Saturday, 14 March 2015

A Quick Flash

I thought yesterday was Friday 13th but it has seemed more like today was! 

I tried to type this post this morning but, for some reason, the page would not load. I also encountered problems when I was attempting to upload some photographs. Consequently I could not prepare this post until now (8.45pm) so I'm afraid, through necessity, this post will be just a quick flash of what I have been doing recently.

There isn't even a photograph of my first two creative projects! My two grandsons put in a special request for soft, snuggly, bobbly scarves for each of them. They were playing with my soft, snuggly, bobbly scarf one day which was what prompted the request. This week the yarn arrived so I knitted a red one for my Treasure and a jade green one for my Precious.

Bunting decorating the bed

For my Sweetie Pie I made something for her bedroom in my son's new house. She has always loved pink so I decided to make some pink bunting to drape along her new bed.

Bunting brightening the bedroom

As you can see, her bedroom is plainly decorated at the moment. However, I think the bunting adds brightness to the room.

Bunny, bear and bunting
I could have made the bunting slightly longer but I think if it had been it would irritate her head if it happened to brush it during the night.

Fabric and free machine embroidery
I have also been having fun making some cards using fabric and free machine embroidery. The card above is the one I gave to my son and his family wishing them happiness in their new home.

One fat heffalump

I am a member of a sewing group and we have all been making stuffed elephants. The one in the photograph is my effort - 'effort' being the operative word! It was not a pleasurable project to make.

Nellie the Patchwork Elephant

The design was in a recent Woman's Weekly craft magazine. The instructions didn't give any indication of the completed size. I think we were all surprised by how large it ended up!

Here's lookin' at you!

Not only that, but it just seemed to eat stuffing! I used more than a complete cushion pad of stuffing to fill Nellie! That's an awful lot of stuffing - and an incredible amount of pushing and prodding to get it evenly distributed.

Never again!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Easter Eggs On The Menu

A non-fattening Buttons Egg!

I was trawling through my newsfeed on Facebook on Friday evening when I came across a comment by a friend whom I met through the Friendly Elks group*. The post Susan had commented on was about a workshop taking place the following day (yesterday), on which there were places available. Now, at this point, there are two things about me you should know: the first being that I love going to workshops, and the second that I can sometimes be a bit of an opportunist. Family and friends may not agree with how I have qualified that last statement - ha ha ha!

"Aha!" thought I, "an interesting situation may be developing here!" (Can you guess where this is going, yet? No, I thought not!)

I searched around on Facebook, typing comments in several places that looked promising, asking if there was any possibility that I might attend the workshop. During my snoopings, I discovered that the person hosting the workshop, Lynn Holland**, is also a member of the Be Creative group on Facebook. (There are well over 700 members of the group now, so I hope I may be forgiven for failing to immediately recognise her name.) I was hoping that the Be Creative link would help to elbow me in to the workshop. Whoopee! Something worked because, shortly after posting all the comments, I received a message from Lynn. After a quick telephone call my place was confirmed.

In the very early hours of yesterday morning, I set off for "the end of the world", otherwise known as Whitworth. Whitworth is rather like the end of the world because it is poked away in a locked cupboard in the farthest reaches of the attic of the House of Lancaster. It feels extremely remote and isolated from Preston, the administrative centre of Lancashire. Most Whitworth people would be more likely to identify with Rochdale than Preston and, certainly, many of them feel that Whitworth is neglected and virtually forgotten by Lancashire.

Sorry, I seem to have wandered off at a bit of a tangent, for a while!

When I arrived at Lynn's home I couldn't have asked, or expected, such a warm welcome. It was a delightful start to the day. She took me on a quick tour of her lovely home, including her workroom, which I fell in love with. There is a huge picture window overlooking the Rossendale landscape - beautiful! Several of her textile pieces were in the workroom and I was immediately taken with them - lots of vintage textiles and embroidery.

The tour ended in Lynn's sitting room where there are breathtaking views across Rossendale, Manchester and beyond. After catching my breath, I met Sally, who would also be doing the workshop. We were joined a little later by Rose and Gail.

Lots of different colours were chosen -
photograph courtesy of Lynn Holland

The workshop itself was centred on Easter crafts. The first thing the four of us made was a button-covered easter egg. Lynn had set out a gorgeous array of buttons, ribbons and trimmings that we could use. Predictably, I chose a purple/pink colour scheme. Rose settled on yellow/green which, as you can see, looked very Spring-like; Gail decided on blue and white, which looks wonderfully fresh; and Sally chose the stunning red/black combination.

After lunch, which included delicious homemade cake, we each made some Easter cards:

Photo courtesy of Lynn Holland

Photo courtesy of Lynn Holland

Photo courtesy of Lynn Holland

At the end of the workshop, Lynn gave each of us an Easter goodie bag to carry home our makes.

Easter Goodie Bag

I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and meeting such lovely people. There's something special about being with like-minded people, isn't there?

The egg I created -
photo courtesy of Lynn Holland

* The Friendly Elks are a group of us who knit and sew for charity. We meet, usually once a month, at Annie Peaches Tearoom which is located in Lamberts Mill in Rawtenstall.

** If you would like to see some of Lynn's work, her blog can be found HERE.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Watch Out For London Buses!

Phew! Posts on this blog are just like London buses, aren't they? You wait ages for one and then three come along in quick succession!

Dresses for Syrian babies

In February, I posted about having knitted the two dresses in the photo above. I was sending them to Syria Relief for babies in Syria.

I found the pattern for the dresses on Marianna's Lazy Daisy Days. It is a free download for use when knitting for charity. It is knitted from the top down and is quick and simple to make. Having said that, I did become confused about the sleeves when I looked through the pattern initially. However, it is much simpler just to knit and trust that Marianna knows what she is doing - she does!

Dresses numbers 3. and 4.

I really enjoy knitting this pattern as there seems to be a lot of result for surprisingly little effort. I finished the two in the picture above, last week and have just sewn on the two buttons that each needs. As you can see , I have been using odds and ends of balls to make them (I'm trying to clear them from my stash). I am not overly concerned about the depth of the stripes as I rather like them  when they vary in size.

Since finishing numbers 3 and 4, I have also completed number 5, although I have not yet sewn any buttons on. In addition, I have dress number 6 on my needles. I'm not sure how this one will turn out as I made a miscalculation of the amount of yarn I had. Also, I changed my mind about using one of the yarns I had chosen as it contains mohair and has a sparkly thread running through it. I think number 6 may be a little unusual in appearance!

Watch this space!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Seriously Playing - Part Two

My first experimental piece

This was where we were at the end of my last post. I had finished stitching my first experimental piece of fabric. The next stage was to blast it with my heat gun to burn back some of the fibres.

First experimental piece after
blasting with a heat gun

I was very disappointed with the results after I had blasted it with the heat gun. Hardly any of the fabric had been burnt back. My theory is that the lack of burn back was due to the closeness of the stippled stitching: I think there was insufficient room for the heat to build up and/or for the fabric to burn back. In view of that theory, I began work on my second and third attempts.

As with my first play session, I laid a background of papers and topped it with a layer of fabric scraps, ribbon and so on. I lay a piece of organza across the prepared piece and trotted down to the sewing machine. I did just enough free motion stitching to ensure all loose pieces were lightly caught.

Second piece after being
lightly stitched

I blasted the stitched piece with the heat gun. This time the fabric burned back more successfully, which seemed to confirm my theory about the heavy stitching preventing burn back on my first piece.

Result of burning back the
second experimental piece

Although I was happy with the result of the heating process, the piece of fabric lacked any 'body' or stiffness. Accordingly, I lay more papers, fabrics and bits and pieces across it. One ingredient I have omitted to tell you I have used throughout this entire playtime was scraps of painted Tyvek fabric, some of which I included at this stage.

During preparation of the second
stage of the second piece

At this stage, I dug out some sparkly gold cord [or yarn, I'm not sure exactly what it is!] and threw some chopped up lengths on the piece. When I was happy with how it looked, I placed a piece of organza over it and secured it in place. Woohoo! After having struggled carefully between my craft room and my sewing machine several times, I had a brainwave! Humungous paperclips!

Can you see the huge paperclips
around the edges?

Is this girl brilliant? Or is this girl brilliant? The huge paperclips work a treat! They held the edges together along their entire length of 7 cm, so they really were ultra-useful. Also, I was able to stitch fairly close to them which meant I wasn't struggling to keep all the bits and pieces in place. I kept the stitching to a minimum on this layer, also, because of wanting to be able to burn fibres back.

My second piece after being blasted
by the heat gun

This is how the second piece looks after stitching and burning back. It has a very different appearance and character to my first experimental piece.

Detail showing result of light
stitching and heating

An edge of the second piece showing
successful burning back of fabric

As you can see in these two pictures, I was more successful when burning back the fibres on the second piece. A similar result was achieved in my third piece, as you can see below. However, both the second and third pieces are insufficiently firm for me to make a box from them, so it's back to the drawing board!

Results of second and third
experimental pieces

Details of corners of second
and third pieces

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 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 even 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 which I could build up to create a fairly firm piece of 'fabric'. 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 I 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, the 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?