Thursday, 1 January 2015

Christmas in a Box Craft Swap

Despite having set myself some probably quite unrealistic goals for making Christmas gifts this year, I couldn't resist adding to the stress by signing up for a craft swap!  I'm still a bit of a novice at this swapping thing - for instance, I completely forgot to take photos of the items I'd made before putting them in the post - Doh!!!  Also , why didn't it occur to me to add some craft supplies to my swap when my swapping partner is a fellow crafter???  Hopefully I'll get better at this with practice.

The idea of the swap, organised by Kimberley at Creative Chaos was to put together a festive, crafty Christmas box.  This is a link to the original post about it and here are the rules we had to follow...

The rules:

The items must be in a one litre container (eg., icecream/margarine/sistema).

They can be some of your favourite things and some of your swapers favourite things. 

Something handmade (decoration/bag/dishcloth/zippered pouch etc), tea, stationery ,craft goodies, Christmas things,food items etc - the choices are lots.

Try and put at least 2 Christmas based items in the swap. 

Include a Christmas recipe - maybe a family favourite and a decoration (one which is representative of your own country would be fab).

There is no limit to the number of items sent - it all just needs to fit inside a one litre container.

Here are pictures of all the wonderful goodies I found when I opened my box on Christmas morning...

Look at this little lady, isn't she sweet?  She's so detailed too - love her boots...

... her little Christmas stocking... and the little charm on the back.

I'm not much of a tea drinker (I prefer the occasional hot chocolate) but this beautifully knitted mug cosy and the tea bags are going to prove very useful as I'm planning a birthday tea party soon  :)

I really love the beaded detail.

Isn't this one cute?  I'm in awe of anyone who can knit like this!

My recipe is for gingerbread and it was beautifully packaged in a gingerbread patterned scroll - will be giving this a try for my tea party too  :)

Valery-Ann can't have had any idea about how much I love playing with washi tape - I was SO happy to get three rolls of washi tape and this sweet little tape dispenser.  I'm really looking forward to having fun and creating some crafty things with this  :)

I know from reading my swap-partner's blog, that she loves butterflies so I wasn't surprised to find some in my box - firstly this pretty butterfly stamp...

...six sheets of butterfly paper in lovely colours...

...two fat quarters of fabric, one that matches the colour of my car!  :) ...

...secured with embroidery thread and decorated with these lovely butterflies that I'm wondering if I can use as teddy bear fairy wings, I'll have to see.

Look at these beautiful butterfly buttons, I think they go really well with the fabric...

I just had to show you one of the buttons in detail, I will have to plan something special for these  :)

Then I also got these little wooden butterfly shapes, that I already have plans for so watch this space...

...and last but not least, I got these butterfly themed post-it note pads that are magnetic on the back.  I've been needing a new note pad to stick on my fridge so they are already being put to good use  :)

I'm amazed at the amount of goodies Valery-Ann managed to cram into a one litre box!  I have no idea how she did it, as I tried repacking the box to keep everything together while I unwrapped the rest of my presents.  This was the first gift I opened on Christmas morning and I didn't want to lose any of the pieces but I just couldn't get the lid back on!

I have to say a H-U-G-E Thank You for Valery-Ann for putting together such a wonderful collection of Christmas and crafting goodies.  I'll write posts about the things I make over the coming months.

I like making small things so this swap really appealed to me and of course in October, Christmas still feels some time away.  I didn't actually stress over any of my items except the final one I made, which I felt was the most important one as I wanted to make something my swapper would like. Valery-Anne loves butterflies, vintage style and pink and I had really wanted to combine these things into a single item, unfortunately my first few attempts weren't successful and I had to simplify my ideas.  Luckily I did take a photo of this with my mobile before it went in the box...

Sunday, 28 December 2014

2014 Review...

I set myself a list of 14 Resolutions at the beginning of this year and I've decided to go back through them to see how many I managed to achieve...

1.   Try to make at least one bear a month - I've actually done pretty well on this one  :) While my bear-making has been a bit haphazard, I didn't make any in March or April, but I have made 19 bears (so far) this year so I'll count this one as a success!  Gingerted below is one of this year's bears - he was a Secret Santa gift who is no longer a secret so it's safe to post a photo of him now...

2.  Re-home the last of my friend Sue's things - I only have one item left that I'd promised to someone - who I haven't seen this year, so I've done quite well on this one.

3.  Visit Wildwood - a proper visit this time.  It's such a special place, well worth going - Done!  :)

4.  A photo day in Dungeness - still on my to-do list, so something to look forward to for next year.

5.  Hmmmmm - sore subject right now...

6.  Try to go to the pool more often - still a bit of a fail  :(

7.  Be more organised - another work in progress...

8.  Try a new craft - Done!  These are a couple of the pieces I made on a glass fusing workshop.  Both have been made into necklaces which I've given to friends as Christmas gifts.  :) 

9.  Tackle the paperwork pile - well it's a LOT smaller than it was last year so lets call this a success  :)  (but still a bit of a work in progress)

10. Declutter - I finally got to move this year, so I'm going to count this one as a success, even though I still have a few boxes to unpack.  :)

11. Go to bed earlier and try to get up earlier - hmmm... another work in progress.

12. Make more effort to keep in touch with family and friends - I think this will have to count as a work in progress too as it's been a hectic year - but going to take the opportunity here to say a HUGE Thank You to everyone who helped me with my home move earlier this year - I couldn't have done it without you!  xxx

13. Join in a craft blog swap - I've just done my second so this is definitely a success!  Watch this space for a blog post about my latest swap  :)

14. Eat more healthily - this is obviously a long term goal which I've been making rather slow progress on, but so far I've lost around 14 lbs which is a reasonable start  :)
I'm not making a new list for 2015 - I'm going to continue working on this list as I think it's worth sticking with...  now I must get back to making my last bear of the year as he was supposed to be a Christmas gift but hopefully I'll have him finished in time for New Year  :)

The biggest change for me this year has been my home move.  After sixteen years of trying to move to ground floor accommodation, it finally happened!  I have to admit I almost chickened out on moving day... I suffer quite badly from anxiety and I find it difficult to spend even one night away from home, so the prospect of spending EVERY night in a strange place was terrifying.  Fortunately after waiting so long, the move happened very quickly, which gave me very little time to think too much.  I had a fantastic moving crew who turned my new bedroom into an oasis of calm amongst all the chaos - taking time to put my rail and curtains up for me even though they were running behind schedule by then.

The move has been a really good thing - I grind my teeth at night, particularly when I'm stressed and despite snapping a tooth off as a result of the move - I love my new home; it's funny how the little things have made the biggest difference and I love the fact I don't have stairs to worry about anymore.  And although I have to go outside to get an unobstructed view like this, just look at the wonderful sunsets we get here...

Friday, 21 November 2014

Unable To Resist A Crafty Challenge!

One of my new neighbours recently sent out a request for help - she wants to do "Elf on the Shelf" with her young daughter this year and needed an Elf.  I waited a little while to see if anyone else would respond, and then suggested I'd be prepared to help if she was stuck.

My neighbour found a rag doll that could be converted so I didn't have to start from scratch.  The first thing I did was create a pair of elf ears - I think elves should have a proper set of pointy ears.  I had some dark cream fabric but it wasn't quite dark enough so I brushed an ink pad across the fabric to darken it, then washed it to lighten it again slightly before ironing to heat set it.  I then 'amputated' the arms and legs so I could add some armature wire as I thought this would make it easier for the elf to get up to all his elf-related activities.  I decided to transplant/create a new set of legs as I wanted to give the elf proper curly toed shoes.  I wish now that I'd taken photos all the way through the transformation but sadly I didn't think of it, so I just have a few photos to share with you...  here are the old legs alongside the new ones.

I've never actually designed elf shoes before, but then I haven't designed elf clothes - or any other type of clothes before, but I have a book - "Just Like Me Knits" by Brandy Fortune - that gives some great hints on pattern making for dolls.  It has some great sewing and knitting patterns for dolls too but sadly I'm pretty useless at knitting, so those patterns currently remain untried.  Below is a photo of the original clothes...

I was lucky with the elf trousers as I've made a couple of rag dolls in recent months and I was able to adapt the bloomers pattern to make a pair of trousers with a slightly tapered leg, that amazingly fit without alteration.  The jacket I decided to design from scratch, based on the doll's measurements, as the Elf is a slightly different shape to the rag dolls I've made, I kept the shape simple but I still think I owe Brandy a BIG "Thank You" for all the tips in her book, as the jacket was a pretty good fit too - I just had to adjust  the neck opening but as I was using felt, this was a simple matter of trimming to get a better shape.  Here's a photo of Mabel, the rag doll I made recently, who is rather cheekily flashing her bloomers...  it's surprising how many people have a sneaky look at her bloomers when they meet her so she decided to show them off for everyone to see!

The hat was straightforward as I've made a couple of clown hats for my bears before - I just had to make the pattern bigger - a LOT bigger!  I decided to finish the hat off with a bell, none of the bells in my stash was big enough, but Clare from The Summerhouse By The Sea, had a great suggestion and I'd like to thank my cat for donating a bell from one of his toys (I've since replaced it - also thanks to Clare x)  Here is a photo of the finished Elf...

It's really nice to have something ticked off my To-Do list, which seems to have grown lately instead of getting shorter, which is quite scary when it feels as though Christmas is approaching at breakneck speed!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A Busy Year - Why I've Been Away So Long...

I don't write a post for MONTHS, then suddenly two posts come along - a bit like buses - I thought it might be a good idea to explain why I've been quiet for so long.  Little did I know when I wrote that post in March, that within a matter days, I was going to be offered the chance to move at VERY short notice!

I've been trying to move for 16 years so you would have thought I'd have been ready for the opportunity - but no - despite having a bit of a de-clutter every now and again, I was completely unprepared, especially when I only had a couple of weeks between being offered a new home and moving in.

I'd lived in my old two bedroom flat with large loft space for over 22 years, so despite finding the loft difficult to access myself, that didn't stop others from popping boxes up there for me over the years and of course it all had to come down and be sorted through - sigh.

My new home is a lovely one bedroom flat with level access, so while I miss the extra bedroom/craft room as a place to store my crafting stash, I'd rarely actually crafted in there, preferring instead to craft in the living room... and here my new living space is noticeably bigger.

My cat on the other hand has had "issues" since we moved and the only way of keeping him chilled out seems to be a constant supply of Feliway - you really don't want to know what happens if I forget to buy a new refill for the diffuser!

 It didn't take Marley too long to discover which cupboard contained the cat food!

Life is very different for both of us here, there's a lot more activity going on around us than we're used to, and while I'm enjoying the sense of feeling more connected to the world, Marley doesn't seem to appreciate it as much - he hates dogs with a passion so I don't suppose being able to watch them trot along with their owners, probably no more than 12-15 feet from our window, is likely to do much for his peace of mind; and watching me occasionally fuss said dogs on my way in or out isn't likely to help either.  But he's gradually learning to cope and he seems enjoy having little conversations with neighbourhood cats, especially Milly Mogs from next door, who is a very pretty tortoiseshell.

I made Marley some extra hidey holes on the advice of the vet

The one thing I'd hoped for when I moved was my own garden, I would have loved a little outside space all to myself but it wasn't to be, but I am lucky enough that there is a flower bed under my front window and I've bought some spring bulbs to plant in there when I'm feeling up to it... and when I have a trowel to dig with - I forgot that when I bought the bulbs!  I was so excited when the first flower bloomed in the garden a few months ago - I have no idea what it was but it was very pretty...

We've had a few hiccups since we moved - including two months without a cooker, phone or internet but the move has been a good thing.  However none of it would have been possible without the help of my family and friends, who pitched in to help with the loft emptying, packing and unpacking and who all deserve the biggest Thank You!

I also had a great removal crew who put up curtain rails and curtains for me before they left; and a couple of helpful charity organisations came and collected surplus belongings, Freegle came in very useful for this too.  It was very sad to say goodbye to the great neighbours I'd known for many years but I'm happy to say we're still in touch and I'm lucky enough to have already made some lovely new friends from among my new neighbours.

It's funny how some of the silliest little things have made the biggest difference - being able to put the rubbish out without worrying about stairs; a kitchen where I don't have to stand at a funny angle at the sink, a shower attachment over the bath, and even a pretty flower in the garden (well flower bed).  Now I just need to unpack those last few boxes... and buy a trowel for those spring bulbs  :)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Bear Facts

Anyone who's read my blog will know that I love making miniature teddy bears.  They tend to be made intermittently depending on how well my hands are working.  I set myself a quota of at least 12 bears this year and even with everything else thats been going on, I've already achieved my goal, which has made me very happy!

I make my bears mainly for friends and family and usually have a number of people sitting patiently on my "Teddy To Do List".  When people reach the top of my list and if it's not a surprise gift, I often get asked the same questions, so this blog post is being written to address some of those queries.

Funnily enough I find miniature bears easier to sew than large ones - my left hand doesn't work as well as my right, so the smaller pieces are easier to hold than bigger bear bits and I can turn the small cotter pins I use for the neck joints, where I find the large ones impossible.  I also enjoy the challenge of working at this small scale.  I like to make sure my bears are as good as I can possibly make them so they are all hand sewn with extra strong thread and a lot of love.

I currently use three types of fabric for the main body of my bears.  All are made from synthetic fibres, as is the Ultrasuede fabric I use for the paws.  I use one basic teddy pattern which has a very traditional look and creates a bear who is approximately 8cm (3 1/4 inches) tall.  I have plans to create kitty and bunny patterns in the future, I just haven't got around to the drawing stage yet - thats on another To Do List.

1.  Cashmere
This fabric has the shortest pile but has a very touchable, soft and velvety feel, and it usually comes in a huge variety of colours...

Percy & Milly (made for a Hello Kitty fan) are both made from cashmere 

2.  English Velvet
I can't source this fabric anywhere at the moment.  I was lucky enough to be able to buy a small batch of this fabric a couple of years ago from a supplier who was retiring.  It has a longer pile than the cashmere and a slightly bristlier texture, though still very stroke-able.  I have much more limited colours in this, mainly natural browns and beiges, some slightly more golden shades, plus a green, a blue and a rose pink...

William & Raphael are both made from English velvet

3.  Sassy
This has the longest pile I currently work with.  It was developed in America specifically for miniature bears, it comes three types - frosty; long pile; and smoky - and a wide range of colours.

Bai & Clarabelle are both made from Sassy long pile

Frosted Sassy has a lot of colour in the base fabric but very little in the actual fur - Bai's arms, legs and ears are made from frosted fabric although as she's quite a light colour, the effect isn't too noticeable in her photo.  All coloured Sassy fabrics have been hand dyed (not by me - at least not yet...), except the white long pile and the natural grey smokey.

Sassy smokey has a dark base fabric which gives a different look, in the photo below you can see two bears - Pumpkin, who is made from cashmere and Greta, who is made from Sassy smoky, so its a good photo to see the differences in the different types of fabric...

I make a rule of never combining different types of fabric, but of course I do on occasion break my own rules - I was lucky with Sidney that it worked out, but I don't generally recommend mixing like this...

Sidney is made from a mixture of a leopard printed cashmere and an English velvet like fabric, both of which I don't seem to be able to find anymore, though I currently have a few remnants left.  And once in a while, I'll pick up a different piece of fabric, like I used for Herbert here...

I hope this post will help my friends to choose their new teddy bear friends.  At some point I'll do another post with some of the fabric colours I have in my stash and add a link on here.  If anyone has anymore questions, please feel free to ask.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Send A Little Love Swap

Taking part in a blog swap was one of my new things to try for this year and despite a few e-mail hiccups that meant my parcel was sent out a little later than planned, I really enjoying taking part and would love to do this again.

I heard about the swap I took part in on Mad About Bags.  It was lovely to get to know someone new - I was partnered with Jill from Love to Craft was was a lot more expert at putting together a themed swap than me!  I can't add in any photos of what I sent because I forget to take pictures before I parcelled everything up - hopefully I'll do better next time - including blogging about it much sooner too!

Anyway, the brief was to put together a parcel that included the following:

"Something heart shaped or themed
Something deliciously edible
Something handmade
Something red"

Jill did an amazing job of fulfilling the brief with lots of heart themed items...

Who wouldn't love getting an exciting parcel like this?

Especially when it's wrapped in giant bubble wrap?  Pop... pop... pop!  Yes - I admit I'm addicted to the stuff!    :)  :)  :)

And all these lovely co-ordinated parcels were inside  :)

A pretty heart shaped tin containing a heart shaped soap - mimosa and pomegranate - it smells lovely!  :)

Some pretty heart shaped post-it notes - they even match really well with the glass chopping board in my kitchen  :)

A wonderful heart shaped mirror - great timing as my son 'borrowed' my old compact mirror, I haven't seen it for some time!

I haven't eaten any of these for YEARS and I confess they've already gone!  :)

These have all gone too - they were absolutely delicious!  :)

Look at this pretty necklace - the pendant is made of glass.  I have no idea how they managed to get all those colourful glass pieces inside but I love it!  :)

Nail varnish containing hundreds and hundreds of teeny-tiny shiny red hearts - how cool is that?  :)

A fantastically glittery purse/pencil case - it's going to make my crafting pens much easier to find... you wouldn't believe how long it took me to find a black fabric pen on a dark green carpet after my cat knocked it off the table and it rolled (or was pushed by a playful paw) under my sofa - never again!  :)

I haven't decided how I'm going to use this great ribbon yet, I'll have to think up a nice new project to work on once I've finished my current WIP's  :)

Last but not least - a very cute and comfy (I know because I've already worn them) pair of socks - hearts and birdies - so much more exciting than the plain white socks I usually wear  :)

Included with the parcel was this beautiful card.  :)

Jill must have put an awful lot of thought and effort into gathering together all these wonderfully well themed and thought about gifts - a HUGE Thank You Jill, it brightened my day when your parcel arrived, it continues to make me smile whenever I see or use one of the items and I think they will continue to brighten my days for a long time to come.