Being bored with this never-ending damp cold weather I decided to bring a little summer cheer into the house.
At Christmas I had muted that I would quite like a terrarium and my son in his own unique way decided that as a small additional gift he would create what must be the smallest terrarium ever. He took an old light bulb, removed the filament and turned a small wooden plug for the lid. he then turned a small stand for it to stand on. At first I thought I would plant it with an air plant but research implied that it would be hard to find an air-plant small enough so I decided to go for a non-living beach effect using a few of the hundred of shells I have collected over the years.
First of all I dried out some sand, leaving it in a dish on the boiler for a week. I added some to the bulb using a paper funnel and it turned out that this was the easiest bit of the operation. Having selected some interesting tiny shells I then tried to place them artistically in the bulb. It quickly turned out that my tweezers were not long enough to manoeuvre the shells so I ended up using chopsticks. Luckily having spent just under 3 weeks in Japan last year I’m not too bad with chop sticks but even they felt clumsy in moving tiny shells around.
Anyway, I don’t think it is too bad an effort for my first attempt. We are now pondering where we could obtain larger used bulbs from which might be a better size for air-plants and small ferns.
It is cold and foggy today, not a day for gardening at all which is good as I need to rest my arm having strained some previously injured tendons a couple of weeks back when I was planted the sorbus in the front garden. I have had two weeks of pain, lots of painkillers, heat pads, and even ultra sound treatment and things are slowly healing. However, resting doesn’t mean just sitting as if I sit too long in an upright position my arm hurts – I need to keep it moving but not do any heavy lifting or daft manoeuvres as I would when I garden. Even embroidering in the evening causes pain at the moment which isn’t frustrating as I’m not very good at doing nothing.
Today I found myself with time on my hands. I thought about reading, more, but I was too restless for that. I needed to do something creative, something that would exercise my mind and to have something to show for my efforts. So I decided to tackle a job I have said I will do for a least a year and make a cover for my ancient Elna sewing machine. I had thought about doing some sort of scrappy patchwork but when I found those two pieces of material in my fabric scraps I knew I wanted to do something simple.
Since last summer I have been slowly converting the spare room into a sewing room. It has been painted white and I have made some multi-coloured spotty curtains so the spotty fabric for the cover will fit in well. I want the room to be colourful and bold as opposed to having a sophisticated subtle colour palette.
Anyway, having done some measuring I cut a template out of some leftover wallpaper, cut out the material and in the matter of an hour had stitched it all together. I went for a very simple approach – two sides and one long strip over the top. The only tricky bit was stitching the corners but they worked out well.
I am pleased with the result but I am more pleased that I have just got on and tackled a project without a pattern or any instructions and making it up as I went along. One of my aspirations for this year is to gain some confidence in making my own clothes. I used to be confident about this in my late teens but for a whole host of reasons I worry about fitting the garments, whether the finished garment will suit me, and whether I will feel confident wearing it so I end up talking myself out of things. I love clothes and like having items that are just a little bit different so I need to get a grip and tackle this in the meantime at least my sewing machine will be tidy!
I am rather pleased with myself for having finished my Christmas sewing projects before Christmas. I did think I was being somewhat optimistic at one point especially when I got distracted for a few weeks with knitting a poncho. I wasn’t too ambitious but I wanted something festive and simple which I could occupy my hands with in the evening without having to concentrate too much. I am really pleased with the little bird photo, he looks like some form of Blue Tit but is actually an American Chickadee, so pretty.
I’ve also done three cards for my nearest and dearest. Seeing them in the photo I realise that I really should have ironed them before mounting them – opps! They are now under a pile of books to try to flatten the fabric but I am sure they will be fine and the creases won’t be so obvious when they are stood up.
Now they are done I can go back to knitting the poncho….
My writing prompt relates back to the poll I put up earlier this week. I am supposed to write something arising out of what readers have asked for. Someone asks for an update on my embroidery project so here goes.
I have been working on the Spring Trellis project since March 2015, actually not as far back I was expecting. The plan is from a book by Hazel Blomkamp called Crewel Twists which gives a modern twist to crewel work. I set out on the project as I wanted to learn how to use beads and also more crewel work techniques.
It’s a large project, probably a bit over ambitious but that’s me. I have one large motif to finish and then the last one in the bottom right hand corner. Then I need to do all the connecting stems and leaves and finally some trellis in the background. I started on the largest motif and I think looking at the last few I have done (top left and then top right) show that my technique is improving.
This is the motif I am working on at the moment although that is not strictly true as I am taking a break from it. I have a hankering to do some Christmas cards and other Christmas decorations and I don’t want to leave it until late November as I did last year which is just too late. So I have got some cross-stitch kits and am having fun undertaking simple embroidery.
This is the image of the one I am working on at the moment but familiarity breeds contempt. I had whizzed along in the evenings and completed most of the bird’s body until I realised that I should have been using double thread and not single. I suppose it doesn’t seem that important but the single thread gives a very pale appearance. Anyway, I spent last night unpicking the whole thing – a good week of evenings work destroyed but I know it’s the right decision. I also have some ideas for Christmas tree decorations which I hope to have time for as well then its back to the Spring Trellis – maybe.
I often have whimsical thoughts that I will make some ornamental delight from autumn leaves or festoon the house with winter foliage and berries for Christmas. But do I ever create these crafty masterpieces? Well No! Of course not! There is never enough time and even if I was to collect winter berries and leaves I am then left wondering how to turn them into the image of a Christmas arrangement that might grace a Victorian masterpiece (seen through a frosted window!) which is in my head.
But Louise Curley has come to my rescue with her new book The Crafted Garden. The book works through the seasons demonstrating a range of crafts that you can do with items from your garden or foraged from hedgerows and there are even items that I think I could do which might give me some encouragement to try something more ambitious.
But before we get carried away Louise starts off with tips about equipment and techniques, the sort of information you really need but don’t realise until you have got in a muddle. There is also advice on foraging and after-care, always useful even if you think you know about these things – I don’t!
We then start with Spring crafts but it is not all about the crafts throughout the book. There are also one page articles on growing various plants; in Spring its primrose and forget-me-nots. The crafts are quite simple and in our season of choice they range from delicate egg shells used as vases, using teacups as planting containers for small spring delights (I saw something similar at Helen Dillon’s garden with lobelia in a cup and saucer and it was really effective), to making pots out of bark. My favourite in this section were the terrariums and I will definitely be having a go at those. Just as there are articles on associated plants to grow throughout the book there are self-contained articles teaching you new techniques such as pressing flowers and also features on key plants/flowers for each season.
The remaining three seasons follow the same format all beautifully illustrated with Jason Ingram’s photographs. The photographs not only show the end product, or close-ups of the plant material used but also some close-ups of items being produced to help you understand what is required. The instructions are written in a simple straightforward format but what makes the book more engaging than a collection of craft instructions is the introductions to each item by Louise written in a chatty and friendly way giving extra tips and advice on alternative material you can use.
The book ends with a comprehensive directory of suppliers of everything from the plants through to the haberdashery and where to find vintage items.
I particularly liked this book because the projects all seemed to be achievable; even with a limited amount of time I think you could achieve the majority of them. I also liked that whilst some of the items had a rustic charm to them there were other items such as the driftwood planter for succulents which would look good in the most modern of homes. Many of the items could also be made with your children if you wanted to but whilst Louise recognises this she hasn’t compromised the book by trying to write for both age ranges.
I would recommend The Crafted Garden to anyone who has aspirations to be more crafty and to use their garden produce in more decorative ways than plonking flowers in a vase – of which I am guilty
I thought I would give you an update on my embroidery progress. I have to admit to not picking it up for a week or so until last night. I have been off colour and you do need to be in the right frame of mind to do this work. But I have found myself wasting more and more time playing games on the iPad in the evening so I decided to re-engage with the sewing. I had spent over a week doing the small colour squares which were quite fiddly and if I am honest I think I could have done them better but I am probably nit picking. Last night I finished the squares and then did the three rows of chain stitch. These need a little bit of embellishment with beads and then I get to repeat the whole colour squared petal on the other side. There are two other areas of coloured squares in the overall design so hopefully by the time I have got to those my stitching will be more consistent.
Now I have picked it up again I am itching to get on with it the only problem is that I am gardening in the early evening so have to spend forever scrubbing my hands before I pick up the embroidery again!!
I haven’t posted about my crafty exploits for a while so I thought an update was due. Having completed the Sheep Pincushion I had started on a beaded scissor case from the same supplier but it was all rather fiddly and for some reason I had fallen out of love with it. I was in that horrid place where you think I really ought to get on with that and then go off finding other things to do.
Anyway, a few weeks back the latest edition of The Stitch magazine plopped through the letter box and I was instantly drawn to the sampler pattern featured in it. It was exactly what I needed – simple and straight forward. Lots of repetition and not on so small a scale (like the scissor case) that I was thinking I needed to get a magnify glass to supplement my glasses.
I ordered the material choosing to go for the colours shown in the magazine as they appealed to me and I wanted to try out the tonal threads. I am sure I have enough embroidery silks stashed away to use up left overs but I was really after a no-think project. This might sound strange but work is so demanding at the moment that I come home with my head spinning and in need of peace and quiet in the evenings with no more information or thinking coming my way. I am even too tired to really engage in social media aside from keeping the blog going. Sitting watching a drama on television while I stitch a repetitive row is just my level at the moment and it is surprisingly relaxing and rewarding.
The perfectionist in me twitches at the photo above as the stitches aren’t spot on but I then remind myself that this is its charm. An added bonus was that I have already learnt two new stitches – fern and chevron. There’s a way to go yet and maybe when I have finished it I might feel inclined to finish the scissor holder (or maybe I will just put that away for the foreseeable future!).
Finally, a completed project. I finished the paisley embroidery weeks ago but as ever I am very slow in finishing off the project. Part of the problem is that I needed to get the sewing machine out to sew the cushion cover and I do most of my crafting in the evenings whilst watching the television and machine sewing needs to be done in the dining room. Anyway, today it has rained more or less all day, so there was no opportunity to garden, my other main distraction and so the cover was sewn. It took no more than 30 minutes to sew together which just shows how ridiculous my procrastination is. If I am honest the other problem I have with finishing projects is a lack of confidence. I rarely wear jumpers or clothes these days that I have knitted or sewn so much so that I don’t bother any more which is why rediscovering embroidery is such a good thing for me. I am really pleased with the cushion it is one of the nicest things I have made in ages and I feel encouraged to carry on with the other embroidery projects I have planned.
As I have mentioned before I am a restless soul and I often have to find something to occupy me when I am watching television in the evenings. At the start of the year started to learn crewel work but this is new to me and I have been getting stressed with it not looking as amazing as the picture. So a couple of weeks ago I decided to take a bag of cotton I bought from a local flea market and crochet a cushion cover.
It was completely liberating as I had no pattern, no instructions, I just made it up as I went a long. Flicking through some magazines I spotted the idea of doing a flap to close the cover and rummaging in my button box I found some suitable buttons. Doing the buttonholes was easy and to finish off the edges I did a couple of rows of double crochet. It isn’t perfect as some of the tidying up of loose ends show if you really look hard but I am very pleased with it and as I don’t have any picture or pattern to compare it to there is nothing to say I didn’t do just great!
I wonder if this is why I struggle with patterns as there is, for me, a pressure to replicate the picture and standard. I think there will be more of this freestyle creativity in the future as it is just so liberating.
I have been plodding along with my Throw for some weeks now but recently my enthusiasm has been tried and I decided I needed a diversion and a new project. I have been teaching myself to crochet from the Art of Crochet but so far I have only crocheted straight things – a couple of scarves and a bag made up of rectangles. I have been intimidated by shaping and also avoided all the patterns in the magazine which weren’t for beginners.
However, I discovered recently that one of my work colleagues, Mellie Moo Crochet ,is a skilled crocheter and she recommended Simply Crochet so I thought I would give it a go. Strangely I struggled to find a copy in any of the local news agents or supermarkets so I have been waiting for the new edition to come out but still no sign of it – I found it on the way to Plymouth in a motorway service station! Anyway I was rather impressed with it and the clear instructions included along with how to guides. I was particularly taken with the cowl on the cover and having read and understood, I think, the pattern I decided to give it a go. It took some doing to find the wool, Rico Basic Super Big Aran, but I finally tracked it down via the internet – I don’t think I have ever had such a large ball of wool, it caused much consternation in my house.
I started the other evening with enthusiasm casting on (is that the right term in crochet?) 120 stitches. The pattern is a simple chain and double crochet into the chain gap below – easy. Well not if you get cocky and carried away and somehow start crocheting into the double crochet below as well as the chain gap. I have redone the third and fourth rows more times than I care to remember but I think I have got it cracked now. I also think the fleck on the wool is making it harder for me to see the gaps. Hopefully now I can crack on, well until I get to the shaping bit.
I’m not going to do the teddy bear ears as I am hoping to achieve a more Dr Zhivago or French Lieutenant’s Woman’s look than Winnie the Pooh!