Merry Christmas

I would like to wish everyone who drops by this blog a Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2018.

Instead of a plant themed Christmas greeting I am sharing with you my Christmas sewing and craft projects this year.  I have really embraced my love of sewing and embroidery this year and made some lovely new friends through it.  Apologies for the poor quality photos, they are from my Instagram account and have lost something in quality in the transition to the blog.

The top photo shows a wall-hanging I have made this year.  The centre is embroidered in red work and has a quilted border.  It’s only my second wall-hanging  so I am pleased with the outcome.

The cushion was designed and made for my Embroiderers Guild Christmas competition.  The theme was ‘stars’ and I was thrilled to claim second place against tough competition. You can see the other entries on our Facebook page (see 16th December). I have to say though that sewing on white felt wasn’t the best idea and I learnt that I’m not very good at repetitive things.

My final project is a ribbon wreath.  It was very easy to make just involved a lot of ribbon cutting and tying – simple but effective

I hope you enjoyed seeing something different to my usual plant themed photos.  If you are interested in my handicrafts I share them on my Instagram account and maybe I will share some more on the blog in the New Year.

So it just leaves me to say Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

Captured Shore

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Being bored with this never-ending damp cold weather I decided to bring a little summer cheer into the house.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Embroidery update

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Book Review: The Crafted Garden

The Crafted Garden

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

 

 

 

World Embroidery Day 2015

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It seems to me that every day of the year is a national or international something day but I was interested to discover that today, 30th July, is World Embroidery Day.  The day was established in 2011 by the Sweden Embroidery Guild whose manifesto is “The importance of embroidery must be made known and World Embroidery Day will spread around the world. Make 30th July a day filled with creativity for the sake of Peace, Freedom and Equality.” I discovered this fact via Inspiration magazine which sends out a weekly email with all sort of information and gossip from around the world relating to embroidery – and there you were thinking it was a quiet past-time of ladies from yesteryear. The purpose of World Embroidery Day is obviously to raise awareness of the craft and to encourage people to have a go.  The Sweden Embroidery Guild encourages sewers to take their embroidery out into cafes and other public places which would be very nice if I didn’t have to work plus I don’t think I want to take my work into an environment where there is potential for it to be damaged. Inspirations magazine also share this view but they are encouraging their readers to take to social media to raise awareness of this  almost minority craft.

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I first embroidered as a child and into my teens.  Above is a tray cloth I must have worked around the age of 12. I have always been somewhat of a restless soul particularly when I am meant to be watching television and so I have always had some sort of handicraft to occupy me. If I don’t keep my hands occupied I end up chewing my fingers without realising which causes callous, not a good look.

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Back then I always did my embroidery from kits with the picture pre-printed on the material and following instructions.  Above is a picture I must have done around the age of 15 when I was obsessed with Australia.  Anyway, I grew up, life got interesting, children came along and the embroidery stopped.  It was replaced by various things like knitting and sewing particularly making things for my children.  Now, as I near 50 I have re-discovered my love of embroidery and with it a sense of calm.

I started again with a cross stitch sampler and some other kits which were interesting but not challenging at all and I need a challenge.  I have a mind that is thirsty for new things – it occurs to me that I may be slightly hyperactive! Anyway, for Christmas my sons bought me Hazel Blomkamp’s Crewel Twists and I have been slowly working on the Spring Trellis design which I have blogged about from time to time.

However, as I said I have recently discovered Inspirations magazine which is based in Australia and published four times a year (I think) and it really lives up to its name. It seems that there is a very active embroidery world out in the Southern Hemisphere which is intriguing.  You quickly realise that cross stitch and the printed kits are only the beginning, there are so many techniques and styles to learn.  I have even managed to find a couple of fellow embroideries on twitter and facebook and through them I have learnt about the benefits of using a stand for my work and also I have witnessed, via videos, the stunning constructions of some of the hauteur couture creations which feature embroidery.  It makes me wish I was a teenager again and could maybe follow a career in this area.

My passion for embroidery is growing so rapidly that it is beginning to via with my gardening and blogging.

So I do support World Embroidery Day as embroidery lets me channel my creative energies and helps me to relax and recharge after a stressful day  – why do have a go yourself?

Sampler Update

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I have been whizzing through the sampler which I started about a month ago.  It has been really enjoyable so far and I only have 3 more bands to do to finish it.  I should have smoothed the fabric out better before I took a photograph as it looks a little wobbly and it isn’t.

Now I am thinking about the next project and I might just pluck up courage and go for a project in Crewel Twists which will be a bit of a leap for me but as my eldest points out if I want to improve I need to take a risk rather than sticking with what I know well!  The first challenge is tracking down all the materials including beads.  I am already stuck with the material as it is an Australian book and so I am now hoping that someone on the Stitchin forum will be able to translate the fabric into something I can buy in the UK.

Sample of a Sampler

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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!).

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Progress on Sample Blanket

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Sample Blanket

After a couple of weeks when I have been nothing more than a vegetable in the evenings after work and have spent my time staring at the television not really conscious of what I was watching I am now back to my old self and my itchy fingers means that I have picked my crochet hook up again.

I need to finish some projects as I hate having things half done and so I’m trying very hard not to be distracted by more ideas on Pinterest.  First up was sewing as much of the Sample Blanket together as I can.  I have said before how I started this to teach myself to crochet with the aid of The Art of Crochet but I have now cancelled my subscription so it is a case of seeing how far the wool I have will stretch.

I think I can get one more round out of the wool which will be a reasonable size lap blanket – however I also want to crochet some more snowflakes for Christmas decorations and to send to my Japanese penpal so no doubt the blanket will be on the back burner shortly again.

PJ Bottoms Finished

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I am rather pleased as I have finished my youngest son’s PJ bottoms rather quicker than I anticipated.  I think my biggest problem, as I said in the last post, is bringing myself to cut the material as I worry about cutting it wrong and material isn’t cheap at all.

The pattern couldn’t have been easier which is good as I am trying to get my confidence back when it comes to dress-making.  They probably only took about 5 hours maximum to sew together although I did them over a number of evenings this week.

Despite taking it quite slowly and reading the instructions carefully I still managed to catch one of the pockets in the top waistband, as I was meant to, but so that it faced backwards!!!  I didn’t realise I had done this until he tried them on. He kindly said it didn’t 2013_11010002matter and that I wasn’t to unpick the waistband, according to him the fact that the pocket faces backwards as this is ideal for his iPhone – I think he is being very polite.

Anyway, they are made and he loves them.  The material a lovely soft cotton flannel has been a joy to work with and he is excited about them as they should keep him warmer in his student house.  When your room is on the third floor of a Victorian terrace near the top of a hill keeping warm becomes quite a priority.  Apparently the PJ bottoms are very on trend; and there was me thinking how old-fashioned they were.

Needless to say there has been a request for a second paid, so he must really like them. But first I have to make my eldest son a pair.  I suspect that by Christmas I will be a little weary of making PJ bottoms but at least they are really appreciated.

 

The First Cut is the Deepest…

2013_10240006….well maybe not the deepest but definitely the hardest and most challenging for me and I suspect it is the reason I don’t do much sewing.

Apparently when I made myself some Pyjama bottoms (see link on my other blog) I said I would make my sons some.  It was one of those throw away lines which I assumed no one was listening to.  But no!  They were listening and who would have thought it but both my sons (in their early 20s) have asked when I will be making them some winter PJ bottoms!  At least its only the bottoms as they will wear T-shirts on the top.

Procrastination has gone on for a few months.  The pattern, New Look 6321, was bought on-line and is about as simple as you can get.  I spent ages surfing the net looking for checked cotton flannel which apparently isn’t that fashionable, if you want ditzy flowers you are spoilt for choice but checks forget it.  It hard enough finding companies/fabric shops that do dress length rather than quilting fat quarters but checks forget it.  Anyway, I finally tracked some down at Truro Fabrics, which 2013_10240005my sons helpfully pointed out, we had walked past several times in June when we were on holiday.  They have a sample service so I ordered a couple of samples and the boys choose the one.  So not only do I have to make two pairs of PJ bottom but in the same fabric, at least they are the same size.

Two weeks ago I stopped making excuses and cut out the pattern pieces.  I find this incredibly intimidating as I worry that I am cutting the wrong size and I have no confidence when it comes to altering patterns at all.  Luckily men’s PJ bottoms have little shaping and so I went for the basic S size.  The 2013_10240001pattern and material have sat on the table for the last two weeks making me feel guilty.  However, my youngest is home from University next weekend and I would love to be able to give him his PJ bottoms to take back with him to keep him warm in his drafty student house.

Tonight I have bitten the bullet, moved the coffee table back and tackled laying out the fabric and pattern.  The material is checked and I have lined up a couple of key points on the cross of the pattern in a vain attempt to line up the pattern but I’m not too worried about it.  I get very nervous about cutting the material out more so than the pattern, I love the fabric and dread that I am going to cut it wrong or some other disaster.  I did plan to cut both PJ bottoms out this evening but it took me just over an hour to do the first pair and quite frankly crawling around the floor for that long is enough of a work out for me.

So the pieces are cut out and now I have to crack on and sew it up.