Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Seriously Playing - Part One

Postcard from Jane

Recently I have been doing some serious playing. Well, there's no point playing if you're not going to do it seriously, is there? Let me start by explaining why I've been spending time playing.

Postcards from Sheila and Irene

At the end of last year I received handmade postcards from several members of the Be Creative group that I belong to. They had decided to send me some postcards because of the health problems I was having. I had no idea that I had been chosen until the cards began to arrive: it gave me such a thrill to know that they wanted to send them to me! All of the postcards were beautiful and graced our mantle shelf until just a couple of weeks ago. 

Postcard from Liz
Postcards from Wendy and Jan

In fact, they are so beautiful that I decided they needed to be stored in a special box: the trouble was, I didn't have a special box! "Aha!" thought I, " I'll make one". I had seen a photograph of an exquisite box posted on Facebook by one of the group members which was what had gave me the idea. The next step was to figure out how to make something even vaguely similar.

Bits and pieces to play with

I must stress, at this stage, that I have no real idea of how to achieve what I am after. It has taken me since the beginning of the year to figure out how to event start, but start I have. I knew that I needed to create some sort of material or fabric that I could use to form the outside of the box and that I wanted to burn some of the fabrics that made up that material.

More bits and pieces
I began by gathering together all sorts of odds and ends so that I could build up to create something fairly firm. Some of the things I grabbed were: painted pages from an old book;  torn out pages from magazines; coloured papers from my stash; scraps of handmade papers; cellophane sweet wrappers; plastic 'foil' wrappers; paint colour chips; damaged used postage stamps; scraps of fabric, lace, yarn and ribbon. I also used some fabric from my stash as a backing [I don't know what type of fabric it is but always describe it as something like a cross between canvas and calico] and some organza.

Starting to cover the fabric

The first step was to cover the backing fabric with torn pieces of the papers. The main colours I was using were blues, reds and purples, but I wasn't restricting myself to only those: I knew I needed to add some flashes of contrast. I used small dabs of stick glue on the reverse of the papers so that they would hold in place.

The first layer is complete
When I had completely covered the backing, I began to add a second layer using the other scraps I had pulled together. At this stage, I decided that I wanted to just roughly cover the first layer: it would not matter if the first layer showed through in places.

I covered the entire piece with a single layer of organza and took it carefully to the sewing machine. This was a delicate operation as I had constructed the piece in my craft room, upstairs, and had to carry it to my sewing machine, downstairs! I lightly stitched all over my fabric, using freehand embroidery. The idea was merely to hold everything roughly in place.

The lightly-stitched second layer

The next stage involved added a third layer of scraps, again, just roughly covering what was already in place. I added another layer of organza and took it to the sewing machine.

My completed first piece

This time I stippled the fabric closely all over. As you can see organza plus the stippling has muted the pieces beneath which, I think, helps to blend everything into one visually cohesive fabric. Another benefit of the close stippling was to create a reasonably firm material to use in the creation of a box.

In Part Two I will tell you more about this piece and those that followed.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

They Say That Confession Is Good For The Soul...

Buttons, pretty buttons

It is said that confession is good for the soul. I'm not sure how true that saying is: certainly, as a child, it didn't feel very good which is why I would shy away from it. However, I thought that today I would be exceedingly brave and make a confession.

There are some people, especially including Lilian, who won't be in the least surprised by what I am about to confess to, but if you are easily shocked you may find it helpful to be seated in a comfortable chair with some smelling salts to hand. You think I'm joking, don't you? Well, I am actually being semi-serious. Read on and you will discover why...

Today I am going to reveal my button stash to you. Now, I have quite a lot of buttons - I say "quite a lot" because I know someone who bought several boxes of buttons from a charity shop amounting to something like 14,000 buttons. Yes, 14,000!

So, here goes:

Yellow, green, beige and plain wooden buttons

The first thing you will see is that almost all of my buttons have been sorted. I began by sorting into colours.

Black, grey and silver buttons

The next thing you will notice is that they have also been sorted by size. I promise that I am not one of those people who has everything organised to within an inch of its life - honestly! It was simply that, given the number of compartments in the storage boxes, it made sense to have each section for a particular type of button - and size seemed the most sensible.

White, brown, novelty, leather, vintage
and handmade buttons
Then, of course, there are those where there are insufficient to devote a whole compartment to them. Which other types to put them with? Oh, the dilemma! I can tell you, that particular question gave me more than a few headaches!

Various blues plus teal buttons

And we mustn't forget the blues... My goodness, how do there get to be so many different shades of blue? Oh, is this one blue or teal?

Purple, pink, salmon and red buttons,
plus patterned wooden ones
and other odds

Our finale leads us to the purples, pinks, salmons and reds, with a short detour to the patterned wooden buttons and some other odds and ends.

There are a few more buttons which I haven't shown you. That isn't because I'm hiding them from you. It's more that they are hiding themselves from me! I did a bit of reorganising in my craft room a while back and I can't remember where I put them! Oops! 

I hope you have enjoyed this look at my button stash. Who knows, perhaps it helps you feel better about your own stash!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Yes, You're Right!

Have you guessed what the title of this post means?

I have been doing more knitting since my last post. I wanted to finish the bag of teal and blue coloured odds and ends of yarn so I continued knitting hats. Do you know, it's amazing how many children's hats can be made from one medium-sized bag of odds and ends of yarn?

Three more hats for Syrian children and...
A pair of bootees!

Yes, I managed to make another three hats from that bag! I have to admit to having added another couple of scraps to the bag but I still have quite a lot left in the bag.

A peep inside my scraps bag!

The photo above is a peep into the bag of teal-themed scraps to see what remains. The picture below gives an idea of the size the bag is - it has held all of the odds and ends I used. It is next to my iPad to give an idea of scale.

You can see that the scrap bag
wasn't huge!

The two balls I added are the multicoloured ball at the top and the one on the left of the photo. I have decided to make something other than hats with these remaining balls. I can't tell you what it is at the moment: not because it's a secret, but because I can't remember what I decided upon! Oh, dear!

The knitting continued but, this time, I knitted a new pattern which I had seen on this blog. Marianna has designed lots of patterns which may be used when knitting for charity. This is such a cute dress and I like the fact that the pattern calls for it to be knitted all-in-one - woohoo, not much sewing up!

Two all-in-one knitted dresses
Recently I have taken to knitting items on circular needles. I don't do it because the pattern calls for circular needles, but rather because, when using it, one is less likely to dig others in the ribs whilst knitting. So, with circular needle in hand, I embarked on knitting the dress. When I had skimmed through the pattern I couldn't understand how the armholes were made and that kept bothering me whilst I was knitting. In the end, I needn't have worried as they are simple to do. The next row was the where my circular needle came into its own. It was the perfect length for me to knit the skirt of the dress in the round! Result! Considerably less sewing up. In the end, all I had to do was sew in the ends, stitch on two buttons and neaten the bottom of the button bands. It is so easy to knit that, if I have 80-100gm of Double Knitting lying about at any time, I shall probably knit another.

Bootees knitted with leftover yarn

When I was knitting the multicolour dress I was worried that I wouldn't have enough yarn to finish so I decided to add some cream stripes. I think the cream works well with the colours in the yarn. I also think it was the right decision as there wasn't much of the multicolour yarn left when the dress was completed. However, I did have enough to make the cute little pair of bootees shown above. I made them a couple of row longer than the pattern said, but I don't really know why. I'm afraid I cannot tell you where I sourced the pattern except to say that it was online and free.

I'm sure it won't surprise any of you to hear that all of the above items will be given to Syria Relief to be taken to children in Syria.

As for me, I shall be continuing to work on reducing my stash. Well, every ball or scrap helps, doesn't it?

Sunday, 1 February 2015

This Is Not Going Where You Might Think!

Life has been 'interesting' over the last few months. Now, 'interesting' can mean all sorts of things, can't it? Certainly, I am using it in different ways.

In the distant past, namely last August, I became ill and the after-effects of the illness dragged on in such a way that it was difficult to find the energy to do crafting of any sort. What little I managed between August and the end of 2014 I have shared on here. However, it wasn't merely fatigue that has prevented me from crafting. Oh no! Peter and I have been away on holiday enjoying ourselves. Well, when I say 'holiday' I should really add an 's' on the end as we have been bobbing in and out of home for a day or two in between our various trips.

Assorted pink hats for Syrian children

I haven't been wasting my time on all of the holidays, honestly. When we went to Scotland on a coach trip I knitted these four pink hats for Syrian children. I used a bag of odds and ends of leftover yarn to make them. As usual, I didn't use a pattern, I simply looked at my knitting and guessed!

The fifth and final pink hat from oddments

The hat above was the fifth hat that I made from the bag of pink oddments. I'm still trying to figure out how I ended up with so many oddments of different colours and shades!

Hats for older Syrian children made
 using recycled yarn

Some time ago I took my granddaughter, Sweetie Pie, to a children's workshop at the museum in Rawtenstall, Lancashire. The aim of the workshop was to show some different ways in which yarn could be used. Sweetie Pie [not her real name!] and I each had a go on a peg loom and both enjoyed it immensely. Sweetie Pie decided to use her finished piece as a rug in her bedroom but I didn't ever think of a way to use my piece. When I was looking in our box room my eyes alighted on the woven piece and, thinking of my aim of reducing my stash this year, I decided to reuse the yarn from the weaving for another project. I really liked the maroon and teal together. Not only that but I had used some beautifully soft yarns when I was weaving. The yarns were of varying thicknesses so I decided to use them to make some hats for older Syrian children. I am pleased with how each of them turned out.

More hats for Syria, this time
in teal and blue

Having finished the bag of pink oddments, I decided to take the teal and blue odds and ends when Peter and I travelled to Donegal for a few days. Again, we had a long coach journey in each direction. It is easy to become bored on a coach journey so I always take things with me that I can do on the coach. Making hats is ideal as I don't need to refer to a pattern. Also, I don't do the finishing off whilst on holiday due to all the bits and pieces that are needed and which can easily be lost on a coach. So... hats it is! This time I managed to knit five hats of varying sizes. Five hats from one fairly small bag [not even half the size of a carrier bag] of odds and ends - and there's still enough yarn for another three or four hats! How many half-finished balls of yarn can there be in the world!

Aha! This one's not going where you think!

Now, this is the one I was referring to in the title of this post. As you can see it is a cream jumper. I have knitted it for my grandson, Treasure, or, if it's too small, it will be for my other grandson, Precious [again, not their real names!]. So, unusually, this jumper is not going to Syria. Instead it is going to one of my gorgeous grandsons!

In case you haven't read my blog before, the items that I make for Syrian children are all given to a Manchester-based charity called Syria Relief. The charity transports donated goods directly to Syria, where they are distributed. As well as accepting goods, Syria Relief welcome cash donations: you may even choose which project you would like your money allocated to. If you would like to donate cash, this link will take you directly to the relevant page on their website. If you would like to donate goods, you may telephone Syria Relief on 0161 860 0163.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

I'm Going To Let You Into A Little Secret

Today I've been to Derry, formerly also known as Londonderry, and I have to admit to being very pleasantly surprised at what I found there.

I only recently learnt that it is a walled city, not only that, but it is regarded as among the best preserved walled cities in Europe. Isn't that surprising? Well, to someone of my generation or older, it may well be a surprise because of memories of the Troubles. It also boasts a stunning Guildhall: the architecture and stained glass were amazingly beautiful. You must visit Derry and whilst you're there, you must go inside the Guildhall.

The other place you must visit while you're in Derry is the Craft Village just off Shipquay Street. It is a selection of mainly independent shops and cafes. We began our visit with a light lunch in Mollie's Cafe. We were given a friendly welcome and upon asking for a scone I was offered "fruit, plain, or helicopter". My brain was on a go-slow so I had to ask for an explanation. ** I asked a chap in Mollie's to point me in the direction of the best artisan/craft shops in the Village. He said I should go into Craft Village Collective and Walled City Crafters. Both stores sell goods made by local crafters.

I went first to Walled City Crafters and was immediately warmly greeted by a lovely lady who was keeping a watchful eye on the window display whilst a young woman was adding items to the display. Unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me so I can't show all the lovely items that were on show. I saw a beautiful pair of diamond-shaped pendant earrings which made me wish I didn't have an allergy which turns my ears into beaming red beacons if I dare to wear earrings of any type.

There was a variety of craft items displayed in the window and it certainly enticed me into the shop. The first thing I noticed as I entered the shop, apart from the welcome, was how bright and clean it was. The lighting in the store seemed to highlight the quality of the hand-crafted pieces.

My eyes fell upon some gorgeous hand-woven woollen scarves and wraps. Interesting colours were used in each scarf and they complemented each other beautifully. The prices being asked for them were extremely reasonable, as were all of the prices that I saw in the shop. I think this is because the shop is run on a non-profit basis in order that the crafters receive a reasonable sum or their labours.

Some of the loveliness for sale included ceramic brooches, handmade make-up bags, miniature wire sculpture pictures, decorative glass plaques, jewellery, soap, keyrings and fabric brooches. There was a wonderful range of crafts with prices to suit all pockets.

I bought three things whilst I was in there: a ceramic brooch for myself made by Michelle 
Butler Ceramics, some soap from The Pink House Company and a pretty decorated box. I don't know who made the box and, as it was so carefully wrapped in the shop for me, to protect it during my homeward journey, I don't want to unwrap it!

I am so pleased to have found Walled City Crafters. It is a fabulous shop, with beautiful items at good prices. It's a secret I am happy to share because I really hope that the shop and its makers have a successful future. Please, please support them if you visit Derry.

As for the second shop that was recommended, when I went there it was unexpectedly closed for a short while and I didn't have time to return later. I shall have to hope that I visit Derry again very soon.

** Plain = plane so 'helicopter' is simply a play on words. Corny, but fun.

Monday, 19 January 2015

A Little Of What You Fancy

Peter and I have been on a little holiday to Scotland. We like going on holiday, especially to Scotland and even more especially when it's cheap - and this one fulfilled all of those criteria. So, we decided to have a little of what we fancied, and booked it. It was a coach holiday up to Fort William and we had to leave home by taxi early on Monday morning in order to board the coach in our nearest town.

We had allowed a generous length of time between the time the taxi was booked for and the scheduled arrival of the coach as we have previously had problems due to the late arrival of a taxi. Consequently, on Monday morning, I found myself sitting knitting in the bus station... at 6.45 in the morning! Well, I wasn't going to sit and do nothing, was I? 

Have yarn, will travel

For my holiday crafting I had decided to take some knitting yarn oddments and ends of balls that had mysteriously appeared in my stash. Well, actually what had happened was that I had brought home some weaving boards that I had left in the cupboard at our Friday craft group. Whilst emptying the bag at home, I came across quite a bagful of yarn odds and ends that I had forgotten about. I sorted them roughly into colour groups and grabbed the bag of 'pinks' to take with me.

Some of the contents of the 'pink' bag

As you can see from the photo, 'pink' covers a multitude of shades, which doesn't matter. To use up the scraps, I had decided to knit hats for children in Syria. These oddments are perfect for the job as each hat ends up in a different variety of shades, making them unique.

The perfect colours for this project

During our few days away, I did a little knitting. I certainly wasn't knitting at my usual speed - I think my hands were on a "go slow" - but I was enjoying using the colour combinations. During a wander around Fort William, I was nosing around a charity shop (well, it would be rude not to, wouldn't it?) and found this beautifully soft ball of yarn in the perfect combination of colours for my hats. [In case you are wondering, the thickness of the yarn doesn't matter for the hats I knit.] Well, obviously I had to buy it, didn't I? I know I said I wouldn't buy or add to my stashes, but I am proposing to knit all of the 'pink' bag in the next couple of weeks or so.

The results of my labours

It took me several days to complete my first hat, last week. I just couldn't believe how long it took! Mind you, I was suffering poor health for much of the week, which was making knitting difficult. However, come Thursday evening my needles were clicking considerably faster and between then and Friday evening I knitted three more hats. I have spent much of this weekend sewing in ends of yarn as my wrists and hands wouldn't allow me to knit them in as I went. Fancy a boring job? Sew in the yarn ends on four hats that have been made of oddments! 

It won't come as any surprise to my regular readers to hear that these hats have been made for Syrian children. I shall take the hats along to Syria Relief, along with other items, and they will transport them to Syria.

I still have some of the 'pink' bag left so there are likely to be a few more hats appearing out of it. Hold on, though, shouldn't it be the hats that things appear out of?

Sunday, 11 January 2015

More Getting Things Done

In November I took delivery of Cherry, my lovely new Brother NV1250D sewing machine. Although I have had it for several weeks I have come across two difficulties with it. Peter suggested that I contact the dealer but I, very patiently, explained to him that the dealer would not be able to help. Actually, neither would Brother.

The Brother NV1250D

The two problems are going to take a bit of solving. The first problem is that I haven't had much time to use the machine! It's terribly frustrating! I had to wait six very long weeks for the machine to arrive and, by the time it did, life was getting hectic. Only about 10 days after its arrival there was a trip to visit my mother. Then, just four days after returning, we left for our amazing trip to Antarctica. When we arrived home it was a few days prior to Christmas so I was busy wrapping presents and all that sort of stuff. Move on a couple of days from Christmas and I was attacked by the cold that Peter had decided to share with me! So you can see the difficulties I have been facing regarding finding enough playtime.

The second problem is more of a physical problem, well, I suppose you could say it's two physical problems. In order to send the machine for servicing or (*whispering) repair, it has to be returned in its original packaging. That's fine, except...

The box is humungously ginormous. I mean, it's B-I-G.

It's so big it won't fit through the loft hatch. Argh! That means I have to find somewhere to store it, where it won't come to harm. At the moment, it is sitting on our landing, outside the door to my craft room,

and it's in the way!

No, of course there isn't room for it in my craft room. What a ridiculous idea! That means it will have to be kept in the appropriately named Box Room.

Ideal. That's where we keep all sorts of Stuff, with a capital "st". The only problem is that it already has lots of Stuff in there. Aha! Now we get to the part that the title of this post refers to! I need to clear some space in the box room and, to do that, I am working my way through various piles of Stuff and, whilst doing so, I found a couple of pillowcase dresses that I made a short while ago. *Lightbulb moment. Make the other pillowcases in the pile into dresses then I can post them off in the box that I have been keeping specifically for that purposes. So, that's what I have done.

Two freshly-made pillowcase dresses

Et, voila. Two pillowcase dresses, ready for posting to Dress A Girl Around The World.

Hmm. That's created another problem. The dresses don't fill the box, so I'll need to find some more fabric I can use to make two or three more dresses. *sigh.