddler bedtime in the evenings! We needed those long sleeps though, as a certain someone decided that early rises were a key aspect of holidays. So, I managed to partially complete two notebook covers on our trip. At least I managed SOME sewing :)

When I got home though, I just didn't want to work on those covers. Instead, I turned to my sketchbooks. Now, I know I've probably mentioned it a few times, but I have stacks of sketchbooks full of animals and weird characters and beasts that I've been drawing for years and years. These sketchbooks have since sat on a shelf, doing nothing. For some reason, when I got home I was desperate to drag one of those sketches kicking and screaming into stitchy life, so I selected a couple of cute little rabbit characters, and the 'querulous rabbits' pattern was born!
I'm not sure what they are querulous about though...


I rushed this embroidery because I was just enjoying it so much, so the stitching isn't the greatest, but I absolutely loved filling in the features of these little bunnies! So much so that I deliberately left their facial expressions till last so they would only pop into being at the last minute. I feel my sketchbooks may have a new lease of life! The only question left is what to do with them now...a little cushion perhaps? Or a small hot water bottle cover? Choices, choices!

Linking up to...
BLOG TITLE  

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Sewing to go

There is a large plastic tub in the middle of my living room floor packed full of hand-sewing. It's there because we're just about to head off to Centre Parcs for a weeks holiday! Hurrah! I get the feeling that packing for all future holidays will include now  a large tub of fabric, floss and needles. I've signed up to do a couple of Christmas craft fairs, so I'm going to use some of the evenings in our lodge to do the hand-sewn details for some new notebook covers. I'm topping up my notebooks stocks and I have some fab new fabrics picked out to work with. I love the fact that each one will look very different! I like having a nice mix of fabrics so that if anyone wants to buy one they can choose one that fits them or the intended recipient best :).
Yummy scrummy! I can't wait to add stitched detail to these!
We've also been on holiday this past week but we've been at home going on day trips (visited the newly refurbished National Museum of Scotland and Izzy loved it, especially the dinosaurs. We all came home very tired indeed!). Mostly this has meant early bedtimes for all of us and no sewing, but I did manage another three embellished felt foxes to add to the two I finished in my last postAfter the first two I trialled, I feel that I've gotten a lot more bold at representing fur, especially with the colours! I'm really pleased at how these latest ones have come out and look forward to making them into keyrings. I'm also toying with making my daughter a lovely oatmeal linen dress, and I'm thinking a nice felty fox would look lovely as a pocket detail. watch this space!
I love his bright colours!
There's a dark purple here too that's hard to see in the photo
Back to the grey felt but with pink and purple stitching!
So hopefully I'll be back next week with five new notebooks covers hand-sewn and waiting to be put in the machine pile. Oh and hopefully all three of us will be well rested after a fab but busy holiday!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Little Foxy

I am very inspired by animals...you might have noticed :)

Real, imagined, cute, funny, scary or sad; I seem to have spent most of my life drawing them, and writing about them and their adventures. I do love drawing people too, and have been working hard on drawing some actual real people lately (without even ears or tails), but when I sit down with pen and paper and no thoughts in my head...invariably an animal appears. So, with all these years invested in drawing animals I think I've picked up a few skills, and one thing I'm quite good at drawing is fur. Now that I'm a sewing addict too, I've been trying to represent animals in fabric in a number of different ways, but over the last few days I've decided I really need to bite the bullet and tackle fur. How can you represent fur colours, textures and direction with thread? It's so exciting for me, trying out a completely new way of doing something that is usually so familiar to me. The result? two little stitched foxes appeared. I didn't want to stitch every hair of the foxes fur, I just wanted to suggest it, because that's the way I draw as well. So here they are!
Fox number 1 with pink stitched outline
Detail of stitching, though the grey is difficult to see!
Fox number 2 with blue stitched outline
The brown and light blue stitched worked really well together!
You know, I'm pretty chuffed with how they turned out, but it's just a start, and I'd like to achieve more. I'm so excited about exploring fur with stitches, that I've got another two felt fox outlines already stitched on and waiting for some fur.

Yay fur and fabric!


Linking up to...
BLOG TITLE