Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Mothers Day Stitching

Hello there!
How is your week going? Firstly, (before I forget) the pdf for the crochet bag is now available to download on my tutorials page for those of you who would like to give it whirl.
This week has been so windy here with lots of April showers, but in between them I have managed to get some laundry dry outside :-) There is something so satisfying in seeing washing flapping madly on the line & the smell when you bring the dry armfuls in just can't be beat! :-) In addition to the regular loads I have been having a bit of spring clean; all the blankets & the Winnie the Pooh quilt have had their turn blowing outside, & I am working my way through my fabric stash. The majority of this has been inherited either from my mom's dressmaking & soft furnishing projects in the '60's, 70's, & 80's or from the elderly parent of a friend some years ago (some of that fabric still has the little brown paper label from the store tacked on it detailing how many yards for how many shillings & pence!). For many years it all sat in a big open topped movers box in the loft defying my lame attempts to impose some kind of order upon it, but no longer! Last summer I sorted it into boxes by color & I have found that has made it much easier to find something suitable when I have been working on a project. This time around, in addition to washing & ironing it all, I am separating out the cotton fabrics suitable for patchwork & quilting from the heavier fabrics & putting all the smallest pieces into a scraps box. My iron has never been so busy!!
Up until recently there really hasn't been much cross stitch going on round here to report on. My plan at the start of the year to spend a day on a UFO project & a day on Christmas stitching kinda fizzled out mid February. I didn't start another Christmas stitch after finishing The Snowman & I hadn't made much progress on Ladybird Fairy either. I have also had a Somebunny hanging around for months (intended to become a matching cushion for Hubbie for Valentine's & then for our anniversary in March). The one exception to this was the project I am going to share with you today.
One day in early March I fell in love with a beautiful kit online. A little more searching found me a UK supplier who stocked it as a chart (now my stash has grown I tend to prefer this option), but either way I don't really need to be buying more cross stitch to do - I will put my hands up to being SABLE stitcher! (Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy). Luckily this was a few weeks before Mother's Day here in the UK & I know sometimes my kids are a bit stuck on what to get me so I suggested to Hubbie that he ask eldest son if he already had it covered or if he would like a link to a surefire hit. I didn't ask about his answer but was very happy when I received the chart (plus some chocolates) from him on Mother's Day!
It is a design by Ursula Michael called Let's Sew and I had thought it might be nice to stitch it with some variegated floss I have in my stash instead of the plain dark blue it is charted with, but when I sat with my floss box & the chart the idea grew. It looked as though it would be pretty easy to split the chart into four sections & use different colors of variegated threads on each, the resulting rainbow would be representative of my love of color in my work. Now I had made a rule about not starting anything new until I finished something but that went right out the window & I started stitching it that afternoon ;-) So much of this design is backstitch that it proved surprisingly addictive & quick to complete - I put the last stitches into it on the Tuesday night...

I think I have mentioned before that in September my two young folks are planning to head off to uni, well when this happens I have my eye on my son's room for a sewing room. He currently has the biggest bedroom in the house (a leftover from when he shared it with his older brother) with a nice big window which lets in plenty of natural light. I thought this would be a perfect design to hang on the wall in my new sewing room :-) Rather than put it in a frame behind glass it seemed natural to frame it with fabric & make it into a wall hanging and i had just the fabric for it. For Christmas I received this lovely fat quarter bundle that has been waiting for just the right project......
I sat with some colored pencils & squared paper & played around until I had a design that I liked. Then I cut the fabric, sewed my colorful rainbow together, & joined it onto my stitching. I made hanging loops, used a large rectangle of fabric to back it all with, and gave it a press.
I decided it needed a few finishing touches. I looked through my lovely wooden buttons & found four that seemed made for this project & also chose a little silver scissor charm which I stitched onto the evenweave...
All I needed now was something to hang it from. After looking at a few different options I decided to stick to something simple & in keeping with the sewing theme. Hubbie cut me a length of plain wooden dowelling & I hunted out two almost empty wooden cotton reels in my big tin of sewing cottons. I wound the remaining cotton onto spare plastic reels & Hubbie attached the now empty wooden ones to the ends of the dowelling like so...
For the remaining months until my boy leaves for the big city we have hung it in the front room next to my chair where I spend so much time with either a needle or hook in my hand...

Thank you for visiting here today, I hope the rest of your week is filled with all of your favorite things :-)

Friday, 19 April 2013

Bag 2

Hello there! Another catch up post today, still feeling the Dr Seuss vibes hence the title (were you kinda expecting this after the title of my last post?) ;-) This is another project that was lurking around in my brain for months but, whereas with Bag 1  I pretty much had everything worked out before I started, this one evolved as I went along.
It's no secret that many of us find inspiration online these days whether through blogs, Pintrest, or the myriad of websites featuring patterns both free or to buy. Sometimes we find things we want to make exactly as they are, sometimes we want to make a few changes, and sometimes (although we really like the project) we don't have any intentions of trying it out for ourselves. One pattern that fell into that last category for me was the stripey yarn bag made by Lucy at Attic 24. I love the playful random stripes of the first one she made but I really adore the ocean colors she used to make this bag last summer. I must admit that second one tempted me a lot but I am not really a tote bag kind of gal so... Further wandering online turned up a much more "me" kind of bag in the shape of this crochet rucksack - that went straight onto my "must make" list!
Many months later while I was planning Bag 1 I thought it might be a good idea to make this rucksack for my small yarny WIP to live in. I tend to have two crochet projects on the go at once, a big (usually a blanket) crochet project that lives in a plastic storage box, and a small take-with-me-anywhere project that lives in whichever carrier bag was to hand when I started it. Didn't it really deserve a nicer home too?
Way back here I showed you some gorgeous Red Heart yarn that I had started making squares for a blanket from. That project came to a halt when Hubbie (who was the intended recipient of said blanket) remarked that the colors were rather boring for me, and I had to agree they weren't my usual kind of palette. Back in the stash they went but when I started thinking about this rucksack it occurred to me that they would be perfect for it, so shortly after I finished this baby blanket I looked out the pattern & yarn & made a start.
Now the first thing that I noticed was that the pattern called for working with two strands of yarn at a time - I wondered how was that going to look when I got to the variegated yarn? Well I didn't get to find out as after a few rounds I really disliked the feel of the resulting fabric. It felt way too stiff to me, so I ripped it out & started again with only one strand (realising as I did so that this pattern was now going to need some major tweaks). After a few rounds I decided to my hook size was wrong so out it came again, and  then again when it wouldn't lie flat as I worked the increases, and yet again.... I was getting nowhere fast! I decided to look at some other crochet bags for ideas & that is when I ended up going back to Lucy's stripey yarn bag. Ahhhh! She used triple instead of double crochet stitches - time to try that then... You can find Lucy's tote bag pattern here & I heartily recommend it if you are trying to get a nice, flat, big round bottom... for a bag! ;-)
I didn't change colors in the same way but apart from that I used her pattern for the 14 rounds of the base of my bag. In this photo the outermost purple ring is the first round of the sides, the first round with no increases...
To make the sides I carried on working trebles (just as in Lucy's pattern), round after round with no increases, chaining three to start each round & joining into the top chain with a slip stitch to finish. I had decided to use my two skeins of Red Heart variegated yarn for the body of the bag & so I just kept going till the second skein ran out! I looked at the original rucksack pattern to see how Susanna made the holes for the drawstring around the top & adapted it to my stitch count, & then came the tricky bit - working out a new flap... Actually in the end it wasn't that bad, I even remembered to write it down as I went along!
Small confession time - at the point where I started working up the sides this bag really didn't seem that big but as the sides grew I realised I could have made a much smaller bottom, this bag was big! So once I had finished the flap I decided to see how much yarn I could fit inside - answer, a whopping sixteen full 100g balls! Eight balls with another eight on top like this...
At this point I decided not to buy plastic buckles to fasten it closed like a regular rucksack. I wanted a more adjustable way to close it as I figured it was likely that the bag would be less than full most of the time, so I chained a loop & attached it to the bottom front of my bag & then made two long chains which I attached to the center front of my flap. By passing one of the long chains through the loop & tying it to the other long chain the bag can be closed according to how full or empty it is...
Once that was sorted all that it needed was two straps....
...and a drawstring to gather the top...
If you look closely in that last picture you can see one last thing I decided to add - a lining. I didn't want anything slipping through the stitches & getting lost when I'm out & about (if you've ever lost a crochet hook down the side of the sofa you know how in the wink of an eye they can vanish through the smallest gap!). Happily I found the perfect coordinating fabric in my stash in the loft. To line my bag I measured the base & cut a circle from tissue paper that fit inside my bag nicely. I added a seam allowance & cut it out from my fabric & then carefully measured the circles' circumference. Next I measured the height of my bag to just below the drawstring round and using these two measurements I cut a rectangle of fabric. I added a couple of internal pockets in exactly the same way as I did for Bag 1  and then joined the two shorter edges of the rectangle to form a tube. Finally I sewed the circle of fabric onto the base of the tube. You can find a great tutorial for attaching a fabric lining to a crochet bag here, and the same basic principles apply no matter the style or shape of your bag. So there we are, one lined crocheted bag...
... all ready to be filled with yarn...
...all the way up to the top!
But as most of my small "to go" projects don't use that much yarn I think it will more often look like this...
...all ready to come with me :-) 
Thank you for dropping by to visit here today and a special thank you to all those who took the time to leave me such lovely comments on my last post - I love hearing from you! I'm off to finish writing up my notes on this pattern & I will (get Hubbie to) add the link to the resulting pdf on my tutorials page for anyone who fancies making their own. Have a great weekend folks!




Thursday, 18 April 2013

Bag 1

Hello there!
Today I want to catch you up on a project that was a long time swirling around in my brain & then came together in one frenzied weekend of sewing. Do you have projects like that? The basic idea is born but it takes a while to fully develop, it comes to you at odd hours of the night & grows & changes a little bit more. You spend an hour here & an hour there sifting through possible ideas, materials, playing with color combinations, weighing your options until the day dawns when you are ready to Actually Begin Work!
Well this time the basic idea was to make a project bag to house my large cross stitch WIP (Work In Progress). The cross stitch projects that I'm actively working on live in the front room with us so I thought it was about time they had somewhere to live that was a little nicer than the plain pillowcase that I have always used to house big projects. While some basic bag ideas were whirling around in my brain I fell in love with an oh so cute fat quarter of fabric on ebay, so I decided that this had to feature heavily in my new project. I bought it, along with a couple of other fat quarters in rich autumnal hues (totally seasonal then as it was October!) & carried on with other projects.
At Christmas my wonderful Hubbie bought me a new frame for large cross stitch projects. This is a plastic Q snap style one & will be the fourth different type of large frame I have tried (don't ask, it's a long story)...
Now at 17" square this is a BIG frame, but then I primarily want it for working on all those Joan Elliott fairies I have lined up to do & they are around 15 3/4" tall so it should be the perfect size for them. It most certainly won't fit in a pillowcase even if I wanted it to, so before I could transfer Ladybird fairy to it & try it out it needed a place to live. I needed this project bag...
Right from the start I knew that I wanted this to be a patchwork bag so I spent a fair amount of time online looking at bag patterns & patchwork patterns. There were bits of certain designs I liked and things I particularly wanted to incorporate in it so I also spent a lot of  "thinking time" away from the computer too. The seasons changed, Christmas came & went, and through January and into February the idea began to solidify & I started to gather, select, and prepare all the materials I would use. And then suddenly I found I had arrived at The Day! With all the fabric washed, dried, & pressed I was ready to go - it was The Day to get out the large cutting mat, sewing machine, & iron & Actually Start Making!!!
I spent the whole of the first day making up the patchwork blocks for the front of the bag, so excited to be finally turning this project into reality that I completely forgot to take any photos! Whoops! So the next morning I photographed where I had gotten to the night before... 
These are four 8" blocks called Autumn Tints from the book 1000 Great Quilt Blocks by Maggi McCormick Gordon. I framed them with some mottled tan fabric (this is called sashing in the quilting world) to make the front square of the bag. Basically this bag would consist of a square for the front, one for the back, & a rectangular gusset to join the squares together & give the bag some depth. I wanted a roomy bag, once there was a project on the frame I didn't want to have to squeeze it in any way to get it in & out. I backed the completed front & back pieces with iron on interfacing to give the bag some extra body, & then sewed each piece to the gusset. I cut this from the dark green mottled fabric used in the blocks, you can see it round the edges of the bag front here...
I laid the frame on top of the bag front at this point because, after starting off sewing together small squares,  it was now looking HUGE and I was worried I had messed up my math somewhere! But, as you can see, I was ok and I just needed to remind myself this wasn't really a shoulder bag!
I had decided to make the back square of the bag less detailed than the front, but I was just a tiny bit too short on certain fabrics to have four broad stripes so I mixed stripes & squares & came up with this instead...
Now the basic outer part of the bag was complete it was time to set it to one side & make the lining. This would also consist of two squares & a gusset strip, this time all cut from one fabric & sewn with a slightly larger seam allowance to enable it to lie nicely inside the outer part of the bag. My bag needed some internal pockets so before sewing the lining together I cut two pieces of fabric for each pocket, one in each fabric shown below...
I pressed a half inch of fabric under each edge, then pinned the rectangles together with wrong sides facing & top stitched around all four sides about 1/8" in from the edge. Then I pinned one pocket onto each square of lining, giving me a small pocket for scissors, pincushion, & needles to live in inside the front of my bag & a larger pocket for the chart down the back ...
I sewed the three parts of the lining together leaving a six inch gap in one of the bottom seams & put it to one side. Next to tackle the flap.
I had decided on a messenger style bag in the end for a couple of reasons. I wanted a closed bag so as to keep dust, pet hairs etc. off my stitching (these bigger projects of mine can hang around for a while!) and a flap would also allow me to use a big chunk of that cute fat quarter over the top of the main patchwork body of the bag. I knew the flap would need to be the same width as the back square of my bag so to get the rest of the shape I played around with tissue paper & pencil until I had a flap shape that I liked. I then used this as a pattern piece to cut one of these out of my cute fabric, one out of the lining fabric, & one out of interfacing. I ironed the interfacing to the back of the cute fabric, pinned this face down onto the lining, and sewed round three sides inserting a loop of leather thonging in the middle of the bottom edge so I would have a loop to go round a button closure. After I clipped the curved corners it looked like this...
I turned the flap right sides out, pressed it, & topstitched two lines with dark brown thread around the three sewn edges...
Although this is over sized for a shoulder bag I did want it to have a strap so I cut a length of the paler green mottled fabric & a length of wadding/ batting the same length but half the width of the green piece. I pressed the fabric in half & pressed under a half inch down each long edge...
I sandwiched the wadding in the middle of the green fabric, pinned the edge closed, & topstitched twice down the long edge of the fabric...
I pinned the flap onto the back outside of the bag with the right sides facing like so...
...and pinned the ends of the strap on to the outside gusset of the bag on each side like this...
I sewed across both straps & the back flap with a quarter inch seam and then came the final part - joining the lining & the outer. Again I forgot to photograph this stage (I was concentrating too hard on getting this bit right!) but basically you put the outside of the bag & the lining right sides together with the outside sitting inside the lining - does that make sense? With the flap & the strap tucked in between these two layers I sewed right around the top edge of the bag 3/8" in from the edge. Then all that was left was to turn the bag right side out through that six inch gap left in the bottom of the lining, slip stitch the opening closed, and taa-dah! one finished project bag!

I put Ladybird onto my new frame & moved her in to her new home...

Oooh can you see that big round black thing nestled inside the pocket there? That is the big shiny button I found in my button tin - I have no idea what it came off (the tin was my grandmothers' when I was little) but it is a full 2 1/2" across! Well a regular sized button would've looked a bit lost on this big bag ;-) I just remembered it is still sitting in that pocket waiting for me to sew it on!
After all that dreaming and thinking time I am really happy with the reality of this project, the only thing I would change next time around is to make the gusset maybe an inch or two narrower? But I would rather have it wider than necessary than a tight squeeze & for my first ever bag I am pleased with how it turned out :-) I think the autumn palette is my very favorite combination of colors and the pincushion & scissor keep I made last year go beautifully with it...
If you would like more detailed instructions on making a variety of bags then there are some great free tutorials here and here that I found very helpful at the planning stage of this project. I hope you enjoyed your visit here today & will come back again soon, I am going to leave you with one more photo of my full project bag & then go sew that button on while I remember!









Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Wednesday already????

Hello hello!
How is your week going? I can't believe it is Wednesday already!!! I had good intentions of trying to catch up a bit with everything this week but so far it isn't really working out that way... One job I have been meaning to do for many months was to redo my tutorials page on here. After I lost every photo on here last fall & had to add them back one by one to every post I decided I wanted to change my tutorials page instead of just putting it back the way it had been. This week my wonderful Hubbie spent part of his evening doing what I had been putting off for months!!! Please go & check it out & let me know what you think????  I have a few more ideas for small changes on here so watch this space!
Today I want to catch you up with the cards I made for our special days in February & March. After January's feast of birthdays and hectic goings on February brings some calm to our year. I had just five birthdays to make a card for in this month, plus St. Valentines Day & an anniversary. I began with some materials from the Midnight Fairytale range by Papermania to make this card for one of my young nieces...
Then I cut up some papers from my stash and added ribbon and peeloffs to make this card for her dad's birthday which is a few days later...
On one of my Pazzle mornings I found this template & used it to cut these smileys out of metallic papers...
A stripey coordinating paper, silver peeloffs, and a few candis finished off this card for my almost teenage nephew. I think this works pretty well for an older boy so might use this template again in the future for some of those rapidly growing up boys in the family...
Next came St. Valentines Day and I decided to try using some of those perle cottons I talked about here. I knew the kind of design I was looking for & once again the internet did not let me down! I found some lovely heart designs here, printed one out & traced it onto some thin white muslin fabric using a washable fabric marker. I used stem stitch, back stitch, & some little pink beads & it worked up pretty quickly. After a wash & a press I mounted it on a rectangle of patterned paper from my stash & then on a red card with hearts punched in the corners. Some pink heart peeloffs down each side finished it off...
I discovered the perle cotton is much too thick for this muslin, (which is why you can see a shadow around most of it) but otherwise really enjoyed embroidering the heart. I will definitely need to play with this some more on different weight fabrics :-)
For the anniversary card I needed a few days later I decided to stick to more familiar territory & used Tatty Teddy die cut chipboard toppers with coordinating papers. I used the little corner hearts punch again & cream ribbon with red hearts to finish the card off.
Right at the end of February we have two birthdays that need cards. The first one is very similar to the one I made for my brother-in-law at the start of the month as it is for another male of the same age (they can be tricky to nail a card for can't they?). I used papers from the same range but with more of a lean towards a travel theme, gave the brown card a deckled edge like a postage stamp, & omitted the ribbon to create this...
For our last February birthday I used a navy card blank, a sheet of vellum & laser peeloffs from the Midnight Fairytale range by Papermania to create this card for another of my nieces...
The lighter rectangle in the middle is cut out like a window pane which really shows off the translucent nature of the vellum, again this range is much more effective & sparkly in the flesh than I can capture with the camera! (Not for the want of trying...)
I was busy making Easter cards by the time March came around, but once they were completed I realised that March is another month that puts the brakes on a bit & slows down the card making pace. Along with Mother's Day here in the UK and our wedding anniversary we have just one birthday requiring a card. I had been enjoying playing with these pretty floral papers (free with a card making magazine) for Easter cards & used some of them to make this girlie card for one of my daughters' friends...

I used more papers & chipboard toppers from the same kit along with three white resin roses from another magazine on this years' Mothers Day card. I used a pearlescent cream card blank & lilac gingham card to mount everything on & finished it off with a little wooden butterfly button & three tiny gems in the bottom right hand corner...

I must've been on a real wooden butterfly fix at the time - honestly these were made on different days & I hadn't noticed until just now that I used another one on the anniversary card I made Hubbie! Some of you will know I usually stitch him Somebunny to Love gifts or cards (we have a whole wall of Bunnies upstairs that I really must photograph & share with you one day!) but just before our anniversary I saw a Somebunny stamp set on the front of one of the cardmaking magazines! Thank you! I stamped the girl bunny on some plain white card & colored her in with Promarkers. The green paper at the back is a lovely shimmery perlescent paper but it really hasn't come out well in photos (we have been having a few issues with the camera but Hubbie is on the case...) 

At short notice I had one last card to make in March. Another piece of the puzzle fell into place for my daughter's future, she heard back from the universities she had applied to & was able to provisionally accept a place at Aberdeen. For this course she has already exceeded the piano requirement so decided to stop her weekly piano lessons & free up a little bit more time for school work. Her piano teacher is a lovely lady who has helped & encouraged her so much over the eighteen months she has been teaching her so she needed a special card to go with a wee thank you gift. I used Tatty teddy chipboard diecuts with coordinating paper and added some sparkly organza ribbon from my stash to one side...      


Well that completes my card catch up, next time I hope to bring you up to speed on some of the sewing that has been occupying me lately. Thank you for visiting here today, and especially for those of you who take the time to leave me a comment - I really appreciate it! I hope you have a lovely rest of your week :-)

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Easter card making

Hello there! I haven't been anywhere near a computer in over a week but I have SO MUCH to catch you up on!!!! Apparently it's April already - (but noone told the weather, it's snowing again out there!) & I have some cards from February & March to share with you, but before Easter becomes a distant memory I thought I would share some of the Easter cards I made for friends & family this year.
I have been trying to tame my Pazzle this year and started off being very disciplined, setting aside a morning every week to try something new with it. For these first couple of cards I used it to cut templates from white card & then used my ink brushes with different colored ink pads.

The ink brushes are like big blusher brushes & give a soft, hazy effect. I also used them on the next couple of cards, but instead of cutting a template I used the embossing function of the Pazzle. These didn't come out very well in photographs but looked a lot better in person!

For this card I embossed & cut out the egg, colored it with the brushes, & then used the Pazzle to cut out a bunny from patterned paper. Some gold peeloffs & a little white pom pom for his tail finished him off! 
This is the last card I used the Pazzle for. I cut two egg shapes out of different patterned papers, backed them with pearlescent papers, and added gold peeloffs, a chipboard tag, & a wooden butterfly button... 
For the last three Easter cards I had a stamping session. I bought an Easter themed Forever Friends stamp set last summer in a sale & decided to have a play with it. I used brown ink & heat embossed it as I find that makes life a lot easier when it comes to the coloring in stage!



Thank you for visiting with me today, I hope you are having a lovely sunny weekend (well it must be shining somewhere!). I'm hoping to be back in a couple of days with those other cards I mentioned & also a spot of sewing...