Monday, 30 January 2012

Pattern with a plan

I've been meaning to develop a little set of woodland animals patterns for a while, based on a number of sketches I've been working up, and recently some networking gave me a little kick to get it done! A few local crafters have recently set up a group called 'Meet and Make'. Once a month we're going to organise an evening craft workshop  to encourage people to try new crafts. These little workshops will be a real laid back affair, combining crafting with chatting, tea and cake (which as we all know is the best way to do anything). 

A crocheting workshop has already been held, and my friend Rachael from Sew Ray Me is holding hers on making beautiful handsewn fabric flowers this week. I'm going to be holding an embroidery evening workshop in March, date to be decided. I can't wait to enthuse about embroidery and encourage people to have a go! I decided my woodland animals could make perfect introductory patterns, so I worked them up into simple designs using just a few stitches, and here's what I came up with. I went with circular designs, thinking they could be kept in the hoops and displayed as home decorations.
Little hedgehog with simple leaves
Badger with autumn oak leaves
Curled fox in the undergrowth with some simple appliqué 
If you are in the Fife area and you'd like to go along to this workshop and/or hear about  others, you can keep tabs on what we are planning through the 'Meet and Make' Facebook page. I'll be posting date and venue locations here next week, and hopefully I'll have some post workshop pics to share in March! I'm so excited!

Before I go though, one of my favourite aspects of reading other peoples blogs is seeing the PROCESS. I love to see how people do things, and how the thought processes work. I love seeing the stages of things as they progress from idea, to design, to pattern to reality. Nothing inspires me more than seeing how other crafters brains work. So, hoping you like that too, I'm including a host of sketchbook pics so you can see how these designs evolved.'s like letting you look inside my brain.

 Some animals and leaf designs. The fox and the badger pretty much made it through unscathed. The stoat and rabbit never got worked up any further and were rejected. Maybe I can develop them for something else?
 The circular idea starts to come together. I thought a single animal and some simple leaves would fill the space nicely, but I'm hoping that people will be able to complete the bulk of the design in 2-3 hours.
 Little more animal design here. The fox has grown up a little. He was looking too cub-ish before. Don't worry if you can't read my writing...neither can I!

WIPs section
And finally, to keep tabs on my progress, I completed the topstitch on the fox hood and my little patchwork quilt for my daughters toy bed is progressing! The enforced machine time at my local stitch club is working a treat. Chat, tea, lovely homemade cakes (nom nom) and my machine in front of me does work as an incentive. I told you tea and cakes were the way forward! This Thursday I hope to add the wadding and a plain back and do the quilting. After that I think I may even try hand binding. Watch my WIP section for updates!

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Sunday, 22 January 2012

Works In Progress

Before I start todays post, I was very, very excited to be nominated for a Liebster blog award by Crafted by Carly! Her blog is full of very lovely things, you should definitely check it out! Here is how this award works: It's designed to allow people to choose and showcase bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. Upon accepting the award the recipient must then pass it on to five more blogs of note.
Here are the rules:
1- Choose FIVE up and coming blogs to award the Liebster to. Blogs must have less than 200 followers.
2- Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
3- Post the award on your blog. List the bloggers you gave the award to with links to their sites.
Here are my choices for the Liebster Blog Award.  I read many, many blogs, and I love each and every one of them in different ways. However, I've decided to pick 5 that inspire me: either in what they do and say or how they do it, so here goes.
1. Suz at Sewpony. I've been following her blog for a while, and she makes the most lovely children's clothes. Now she has her own kids clothes label, and her hard work is inspiring me to work harder and try more things!
2. Chloe at Slightly Triangle. Her blog just gives the impression that she makes what she really wants to make. That may seem simple, but I love the way her stuff seems to come directly from that impulse.
3. Kate at Lilipopo. Just squeezing in at under 200 followers, I was glad I could include this! her embroidery is just lovely, and following her work is really inspiring me to think about developing my own embroidery patterns.
4. Melissa at Clothwork. Every time I read her blog I think 'Ooo I never even thought of doing anything like that!' So yeah, inspirational (still drooling over those tea towels).
5. Jenevieve at Buttons, Ribbons and Other Things. Jenevieve makes lovely things, and even better frequently shares her inspirations with her readers. 
If you have a few minutes today, please check out these blogs. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do!

So on to my post...
In an attempt to plan my 2012 sewing and be a little bit more organised this year, I thought I would first shame myself by highlighting my many, many WORKS IN PROGRESS. When I tidied up my sewing area, I decided to dedicate a small area to WIPS. Well, the other day when I blasted past to grab some thread, I realised that this area had well, exploded might be the best term. There were patterns and bits of fabric and plastic folders of half-finished projects EVERYWHERE. What on earth could be in this pile? Surely these are projects that I'm just not interested in anymore? Well, I sat down and thought that surely a quick five-minute look and I could re-absorb some of the fabric and forget about some of the projects that I started? Hmmm....well no. I actually decided that I wanted to finished them all. So here I am, ready to shame myself with all the projects I never completed last year. This year, I hope not to carry quite so many WIPS over. I think that's a pretty decent sewing resolution. So how about you? Do you have some WIPS left over from last year? Come on, stand up and be shamed like me!...and then do something positive about it of course :)

Pretty much all of these projects requires machine work, and as I think I've said before, I'm really favouring embroidery and hand sewing just now. However, I also now attend a little local craft group once a week, called 'Stitch', and we meet up for two hours in our village community hall and just get on with whatever we want to while we chat and drink tea. I haul my machine there and work away on things. It really gives me machine time that I can't distract myself from with hand embroidery, chores, or books. So I've decided to spend this time working on my WIPs. With any luck, I should have some progress to report soon! Here's the list of what I'll be working on over the next few months.
 This is the worst one. I started work on this log cabin hand-quilted cushion cover when I was pregnant, thinking it would go well in the nursery. Well, I now have a 2 1/2 year old, and no finished cushion. I still really like it, and my little girl LOVES dinosaurs so really...I must get it finished.
 A toddler sized fox hat. I mean really, all this needs is top-stitched to hold the lining in better, and it'll be done. This will be first on my list!
 Another toddler-sized fox hat at a less advanced stage. I'll pick this up further down the line I think.
 Another Frenetic fox notebook cover - all hand stitched and waiting to be turned into...well...a notebook cover.
 I posted a while ago about the lovely wooden bed Grandad made for my little girl. She loves using it for her animals, but we have no blankets to fit. This will be a little patchwork quilt. This is high up on my list.
 Started this and blogged about it AGES ago. It's meant to be a lined drawstring bag for my daughters farm animals. MUST...FINISH...
 Two little cat keyrings. Should be a quick, simple job?
Ah the beanbag. I started this beanbag for my toddler, and just never got any further. I should really finish it before she grows out of it!

I've also been working on a few other things things since last time. At the end of the week I finished a badger embroidery that I had slaved over for weeks. I hope to see used as part of a very exciting project linked to my work. Hopefully more to report next month but I'll give you a little taster, here's a piccie of the badger in progress. In this pic I'm just starting to lay down some background colours.
I've also been working on a set of three woodland animals embroidery patterns which I'd like to work up into pdf's, and which I also might use in a few other projects that might be on the go this year. I've finished the fox design, and I have sketched the badger and hedgehog versions. More to report next time!


Sunday, 15 January 2012

This years cushion plans

Over the last few months I've blogged about three cushions I've made that feature animals and little sayings. It's a little theme I've been developing called 'Sometimes you just have to...' where the animal and text link to be kind of an 'encouragement' cushion I guess. Well over the Christmas break I decided that I want to make a set of 10 in all, and I'd like to complete those ten by the end of 2012. I'm taking my sewing resolutions quite slowly at the moment, but as I already made three cushions last year,  I'm hoping that challenging myself to make another seven should be achievable in a year! Here's a list showing my plans and where I am for the ten.

1.Giraffe – 'Stand tall'. Completed and sold. This was the first cushion cover I made, and the theme suggested itself from my finished piece. I can't remember why I chose to start with a giraffe, I think I just had a nice sketch of one in my sketchbook.
This first cushion really gave me the bug for combining animals and lettering
Giraffe sketch evolution
2.Fox – 'Be sly'. I think it's already obvious that I've been on a bit of a fox obsession. Not really sure why, just liking them a lot right now. It'll probably shift over to something else in a while, I'm like that. Anyway, this was cushion number two, and I was really chuffed with how it turned out. I sold him at a craft fair just before Christmas (and it was a little bit happy-sad).
This time I embroidered swirls on the fox to add texture
Sketches for the fox, and a couple of others
3. Monster – 'Just be yourself'. Although this fits the theme, it does feature my signature monster rather than an actual real animal, so I'm unsure yet as to include this in this theme or not. Rest assured that if I only manage to make seven cushions this year (and not the eight I'd need if this wasn't included) then this one will be counted to bring the total up to ten!
Still loving the yellow and white polkadot fabric!
4.Mole – 'Dig Deep'. I already have the fabric chosen and cut for the mole, so he will be the next one to be assembled. I have also finally bought some bondaweb which will be very handy when machine appliquéing the large pieces. Up until now I've just pinned and been pretty lucky that there were no big wrinkles in my finished products! I like to think I'm at least trying to improve the way I work every time I make something.
Sketchbook plans for a mole
5.Lion -  'Be Brave'. I've done quite a lot of sketch work on this fella, but so far he just isn't quite right. I haven't worked on this for a month or two so the time is probably right to go back and get the design finalised. Sometimes you just need that breathing space before you can spot that fatal flaw and tweak that design so it matches the feel you were going for.
Initial lion studies
Getting closer...but not quite there yet
6.Rabbit - 'Hop to it'. Just the barest of sketches for this one, but I'm really happy with the initial design of the jumping (or should I say hopping) rabbit. Again, needs finalised and tidied, but I don't think that this one will change very much at all.
Initial design at the bottom, under some other rabbits that became embroidery a few posts back!
7, 8, 9 &10 - Under construction! My ideas for the last four aren't quite firmed up yet. I have a few ideas as you can see from the sketches below, but they all need quite a lot of design work and then of course fabric selection. The mole as discussed above has passed muster, but the others I'm not sure of yet. Perhaps I need to sit down with a couple of animal books and flick through. One of the perks of being a Natural Science Curator is that I'm not short of inspirational animal material both at home and at work!
The mole is on his way, but I'm not sure if any of these others will make it past the qualifying stages...
I've already sold the fox and monster cushions at craft fairs, so although I will never be able to photograph them all together, I love the idea of working on a little theme and using the same bright selection of colours to link them together. I also love the fact that these lined envelope cushion covers are so simple to make. This means that my meagre machine skills can cope when it comes to putting it together, but I can go wild with the colours and designs and the hand sewing, and know that I will still get a decent functional product at the end of it.

I'm going to focus on getting the mole started and then coming up with animals and words for cushions 7-10. I'll report my progress here as I go! Time to get my thinking/sketching cap on!


Sunday, 8 January 2012

Tutorial - wine-box ribbon holder

For a while now I've had all my ribbons just stored in a box, and though I tried to roll them all, secure them with pins and store them neatly, they keep unravelling and now I have a big box of tangled ribbon. Not ideal when you quickly need just a little bit of that lovely red ribbon and it takes you half an hour to find an end. There are lots of lovely ribbon holders to be found on the market, but why not re-use something which you might have lying around the house? Especially after Christmas! I've mentioned this project in a few posts, but finally I've found time to do it and I thought I'd turn it into a little tutorial, my very first :)

If you were lucky enough to get a fancy wine or spirit gift for Christmas you might have one of these lying around. Nice wines are often boxed to make them a fancier gifts, and these simple, rustic boxes are perfect for turning into ribbon holders. 
Mmm the port was nice, and I was already using the box to 'store' ribbon!
Things you need

  • 1 wine/spirit/port gift box. Ensure that it's a real wooden box with a decent thickness. Thin/laminated similar boxes may not work.
  • Length of wooden dowling about 6-8cm longer than the length of the box. Many diameters are available and you should buy a diameter that fits the hole in the centre of the smallest of your ribbon bobbins or spools. Lengths of dowling can be bought fairly cheaply at any good DIY store.
  • Drill
  • Drill bit that fits the diameter of the dowling. I used a 12mm dowling and drilled a hole of a 13mm diameter. This meant that the dowling isn't too tight a fit and can slide in and out quite easily. If you are keen on DIY or know someone who is, chances are they will have a box of a selection of sizes of drill bits. Otherwise, you can again buy them at a DIY store.
  • Saw

1. First, make sure that the majority of all your ribbon spools will fit in your new ribbon box like so. My port box will be I assume a fairly standard size, and it fits these 8cm diameter spools comfortably.
Can't believe those fit so well. It was meant to be!
2. Mark on each end of the box the centre of where you want to drill the holes. Ensure that you measure in the same way on both ends so your dowling will be straight. Also, bear in mind that some spools will have a 'hang', so simply drilling a hole in the exact centre of each side may not be the best option. If the central hole in your biggest spool is much larger than your diameter of dowling, then the spool will hang down off-centre. In which case, you may want to raise the height of your hole to ensure that your spools don't drag on the bottom of the box, but make sure the biggest spools will still fit in! If you do this with your biggest spool, it means that the smaller ones will still fit fine. 

3. Very carefully drill your marked holes. Please ensure you are comfortable with doing this and are doing it safely, or ask someone else to do this bit for you. It doesn't take very long at all! Ensure you do it over some newspaper or outside, as a surprising amount of sawdust can be generated! I put this off for ages because I was dreading having to rummage around in the 'cupboardunderthestairs'. However, the Husbandbot decided to put up a new curtain rail over Christmas, so I just handed him the marked box and it was done in minutes. Perfect timing!
Neatly done husbandbot!
4. Cut your dowling to the desired length with a saw. You can probably do all sorts of fancy things with washers etc. to secure your dowling, but as my box will simply be sitting on a shelf I was happy with the dowling being loose. However, I left a good 3cm sticking out of the box on either side as when you are pulling ribbon out the dowling will move. This should stop it from falling out of one side when you are using it. The dowling can be cut down using a saw. As above, ensure you are comfortable using this or ask someone else. Again, there will be a little mess!

5. Insert your dowling into one side of the box, then angle it so you can load on the spools. Then simply insert the other end of the dowling into its hole and you are finished!
Load those lovely ribbons!
6. Dispense ribbon and craft!
Ooooo what shall I make next?
Further tips and hints

  • You can also get double winebox giftsets, so you could make a double decker ribbon holder box! Enjoy the wine first though (responsibly of course), don't just toss them out to make your ribbon holder!
  • These boxes sometimes come with a perspex cover that slips into grooves on the front of the box. I'm pretty sure I threw out the one for this box a while ago, but it would be a great way of keeping your ribbons dust free!
  • Also, my box already had a little piece of rope to hang the box up. If you're short of shelf or desk space, there's no reason why this couldn't hang on a wall or door somewhere.

Further research
I also have lots of loose lengths of ribbon and would like to buy more empty cardboard spools to put them on. A quick internet search has not been forthcoming. Does anyone know there I can source these?
Ribbon spools I need you!
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Sunday, 1 January 2012

Festive leftovers

Wow, I really didn't mean to leave quite so long between blog posts, but as I'm sure some of you will agree, Christmas does funny things to a person. As I write, I sit here surrounded by sweetie wrappers, discarded presents and I am still basking in the light of the Christmas tree. However, with back-to-work looming on Wednesday, I feel like I'm slowly coming out of a Christmas fug. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED my Christmas fug. My little family had a fabulous time, and we've really enjoyed the last week of just doing things together all day every day.
All of our tree decorations were at toddler height, but I left them there :)
2 year old shows Daddy just how to build her new dolls house.
Now it's the new year it feels like reality is calling at last. BOO. Still, as a year of sewing has drawn to a close, another one stretches out in front of us, yay! Like many other crafters, I've decided to put together a few new years crafting resolutions as follows:
Crafting resolutions for 2012

1. TAKE PHOTOS OF EVERYTHING! I am still so, so bad at this! For instance, I can't even show you today the two Christmas presents I sewed for family members. Possibly because I was desperately finishing them off, swearing at my machine at 11 o'clock on the evening of the 23rd, but mostly because I them wrapped them and dropped them off, without taking any photos! This has been my big bug-bear of 2011, and for 2012 I plan to take photos ALL THE TIME of what I do, and broaden it to include inspiration etc. I won't always have my camera with me, but my smartphone takes decent photos that would do, so I really have no excuse.
Look! Exciting Chrimbo pressie inspiration! Take a photo and Blog about it!
Ooooh I can't wait to try needle felting!
2. Post more regularly. I haven't quite finished my first year of blogging, and although I did attempt to blog every week, I didn't manage it. I have learned SO much though, and the blogging world is SO supportive, that I'm getting the hang of preparing topics and posts in advance, and learning that not every post needs to be an essay (like this one...ooops!). I Just need to keep tabs on those creative works or even thoughts or inspiration and post about it. I love reading those sorts of posts, so I hope you will love reading them here too.

3. Develop my little business. I'm really still just making because I want to, because I feel driven to create; so any money I make on the side selling things I've made I still very much consider a bonus. However, I would like to slowly work towards developing the business side of what I do. Firstly, that Folksy shop. I WILL get that set up in January! Then I plan to develop some embroidery patterns pdf's and also look into some other areas I've been researching. I've learned that I need to be quite realistic here. I already have a job and a family and other hobbies. I have often felt very frustrated by how little I've been able to achieve due to other demands on my time, but this year I will take it slow and steady. I intend to write a little planning document for myself, setting realistic targets to work towards and also...ENJOY IT!!! I love sewing and I love being part of this crafty online world!

4. Let inspiration flow. Since I started getting a little bit more serious about my sewing, my head has been practically BURSTING with inspiration, ideas, many things! This year I will document these as best as I can, and fit them into my schedule where possible. My sewing cannot possibly keep up with my brain, but at least if I write it down, I won't feel like potentially great ideas are getting lost. Oh and I need to carry a little notebook or my phone with me everywhere. You never know when an idea will strike!

5. Network more. I am slowly learning that the area in which I live is actually quite arty and crafty! There are loads of groups, craft fairs and courses all around me! I hope to explore these a little more, and bit by bit (fitting in with my schedule) make more links, learn more techniques and improve what I do. For some reason I love the idea of sitting have a tea/coffee with a bunch of funky crafters and having a good old natter! Oh and with cake of can't have tea and chat without cake!

6. Be more useful. This might sound like an odd one, but one of the reasons I got into blogging, and one of the reasons I want to network more, is that I want to contribute to the global craftsphere, and help in some way. My skills are very basic, and they are currently no match for my ideas, but I feel that everyone can contribute in some way, and I'm keen to do more myself. That might mean providing some free patterns or downloadables here on my blog, passing on my paltry skills locally or just joining in with local, national or global debate. However small, I want to do it. I've gained so much from all you out there already, that I want to start giving back. 

So, a few things to work on, but hopefully 2012 will be a year of inspiration, excitement and inspiration, and little or no frustration.  Lastly, I would just like to say a big thank you to all those who have followed me and read my little newbie blog this year. You have all contributed SO much to keeping me going, and keeping me inspired! I hope you all achieve what you set out to do in 2012!