Saturday, 9 June 2012

Long time no post

I'm sat in front of the television, doing some embroidery on a label, and thought that I really should post some of my recent work. This photo shows Christmas last year, with 8 Christmas stockings under the Christmas tree - I made 7 of them, and the other was made by Mum - over 30 years ago - and has been the inspiration for all the others I've made.
Christmas 2011
The stockings for Christmas 2011 required quite a bit of research - the ones in this photo are just the family stockings, I was commissioned to makesome others - and they needed research as well. The design I dreaded the most was Darth Vader with a Christmas hat - I didn't add the Christmas hat in the end. My grandson (well, step-step- grandson) askied for Darth Vader. My daughter in law's stocking had a rose (made from rose printed fabric, and petals added through machine satin stitch), and a gothic cross. I made one for our baby grandson - who was 2 weeks old on Christmas day. I also filled the stockings - and am now devasted that Hawkin's Bazaar has gone into administration - it is just as well that I still have some things left from last year!

The next stocking - Charlotte, required more thought - the flute was somewhat easier, as I know exactly where the keys need to be - I used silver sequins for the keys - and the tricky part was getting sequins of exactly the right size. The car was a bit awkward too, and since doing it, I have found various books and magazines where there was a car pattern I could have used.

The stockings last year caused quite a few headaches; I had previously bought some mini-buttons / embellishments; these buttons were Christmas trees, stars, gingerbread men and hearts (and silver cookie cutter embellishments of the same patterns). The problem was that I couldn't find the buttons at all, so I then had to buy more - which I did through ebay (where I had sourced them previously) - and that wasn't easy either - finding the same buttons again was not as simple as I wanted it to be.  I'd like to think that I bought 2 packs of these buttons last year - but I can't be certain! I later searched my room / tidied it - and found the original lot of buttons!! I thought that I had used them all - it seemed unlikely that I had managed to use them all, but it was the only explanation I could think of!
A Chelsea supporter was the recipient of the next stocking, and it was due to this one that I made the flute one. An embroidered Chelsea badge was too much for me to complete, and so I used printable fabric. I was a bit concerned about the lacrosse stick, but some net I had bought for the wedding earlier in the year was good for the netting in the stick. Apparently, there is a way of tying knots that is called Spider's Web.

Whilst putting the beads on the guitar (for the frets and tuning pegs) I realised that I was missing an essential colour of bugle beads: pearl. I have white, clear, mother of pearl opaque type, gold - but I wanted a pearl effect. I then looked at ebay again - didn't find the bugle beads I wanted, but I did find some lovely seed beads - with a matt finish, and some of the teachers at Bideford College are into beading, and making bracelets with a spiral rope pattern - something that I want to try but haven't got round to yet.
This last stocking made use of fussy cutting - the football was taken from fabric I've had for some time. I did have to search through a number of boxes of fabric to find the exact piece I wanted. I thought that I had used it all. When looking for fabric appropriate for stars, I thought I had more fabric than it seemed I had. A couple of months later - when tidying and organising my room - I found what I had been looking for previously! The dog on this stocking was a challenge, and the pig is Dick Bruna.

Since discovering in March 2011 that we were going to be grandparents to a baby, I have been knitting as well. I've used sock wool and patterns I've bought from ebay to make jumpers and cardigans. Since then, I've also become an aunt (March 2012), and we're going to be grandparents again in September - so knitting is taking off again. Something that appeared in the baby grandson's stocking last year came from an old pattern book. The pattern book is early 1970's - as mum made me one when I was a baby - Long Skinny Rabbit - or, Mr and Mrs Bunny in the pattern book.
In February and March this year I started again on more of these rabbits. I thought I had enough of the fawn coloured wool, but it turns out that I don't - and it would also seem that the fawn colour is discontinued. I've bought various other makes instead, but no colour is close enough to be used. I will have to have rabbits with different coloured arms and legs to the bodies, heads and ear backs.

The last photo for this posting is of a 'birth quilt'. I've made a couple of 'I Spy' quilts in the past 9 months (and have cut the fabrics for more of them), and the 'I Spy' quilts are for the family as a whole (the 'I Spy' quilts will feature in another post - soon - I hope!). I have made quilts for individual babies in addition to the 'I Spy' quilts. The individual quilts have a label on the back, which gives the details of their birth - time, date, name and weight. This quilt was made using 'Hopscotch Squares' pattern that I downloaded from the PB Textiles website about 8 or 9 years ago. The pattern and fabric may look familiar - I used pieces that I had cut for my sister's quilt, that were left over once I'd completed the quilt top and pieced the backing. This quilt was made for our baby grandson. I do have a tendency to cut more fabric than I need when preparing quilts; I have kept the fabrics together, and this makes it easier to find them - and I don't have to cut more fabric usually!
I've had quite a bit of time for creating in the past year. Life has changed dramatically since I gave up teaching full time. I've had some supply work, which shows me that I'm not a bad teacher at all - being quite versatile in teaching a number of different subjects. My husband and I have experienced more change as well - we've been approved as foster carers, and so I'm not doing any supply teaching at the moment. This gives me some time to get more sewing done. I'm going along to Parkham Patchers (when I am able to), and I've started WHo! quilters as well - we meet weekly, for a chat and some stitching. It's great to be able to meet up with like-minded people, and try new skills. Parkham Patchers have introduced me to crewel work - which can seem rather cruel at times, but is also quite satisfying. Current projects include more 'I Spy' quilts, the British Patchwork and Quilting Block of the Month, and an appliqué project too. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Goth wedding

So long since I last posted, but I have been busy. I did get everything done in time for the wedding - pictures of the items and the bride and groom will follow! I've also been knitting - making baby jumpers and cardigans, and a number of quilt tops too. I've just finished a Very Hungry Caterpillar quilt for my great niece, and now just need to take pictures of it before sending it off. I've also done a couple of I Spy quilt tops, and a 'Bright Eyes' pattern made with fabric from a range called Little Blessings. Decided to add a post today before I get on and do the laundry and some tidying. I leave it until later to go into my room, as others in the house are probably still in bed. My thoughts on that shall remain with me for the time being!
This is the finished box for my stepson and daughter-in-law. Usually with my work I use a pre-printed label, one that you can buy in quilt shops - designed as a label. However, those labels would not have been in keeping with the theme of the wedding, so I created one just for the occasion. I used a metallic embroidery thread to do the stitching, and didn't use satin stitch (which I usually do), as working with the metallic thread is a pain in the whatsit.

Rather than lining the box with felt, you can see that I've lined it with purple crushed velvet; again - this is better in keeping with the theme of the wedding. Having made the box, I then had other jobs to do for the wedding. The bride had asked if I could do the alterations to her dress and a bridesmaid's dress. Fine - if you have a sewing machine and a sewing room, you can OBVIOUSLY do dress alterations (those who are not quilters just don't understand that it's not the same thing at all - it's like asking someone who speaks French to translate something in Spanish or Italian - or maybe Swahili). However - I did the alterations, and they didn't turn out too bad - especially considering that I was doing them the morning of the wedding. The photo here shows the latest Mr and Mrs Hutchins - and what a spectacle - and spetacular day it was! They made the front page, and page 3 of the local paper (it was available to be seen online), and they also got a mention in a national daily paper as well. Oh - and they don't have feathers coming out of their heads - it's the plumes on the horses. Speaking of plumes, I didn't have a hat for the wedding, and I thought that I should have some form of headwear - being the groom's stepmum, it seemed the thing to do. So, I put my skills to a new challenge, and after a bit of research, produced the following:
I was able to buy all the supplies in Barnstaple - and around the local area. I know it's a bit like something you might see at the Moulin Rouge, but I thought it was suitable to the occasion. I didn't want it to be all black, as that would have been a bit too sombre. I need a bit more practice at making them, but not a bad first attempt. Next time I'll use a thinner ribbon on the comb - or maybe I'll use a slide if I can find the right sort.

The thing about making the boxes is that I end up with lots of bits left over. In a previous post I showed a card I had made using some bits from a box. This time I really went to town on the bits left over. I made a lucky horseshoe, a ring box, and some brooches for the Hutchins ladies. The brooches I made the night before the wedding, and added some beads as well. The ring box was finished the day of the wedding - after a bit of stress from the best man; however, I stood my ground, and continued with the wedding dress - delivering the two dresses before coming back to finish the ring box.
The last thing that I made with the pieces left over was to make a card for the wedding. I tried to made an envelope - but that was not a great success. However, the card was not too bad, even if I say so myself! The trickiest part of it was cutting the aperture; no ordinary (square, oblong, circle, oval) shape would do. I selected a shape from my Crafter's Companion set. The embossing was fairly easy, but the cutting was a bit of a beggar.
I added some additional bits to the card, in silver - but unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the finished article. I got DH to write the card - I thought he should do it, being the groom's father. I was quite pleased with the result, and I made another card for another occasion recently. However, that card will have to wait for another post! Now it is time to get on with the latest project - finishing the wallhanging that I started at the Free Cut Curves workshop last Saturday.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Rag Dolls

I realised yesterday that I need to have a bit more of a systematic approach to my blog and the posts! Reading through previous posts, I saw that I had given one a title including the word dolls - and nothing about dolls in it, so I'm going to rectify that right now!

This photo on the left was taken last summer - during Cowes Week. I had made this rag doll for my niece - Maisie; this comes from another Step by Step workshop, this time the tutor was Julia Davis, one of the owners of the shop. The pattern was very easy to follow - and the bloomers extremely easy to make (so much so I've made lots of pairs, and adapted them to trousers). Julia suggested sewing the bloomers to the doll, but I knew that I wanted a rag doll who could be dressed and undressed - and then came the decision to make a rag doll for Maisie - and clothe it too! I've not made clothes before, so this was another new challenge for me. The clothes that the doll is wearing here is a dress that I invented - I changed the style of the skirt (it has a sort of kick-pleat affair at the back, but starting from the bodice), the sleeves were straight rather than being gathered. She has a pair of red bloomers, and a red petticoat under the dress. I also provided her with another pair of trousers and another petticoat. The additional petticoat has a waistband attached. I saw great potential in making dolls clothes, and so set about buying (yet more) fabric that would be suitable for clothes - making something a bit more glamourous. I've started on some ballgown / party dresses in satin - gold with holographic spots, pink with holographic spots, lilac / lavender, and lavender trousers in satin / silk type thing. I'd like to make a jacket with a chinese collar as well, but haven't got quite that far yet. This year for Maisie's birthday I sent down some more clothes for the doll:
I was particularly pleased with this dress. No, I didn't cut and sew all the strips onto black fabric - the fabric came like it already (thank goodness!). I used red broderie anglaise for the sleeves and bodice, and put shirring elastic round the edge of the sleeves. I added a belt, and both the belt and the bodice have press studs to do them up. I also made bloomers and trousers to go with the outfit (I think I sent them both down, although I could be wrong!):

With the bloomers I added shirring elastic around the bottom edge (but a little bit up), to give the appearance of old fashioned bloomers - all that is missing is a little mop cap! (or is it a mob cap? I'm too young to know!)

I love the look of broderie anglaise - it's so feminine and pretty.

The hair for the doll was made from wool, and it was chunky, with 2 'strands' of darker wool, and 1 of the lighter. I spent time unraveling the lighter wool, which gives the wavy appearance. The darker wool has not been wasted. I've used it on my own rag doll (the one made at the workshop), and her hair looks a bit like dreadlocks - it's quite thick.

Going through my photos of projects, deciding which pictures to upload and show on here, I have realised that I don't have any photos of my first rag doll - or any of the clothes I've made for her; I'll remedy that later.

Thanks to Kath for the comment on the last post - and Kath - I will CERTAINLY show pictures of the box I'm currently making, but you are going to have to wait about a month for the photos. It is a policy of mine not to show pictures of WIPs (works in progress) if they are being made as a gift for someone. I only post photos of such projects once the recipient has received the gift! I remember a pupil saying that he had seen my official wedding photos (he was the nephew of our photographer), and I was a bit put out by that; it didn't help that he shouted it out in a lesson!

I've posted a question on facebook - doing a bit of market reasearch, as to how much people would be prepared to pay for a handmade A4 memory box. Any followers or others reading the blog - I'd like to know what your view is on this. How much would you be prepared to pay for a memory box like the ones shown in my earlier posts? Each box is an original - no two will EVER be the same (even if I tried to make them so, I wouldn't manage it!)

Until next time, happy sewing / quilting / crafting

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Branching out

Now that I have a bit more time on my hands, I'm taking advantage of my room. Nathan (stepson) is getting married 3 weeks today, and I'm making him and Vivika a memory box. The colour theme is black, purple and silver - our church won't know what has hit them - and I don't think Nathan and Viv were prepared for our church! Anyway, I've got 3 panels on the go for their box - a different colourway to those I've done previously, but great fun! I'm getting better at using the sewing machine as a pencil to write names, although the pesky rayon / metallic thread has been playing up.

A question was posed to my DH last night - how much would people pay for one of these boxes? I've posted this question on my facebook page, and wait with anticipation (and trepidation (is that actually a word?)) for the answers. Today I thought that I would share a couple of wedding projects with you, - but not projects that the recipients have not yet seen (fair's fair!). The first one is a book - hand made - put the papers together, sewed them together, made the cover as well. Th e cover is made using a technique I learned at a Step by Step workshop. The title of the workshop was 2 inches textured, and I did the workshop in February (I think) this year - I had to pull out of the workshop last year due to family bereavement; there was no way I was going to miss it this time around! The lady who runs the workshop is Vinnie Cable - a very talented lady; I believe she is an accountant by day, and textile artist the rest of the time. She doesn't just use fabric, she uses all sorts of materials in her work - including plastic, tyvek, sweet wrappers, foil from round wine bottles, the tough plastic that you find as pouches of chocolates (e.g. Roses). The technique is one that I love - I've made about 5 or 6 panels using the technique, in different colours. The great thing about it, is that you get such different effects and looks from the number of times and ways in which you cut, rearrange and sew the panel. This book used the panel I made at the workshop. Others used very different colours, but I had a specific idea in mind - something for my sister's wedding - so I wanted white, ivory, cream and gold. To look really effective and give it that 'zing' - you really need to have a way out colour in there - but I was quite happy with how mine turned out - and it gives a chance to use some of the more difficult fabrics (silks, stretchy, velvet, lace). I was also able to use some bits from the panels I made for my step-sister's memory box. I know that I am biased, but I think mine was the best looking one there!

Us quilters are a versatile lot, and having made a memory box for my sister, I used part of the panels for something else. This has now prompted me to seriously think about expanding my crafting repertoire further, and I've made the necessary steps and bought some (most) of the tools and materials necessary. I'm extremely reluctant to throw anything away - and I keep the 'remnants' of the box panels - for use in something else in the future. Caro and Stu's wedding (my sister and her DH) provided an ideal opportunity: cards. I was really quite impressed with how this turned out, and it is special because it is a link with the memory box I've made them. It's also a form of recycling - reducing waste, re-using materials. I now want to start creating a line of wedding cards, and general purpose cards. All I need now is a stamp to show who made it - either that, or I need to create some sticky labels. I have started to look into marketing these things - cost of materials, where to sell, how much to charge, - and the website is one of the places to go to find similar things, and get ideas.

Having bought some card making materials, I had an idea about how I could use the stampers. I know that I can ink them, and print the design on paper; browsing TV channels brought me to Create and Craft tv - and I saw how the stamps are used with angelina and fusible film. That is really what prompted me to buy the stamps, but the other day I had a flash of inspiration: I have some pebeo setacolour paints, and I could use them to colour the stamps, and stamp onto fabric. Create and Craft channel - one of the best and worst channels I could have found; best because you see people creating and using the items they are selling, answering questions that people ask about how to use the tools and materials; worst - because there are so many items that you think you would quite like to have....seeing the Cuttlebug machines makes me wonder whether they would work with fabric as well....? Also makes me think that the Accuquilt system might be required!

Before I go to continue with my box making, a couple more things to share; two quilts (wallhangings) I made last summer for my classroom - great thanks go to Block Party Studios for their wonderful hand printed panels. These hangings seemed to go largely ignored by the pupils in my classroom, but when they came up to my desk, the hanging was handled, and they were suitably impressed when I told them that I had made them both!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Thanks again Marlene!

It's been a long time - getting from there to here....oh dear - I've started watching Star Trek: Enterprise, and the theme tune is stuck in my head! However - the sentiment holds true. I finish work on Friday and will be a housewife for a bit, which will allow me to spend more time being creative. So much has happened since last September. I went to Funky Daisy Flowers workshop yesterday, and the picture below shows Marlene's creation. I didn't take my camaera with me this time, so I don't have details or pictures of the other quilts. The beauty and joy of this workshop was that we all created something different, because we didn't have a pattern - we created our own patterns, we free-hand drew the flowers and the gentle curves, and from the same instructions, we all created something very different.

This has given me other ideas of how to adapt this pattern - first I really should finish this version, together with the narrow border and the and piping! However, I've been inspired to consider other fabrics (rainbow fabric to make the flowers - as someone did at the workshop), using shot fabric to create the flowers, and with the rainbow fabric as flowers - how about combining the flower blocks with some reveleation burning? The possibilities are endless!

What else have I been up to that has stopped me updating the blog? Well - work has been very busy, and we've had a bit of a year really - it's been extremely hard work, and we're now looking forward to better things. I've made another memory box - this time for my sister who got married in a castle in Scotland, in April, and also created a guest book for the wedding too. I made the card for the happy couple too, using some of the remainder of panels I'd made up for the wedding box. As I'll have a bit of time on my hands in 5 days time, it's made me think about creating and selling cards, doing a bit of recycling (the remainder of memory box panels). I've done a couple of workshops, and have had to cancel one so that I can attend my step-son's wedding. I'd booked the workshop in August last year - March this year he tells us that the date of the wedding had changed from December this year, to June this year! I did leave it a week or two (possibly longer) before cancelling the workshop, just in case he phoned one day to tell us the date had changed again - and that they were already married!

I'll get on and post more of my projects over the next few weeks - right now though, it's time to get on and do things, so that I'll have pictures to post!

Friday, 10 September 2010

Dolls and quilts!

I've been busy at school this week, but this evening I've really taken an evening off. I've been working all week - in the evenings, and haven't been in my sewing room at all. However - I made the most of the summer holidays by doing lots and lots - and last week I managed to finish something else. Last weekend, Dad and Liz came to visit, and saw our mansion for the first time. I was able to finish Dad's quilt in time for him to take it away. I was really pleased with how it turned out!
This photo shows Dad looking at the quilt, having taken it out from it's covering. I made it as a quillow - so that he can have it as a cushion, or have it as a quilt. He looks quite impressed with it in this photo - and loved looking at all the different aspects of the quilt. I saw the quilt kit advertised on the Lady Sew and Sew website; I contacted the makower website for their pattern, and they sent it to me. The quilt in the pattern is smaller than the one I made - that is to say - I made it bigger.

I used fleece as a backing, it has made the quilt quite cosy - it was quite warm attaching the binding. The picture on the right shows the quilt as a whole; the design was appropriate for Dad, and the pattern was quite easy to follow. The quilting was done on the sewing machine, without using the quilting frame. I tried to make the quilting echo the patterns in the quilt, and also to show the movement / shape of waves, clouds, and wind moving through the dunes.

It was lovely to get the quilt finished in time for Dad to take it with him. I don't know what the protocol is for hospitals these days, but it will certainly be useful during recuperation. I was pleased with the quilting, and it was easy to do once I put my mind to it. As soon as I had decided on the pattern, I was able to quilt it - sometimes drawing the pattern first was necessary, so that I didn't make a mistake. I think that the adaptation of the pattern has been successful.

This weekend I shall make more effort to get into my room, and get on with more projects. Look out for the next post in the blog where I shall (at least I intend to) show the rag dolls I made.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Busy, busy, busy!

Hi there all,
well - the summer holidays are here and I'm about to get down to my room once again - so many things to do! First off, the boxes. I've made two more big ones since the one for my step-sister; one as a present (commissioned by my mum), and the second as a wedding gift. This one on the right was a 60th birthday present. Possibly, if you click on the picture, you will get a better view of it, of the embellishment.

For those who are interested, I use an Elna 7200. It's a great machine that gets a lot of use. I recently bought a trolley bag for it, which makes it a bit easier to take to workshops - usually I take the Elna 6005 to workshops, as it is lighter. However, it really depends on what the course is. The problem with using one machine for workshops, is that I have to re-learn how to use it.

This second box is the one I made as a wedding present - the bride kindly gave me some of the fabric from her outfit, which I incorporated into the box. She told me that the colour scheme was orange and Cadbury purple. I had great fun in buying the ribbons and some of the fabrics and other embellishments. It was great fun to try 'braiding' - creating little loops and having the ribbons go over each other. The 'quilting' featured the initials of the couple, and other freehand designs. I gave the present sometime after the wedding, as I wanted to include photos on fabric of the day; the bride kindly provided me with a disk of photos and let me pick the ones I wanted to use.

I am currently in the process of making 2 rag dolls - I still need to add faces, but the dolls themselves are done. I wasn't so happy with the hair, so added more, and now regret that decision somewhat. However, I've been playing hairdresser, and tried thinning the 'barnet' a little. I'll put pictures of the dolls on here once I've finished their clothes; as I've not made clothes before, these are proving a little tricky in places - especially as I'm starting to be possibly over ambitious, by wanting to adapt the patterns and create other clothes - longer dresses, shirts, different style skirts, different sleeves, jackets....oh - and a Mary Poppins type apron!

The final thing to show for today is a quilt - made for my cousin's second son; I've shown the quilt for his brother on the blog previously, and you can't make a quilt for one and not the other - which is why I have other quilts in preparation. I was able to deliver the quilt last weekend, and so get a cuddle with the new addition to the family.

The quilt was well received, and with lots of positive comments. I don't consider myself to be that clever with my hobby - I'm just determined, and like putting colours together, and playing with fabric and my sewing machine. This quilt is made from a panel that I had bought, and then I added co-ordinating fabrics to the sides - the co-ordinating fabrics had been a free gift from a website, and just happened to be from the same range. Perfect! I departed from the usual quilt making on this occasion, using fleece as backing instead of wadding and backing fabric. I had to wait until the baby was born to complete the quilt (actually, I didn't start it until after he was born - family and work commitments didn't allow otherwise), as the backing depended on the baby - boy or girl.

This photo on the right shows the young man in question on his quilt - the fleece is super-soft snuggly, and I'd bought it in blue and in pink. It came from a shop in Tunbridge Wells - C & H fabrics (I think) - I know the initials, as they are perfect for me - and a perfect shop for me - but not for my bank account! I've started making another baby quilt for someone at school who is pregnant (a teacher), and also have one to do for a friend who has just had a baby. I need some more fleece like this, but am not sure where I'm going to get it from - any ideas gratefully received.

As you can see, the quilt was put to use immediately, and young Austin appears to love it! Both he and his brother were lying on it on Saturday. Oh, and would you believe that he is just 7 weeks old in this picture? It's true - he had a VERY good weight at birth!

And now, it would seem that it is time for me to retire - to my sewing room that is! I've got clothes to make / finish, a couple of wall-hangings for my classroom, a quilt or two or three or four to finish, a couple of block of the months to work on, not to mention all the other projects I started a while back - they are NOT UFOs - they are WIPs - I will finish them, I just don't know when...

Do you hear that sound...can you hear it? It's getting louder and louder, calling my room is missing me, so it really is time for me to be going!