Monday, 25 March 2013

Three Easter projects

Hello there!
With the cold unseasonal weather here in the UK recently it really doesn't feel like Easter will be here at the end of the week! But if you haven't made anything for Easter yet don't worry, today I have three projects to share with you that you can still complete in time.
There are lots of different Easter/ Spring themed wreaths out there on the web, many of them beautiful, time consuming creations that I doubt I will ever truly get organised to make in time for an Easter (unless it's one of those really late ones!), but I did want to make something along those lines. I already had the perfect twiggy wreath shape to use as a base, mine came from Hobbycraft but I think florists often sell them too. I bought a packet of 24 small white polystyrene eggs and some ribbon & then went up to the loft in search of paint. It turned out I had given the kids poster paints away a few years ago when I was having a big clearout of things they had grown out of using (reinforcing my belief that clearing out is bad!) so I ended up using some of those tins of odds & ends of paint left over from painting rooms at various times. I chose only the water based paints so they dried really quickly. Here's a quick tip on how to paint a small polystyrene shape using old pins & blue tack - bury the head of the pin in a small blob of blue tack...
...insert sharp end of pin in bottom of shape & paint all over, leave to dry...
 When my eggs were dry I used Promarkers, sequins, ribbon, & tiny gems to decorate them...
In the absence of a glue gun I used glue dots to stick the eggs onto the twiggy wreath, added three store bought baby chicks, a ribbon bow, & a length of ribbon for hanging & taa dah!!
 
One Easter wreath!
If you wanted to save some time (mainly waiting a few hours for the paint to dry) you could use ready decorated eggs from a store, the actual "putting it all together" bit didn't take long at all. I painted my eggs in the morning & was hanging the finished wreath up that evening. 

The second project has the cute factor :-) I fell in love with these bunnies when I came across them here & decided I would make a couple for my nieces for Easter. The free tutorial is excellent & I also used Betz's free template (link included on her tutorial page). I rummaged around my fabric stash & substituted fleece & an old peachy soft sweatshirt for the cashmere used to make the bodies & backs of the ears...
  
I used scraps of cotton print fabric for the insides of the ears... 
...and scraps of pink velvet to make the hearts, sewing them on with blanket stitch. 
As the recipients of these bunnies are 11 & 9 years old I figured buttons from the button tin would be perfectly safe for eyes, but if giving to a young child the eyes could be easily embroidered on instead. Instead of pompoms I cut out small circles of white fur fabric, sewed a double thread of running stitch around the edge, & pulled to gather it into a little ball for their fluffy white tails...
These were really quick & easy to sew, I made them both in one afternoon sitting on the couch watching a film - a little bit of easy hand sewing can be very therapeutic and makes a change for me from keeping my place on a cross stitch chart! 
The bunnies were a hit with  Hubbie & the young people later that night so I decided we needed to have some to keep. (I warn you if you start making these they are addictive!) I made a couple of small changes to our ones; as they were going to be ornamental rather than cuddlies I used some polyfil plastic beads in their paws along with the regular stuffing to help them stand up a bit better, and I used the same fabric for the hearts as for the inside of the ears. Here's Flopsy...
and Mopsy...
 

 ... and finally Cottontail...


 They were having so much fun on the top of the piano that some little chicks hopped in to see what all the fuss was about!

The last Easter project took a happy afternoon of playing with fabrics & my sewing machine. I have been going through my fabric stash & using my machine a lot more this past month & have recently discovered some really inspiring sewing blogs! I now have loads more projects I want to find time for (and a couple I have still to share with you)... 
For this one I used Amy's free Easter templates available here to make up some Easter/Spring bunting. I picked a plain green & a neutral linen effect fabric to cut the triangles out of. I used pinking shears to cut the two long sides of the triangles and then top stitched about 1/4" in from the edge to prevent fraying using green thread on the tan fabric & cream thread on the green. I used fusible web with a paper backing to make the appliqued shapes. This was the first time I had used this product (when I made girls' appliqued cushions here I could only find fusible web without the backing paper locally & it was a bit of a time consuming fiddle transferring the letter shapes onto it). Wow! What a difference that bit of paper makes! It was a breeze to trace round the templates onto the paper backing & in no time at all I was ironing the various shapes onto the reverse side of an assortment of cotton print fabrics. I cut the shapes out, peeled off the backing paper & ironed the shape onto the fabric triangle, then I slowly top stitched around the shape to add some definition. The last step was to pin & sew all the fabric triangles along a length of cream bias binding & voila!
 



 I am fairly pleased with the results, but I learnt a lot that I will put to use in future bunting projects:
1 - some prints work better with certain shapes than others, Hubbie is convinced the yellow chick is a frog - once you see it you can't "unsee" it!
2 -  the cream bias binding that toned in with the overall pastel look on my sewing table just looks dirty next to the white ceiling! 
3 -  the top stitching I took my time over is barely visible from a distance so I would use bolder, darker colored threads next time... 

Well you live & learn!!! 
Thank you for visiting my little corner of Blogland today, I hope you have a lovely, productive week ahead!
  













Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Going freestyle

Hello there and welcome, especially to my new followers!
This is one of those posts I have been meaning to write for a while but haven't quite managed to find time to... One of those "oh I must write that up" jobs a bit like the crochet pattern for the Christmas amis I designed two years ago (I really need to sort that out while I can still decipher my notes!)... In fact this starts with a Christmas too....
For the last couple of Christmases I have wanted to make a runner for the top of the piano. I bought a large piece of green felt for it in the winter of 09/10. The following year I got as far as cutting some to the size I wanted and planning to cross stitch snowflakes onto it, but then I ran out of time so we just used it "bare". As this last Christmas approached I decided that instead of cross stitched snowflakes I was leaning towards more simple embroidered ones (which would have the added benefit of being much quicker to complete). I was seeing lots of yummy freestyle embroidery around online but I hadn't tried anything along those lines since I was about 7 (eek!). I decided to keep it simple & bought a skein of white perle cotton locally & sketched a few simple snowflake ideas on a piece of paper. I didn't try to transfer the designs onto the felt, I just stitched them freehand using backstitches about 1/4" long. It didn't take too long to stitch five large, two medium, & four small snowflakes onto the runner like this...
This is what it looked like after I arranged some Christmas candles & decorations on the top...
I really enjoyed making this and thought some further embroidery projects would be fun so when I saw some perle cotton at a bargain price on ebay I jumped at the chance of purchasing more. Having gotten the cotton it needed a place to live...
A little while later on a trip to Inverness I found a perfect sized box amongst the sale items in Hobbycraft. It was from their "items to decopatch" range which meant it was a rather boring plain brown but I figured I could do something about that ;-) When I got home I picked out some brightly colored tissue paper from my stash & set to work ripping some of it up. I used random pieces to completely cover the outside of the box & the lid & stuck them on with PVA glue. Once all of it was totally dry I painted a couple of coats of varnish over it to protect it...


Would you like to see all the yummy cottons in their new home? Silly question fellow color lovers, of course you would!


How yummy is that???? Mmmmmmm doesn't that just make your heart sing? What an instant pick-me-up on a grey winters' day!! :-) And how lucky am I to have a rainbow in a box living in my craft space!!!!

Although part of me just wanted to dive right in & use them, part of me wanted to be a bit more restrained & find the perfect projects to use them on. So I turned to our regions' online library catalogue to see what books on embroidery they might stock. The last five or so weeks I have been dipping in & out of a small handful of books, reading & thinking, returning to some, and returning some to the library. I have tried one project (which I will share with you soon I promise!) but a lot more are running through my brain... I think I will need to have a good rootle around in my fabric stash in the loft soon and find some suitable fabrics to start on... I really wish I could find a Timeturner while I'm up there to give me some extra hours in the day in which to play!!!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Late January birthday presents

Hello there!
Thank you for stopping by to visit, today I have a couple of stitchy projects to share with you. The title of this post pretty much gives it away that these projects were intended as January birthday presents and they were both late! But now they are finished & are with their new owners I can share them with you.
Last summer I bought a new book of cross stitch designs by Joan Elliott & one of the designs instantly made me think of my sister. I wanted to make it into something for her birthday and, after a little think, decided it might be even nicer to send her two wee things so I had a look through my chart collection for a similar design. I picked one out & sat them both on my "to stitch" pile. Through November & into December my stitching slowed down as the headaches increased but even near the end of December as I finally made a start on the first design I hoped I might have them completed in time for her birthday. Eventually I had to face facts, give in, & send her birthday card off with a wee note "pressie to follow"... I carried on working on them when I was able &, a few weeks after her birthday, I finally finished stitching both designs. I picked some fabric from my stash to back them with & made them into small pillows stuffed with dried lavender from our garden. Here's the Joan Elliott design...
...and this is the second design. It's by Debra Page and is from an old issue of The World of Cross Stitch magazine...
I used the same fabric & ribbon from my stash on both of them & finished them off by sewing little silver charms saying "made with love" on the top...

The second (late) present was made for my daughter. A while back I came across the perfect chart for her here amongst the freebies by Pauline at Plum Street Samplers. We giggled over it together, agreed it was her to a tee and that one day she would have to stitch it. She does enjoy stitching but she really has so little free time these days & I don't see that changing any time soon as she prepares to go to university & study for her degree, so I decided I would stitch this design in secret for her birthday instead. I already had some 16 count aida that was the perfect color in my stash & two skeins of this chocolate scented thread to stitch it with...
Have any of you tried this thread before? The idea is that the scent is slowly released when the thread is handled & it lasts for about 20 washes at 40C. I don't think DMC make it any more, I bought several packets of it in different scents in a sale a few years back and it has lived untouched in it's packaging in my drawer ever since. I was really pretty excited about finally using some & thought my daughter would also get a real kick out of it too (chocolate being one of her other great loves!). So I began to stitch.... *sniff* *sniff* nothing.... well it did say "slowly released".... I kept stitching... *sniff* *sniff*.... no nothing.... neither hubbie nor son could smell anything either so I can only guess that I kept the thread too long & the smell gave up & vanished?? If  you have used this product I would love to know if you got better results than I did! 
The original design uses just dark brown thread throughout & that was my original plan too but then I saw this fabric on ebay (yes the dreaded ebay has a lot to answer for!)...
There was also a listing for a coordinating print...
...and so I decided to make this design into a cushion & change some of the dark brown stitching to reflect some of the colors in the fabric. Of course my daughter's birthday came & went, I had had little opportunity to work on this in secret, & I was still frantically stitching my sister's present (!) so in the end I decided to abandon the secrecy. I showed my daughter my plans for her (late) present & we agreed I would finish it once her auntie's pressie hit the mail. Once I could get a few decent sessions in on it (without having to hide it every time she might appear) it really didn't take long to finish - would you like to see? OK here it is...

Apart from the colors the only other small change I made to the original was to replace the date with my daughter's initials at the bottom. 
Now as she knew all about it by this time, her current stitchy WIP is a cushion project, & she is pretty keen on learning to use my sewing machine, we decided to snatch a few hours from her busy schedule to make this into a cushion together...
Do you like my glamorous fabric cutting area? Otherwise known as the strip of floor between my craft desk & the bottom of the bed! Hahaha! One day I will have a nice big sewing table & won't need to kneel on the floor all hunched over *dream*.... Anyways this is how I work for now... 
Once we had the fabric strips attached round the stitched panel I showed her how to put a zipper in an open seam. Then she sewed round the remaining three sides - would you like to see the first seam my daughter sewed by herself on the machine?

Pretty straight huh? Proud momma talking I know but I think she could be kinda good at this ;-)
Apart from my disappointment over the non smelly thread this was a really enjoyable stitch, I would do it again in a heartbeat! Here's the finished cushion...

Please excuse the great crease across the bottom corner but I waited a few days for better light to snap a photo of it & by then it had been put to use! Now the more I look at this photo the more creases I see... Oh well you get the idea of what it looks like & you can see she is using it a lot while she is studying for these all important exams ;-)
Now I'm working on another cross stitch project that will be turned into a cushion when it's finished, hopefully I will be able to share this with you soon... 




Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Blankets, blankets....

Hello there!
I have so much I need to catch you up on, for while I haven't been online as much in recent months I have been busy making things! I need to carve out some peace & quiet for writing, sort out some photos, & hope Blogger behaves ;-)
Back here I shared my blanket addiction with you & said that I had started on a new one, now it (should of) arrived with it's new owners I can tell you all about it.
It began with a trip to Hobbycraft. Not our local, tiny Hobbycraft, but the big one in Aberdeen (that always signals some serious stash shopping and this trip in January was no exception!) However I am usually not that impressed with their yarn selection & manage to get out of those aisles with nothing extra in my basket, but this time I fell for a beautiful color phased baby yarn in shades of pink, peach, lilac, and lemon. Helped by the "3 for 2" yarn offer three balls of the gorgeous Sirdar Baby Changes DK jumped straight into my basket! The only down side I can find to this yarn is it is pretty much imposssible to capture accurately on camera on grey January days! I have borrowed this picture from Deramores website...
When I bought it I had no definite ideas on what I would make with it but over the next little while I decided it just had to become a baby blanket. (This decision was helped somewhat by the arrival of a new baby girl in our family in Montana!) I looked online for the right pattern to go with this yarn & in the end plumped for this one, the Fast Easy Baby Blanket (which is also available here for non ravelry folks). This is now going to be my go to baby blanket pattern. I just LOVED it! It was really quick & simple to pick up & boy did it work up fast! In no time at all I had this already...
 
I found the best way to capture the color was to lay it on a pale towel, but even this really isn't totally accurate. And it doesn't convey how soft & drapey it became as it grew. I chose to make the toddler size listed in the pattern so began with a chain of 145 (36"), I used all three balls & it came out at 45" in length when I was done. Would you like to see?

I cut a gift tag shape out of lilac card & stamped this on one side...
I cut the washing instructions off one of the yarn bands & wrote the yarn content on the top so it's new owners would know what it was made of & how best to clean it...
Then I added some ribbon to the tag & safety pinned it to the folded blanket...
I hope it comes in handy for a little girl to snuggle under!
This was a pretty quick make as blankets go, probably three weeks tops? Once it was on it's way I decided it was time to start a bigger blanket project & began to round up some dk yarn. Would you like to see? OK then, just for you...