Thursday, 17 January 2019

Bag of Bits

A couple of years ago, one of my friends gave me a giant bag of fabric pieces, mainly samples of upholstery fabric, that I've been storing under my bed ever since.  With the idea of making some space, I finally got around to sorting through and starting to make use of some of them.  I've been thinking about using the pieces to make patchwork bags and spent an enjoyable hour arranging the fabrics by size and colour and having settled on my first project, I started sewing my first bag.  However, once I'd stitched six rectangles together, I had a square that looked like it would also make a great cushion cover, so in the end I stitched 18 rectangles into three squares and made a bag AND a cushion cover, I even found an offcut of linen that looked as though it was left over from a dressmaking project and I used that for the back of the cushion, which I finished off with a couple of porcelain buttons I made last year, so I'm also happy to have found a use for a couple of my buttons too.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Buttons and Beads

I think I've probably been attending pottery classes for about fifteen months now and I'd recommend it to anyone who feels as though life's stresses are getting the better of them as there is something very relaxing about handling clay, we have a great bunch of students and a very talented pottery teacher who tells us some of the funniest stories!  If you've ever watched the brilliant and sadly missed UK tv series "The Great Pottery Throw Down" then you'll already know that making pottery can in itself be quite a funny experience... not that I've tried pulling mug handles myself yet 😉

Like with a number of my other hobbies, I really like working on a small scale and as I already enjoy sewing and making jewellery, button and bead making feel like a very natural pursuit, although I do on occasion tackle bigger projects too.  I'm fascinated by the many different techniques and the different properties of the different types of clay.  I love experimenting and pushing the materials and at the moment I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to fill that clay shaped hole in my life over the summer holidays until I start a very exciting City and Guilds pottery course in September!

In the meantime, I'll leave you with some photos of my latest batch of buttons and beads...

The buttons are all porcelain, which has been rolled out on a number of different materials to produce different textures and the beads at the bottom of the photo have been created by mixing three different types of clay together.  Up close some of them look like little planets.

Friday, 3 August 2018

The Dark Destroyer!

My youngest cat Sirius came to join our little family about five months ago. He can be really sweet and cuddly, and of course like any kitten, he's playful and curious about everything that goes on around him, he also has a strange little habit of wanting to suckle on my right earlobe! He picks his moments carefully - usually when my hands are busy, so I end up trying to complete a task while trying to defend my right ear from a very determined kitten... and I also have no idea why he always goes for my right ear and never the left one...?

His nickname of the Dark Destroyer (or DD for short) was given to him by one of my friends and is actually quite well deserved.  In the last five months since he moved in, he's chewed through three phone charging cables, has knocked my two house plants over more times than I can remember, broken four vases, including a beautiful sea urchin inspired one made for me by my pottery teacher, my paint brushes are now kept in a jam jar instead of a pretty jug and a hare ornament a friend gave me for Christmas is sadly no more.  I'm not even going to count all the things that have bounced, like the dinner plate he knocked off the cooker top earlier today but I am going to mention that he is the chief suspect in the mystery of the disappearing paintbrush bristles.  If anyone can think of a use for a flat brush with just a few remaining bristles on each end, please comment below!

Having said all that, I know his naughtiness is just a phase and one day he will calm down and crafting will become less of a challenge again. On the plus side, my older cat Marley is a lot less stressed about being left if I have to go out, and he has to a certain extent embraced his inner kitten again, which is lovely to see.  I love seeing them curled up sleeping side by side on the sofa which has happened a few times now, though at the moment you're more likely to see them both sprawled out on the floor near the fan in this hot weather, and I love watching them play.

Someone once asked me why I'd named my youngest cat after the Dog Star - my reply was that as a Harry Potter fan, Sirius (Black) was the first name that popped into my head when I met him and it just stuck.  It never occurred to me that I was naming my cat after a dog... but then, there's a certain consistency to that as my son named my older cat after the labrador in the film Marley and Me. 🙂

Thursday, 2 August 2018

A New Look and Raku Pottery

I've decided on a fresh new look for my blog - that red was a bit overwhelming, I hadn't realised it was so long since I last added a post, so it's definitely time for a new one!  I've also recently gone for a new look for myself too - losing my shoulder length hair in favour of a pixie cut, which I have to say feels so much more comfortable in the current warm weather.

Last time I had a drastic hair cut, I donated the surplus hair to the Little Princess Trust, who are a U.K. based charity who make wigs for children with cancer, unfortunately I've developed a few more "silver highlights" in the last few years so I'm not sure how useful the current batch is likely to be, I'm hoping they can use the hair from around the back and I've saved the greyer sides for myself and my pottery class.

I started pottery classes just over a year ago when I was looking for a distraction from a stressful situation, I have to say I find playing with clay very soothing and I love the fact that there is so many new techniques to learn.  This week was the second time I've been involved in a raku firing but the first time I've tried naked raku and horsehair raku, though no horsehair was involved... I used a feather my youngest cat Sirius removed from one of his toys and some of my spare hair.  This is the result...

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...

Saturday, 22 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!