Sunday, 12 October 2014

Craft therapy in a chaotic world

What is it about cutting up fabric

and sewing it back together again

that is so gratifying?

Why does choosing yarn in beautiful colours

and spending a few hours basically hooking it into tangles and knots

make the tough realities of life just a bit easier to take?

How can a needle and a few bits of coloured thread

yield small beauties that put the ugliness of the news into the background for a while?

Craft is the perfect antidote to the horrors of the world around us.

We crafty folk find happiness in sharing our knowledge

One of the workshops I teach
One of the classes I take

inspiring new friends

Teaching a new friend to sew on a rainy afternoon

enjoying the company of old friends

Enjoying decadent treats on Craft Night with Jooles!

The news has been getting to me lately. It’s all too much sometimes. I switch off the radio and reach for something to make, something to take my mind off all the negativity.

Craft therapy. In these tumultuous times, we’re all holding onto our creative gifts, enriching our family lives with simple makes

I've been making snowflakes with linen thread and iridescent thread hooked together...

And while conflicts spread the globe, so too do our creative connections

We’re sticking together, we crafty folk, we’re reaching out across the vastest distances to share the simplest of pleasures in this complicated world.

Craft therapy.

Don’t you wish a news report would end not with the weather, but with a Craft Update?
“And in Surrey this evening, Chrissie Crafts has finally finished her daughter’s quilt! A lovingly made patchwork in shades of rose and aqua, Chrissie reveals exclusively to us that this will be Bunny’s Christmas present. Well done, Chrissie.”

Happy crafting!

Chrissie x

P.S. I first wrote about craft therapy a few weeks after starting my blog. You can read it here.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Adjusting...and sharing the yarn love

The flowers in my garden are confused...

A second flush of lavender, chives, borage, even wild strawberries!
It is September, but the sun has been shining bright, the air has been warm, and the garden doesn’t know whether it is coming or going!

The sky is Mediterranean blue behind a small cluster of jasmine blossoms.

The nasturtiums continue to burst open in hot colours.

Tree leaves are beginning to turn behind a late-blooming rose.

I am similarly muddled. But today I finally feel a nip in the air that hints of autumn. I reach for my shawl and my crochet hook.

‘Tis the season for super-chunky yarn

A blanket in the works.

‘Tis also the season to get a head-start on Christmas

Oh, this book! The possibilities! While I wait for my Anchor Aida Crochet Cotton No. 10 in a range of icy pastel shades, I made three of the snowflake designs from this new book with DK yarn. All using a 4mm hook, all with different, pleasing results. I have yet to weave in the ends and block these snowflakes, so they're a bit untidy, but you get the idea...

The Louisa Harding Etoile has beautiful tiny sequins to give that authentic snowflake sparkle. The grey Smooth DK has the slightest sheen, and the lilac Patons is a mercerised cotton, so it hooks like smooth string.

I’m going to experiment with blocking and stiffening - a comparison of fabric stiffening spray and a mix of PVA glue and water. Watch this space for results!

I am adjusting to a new phase of life, and while I am thoroughly enjoying all the busy-ness that has made up these past few weeks, I am still trying to find my feet. Trying to find time to be *still* and get a grip on what’s happening all around me. I know that time will come, but not yet. 

For the moment I wake up and look at the calendar on the wall and do exactly what it tells me: “Crochet Course 10-12”; “Embroidery Workshop 9.30-12.30”; “Lunch Date 1 p.m.” “Choir Practice 7.30-9.30”. If I didn’t have that thing on the wall I’d probably stand stupid in the middle of the kitchen each morning not knowing which way to turn!

But it’s all good. All good! I just don’t have as much time to blog as I used to, but I will find my groove. You can also find me on Instagram (check the link up there on the right) where I share simple photos of what I’m doing until I’m able to sit down and write about it all.

Here’s some yarn I shared recently on IG, nestled comfortably here in my favourite pink basket:

I was teaching my Beginner’s Crochet Course at Pins & Needles in Grayshott. It is dangerous business, teaching in lovely haberdasheries. I’m constantly spending my earnings on bits of fabric and yarn...well, it just so happened that stock was being cleared to make room for the new season, and those pretty pastel balls of Debbie Bliss Eco Baby were £1 each!

I left with 15. It would have been a crime to leave them!

The yarn is soooo soft and pretty, I was thinking they would make lovely washcloths to wrap up with a beautiful bar of handmade soap for Christmas gifts. However, upon hooking up three shades into a flower just for fun...

I have discovered that the colours coordinate perfectly with my living room! 

Now there’s a dilemma...I just happen to have purchased Annettes newest pattern, the Popcorn & Lace pillow...pretty granny square pillow or Christmas gifts? What would you do?

Chrissie x

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Dreaming Tree lampshade

Last week was my first full week with both girls back at school. Bunny loves being in secondary school, she was ready for the challenge of a larger school and all the new subjects and extracurricular activities and that it offers. 

She’s even looking into the school orchestra – I’m not sure they’ve ever had a harpist!

Little Flower is settling in nicely into Reception/Kindergarten. She loves being there, but Wednesday morning last week the novelty wore off – you know how it is with small children, they love donning their school clothes, carrying their backpacks and lunch bags, staying all day...

...until Wednesday, when they realise that this is actually the way of life now, and the lazy days of summertime are over. So the rest of the week I had to contend with tears when I dropped her off. The crying stopped about thirty seconds after I left each day (luckily the teaching assistant is a good friend of mine, so I have a first-hand account!) as she got down to the business of playing. I know the waterworks are just for my benefit. Hmph.

I have filled my calendar with craft workshops. Not taking them, but teaching them! I’m very fortunate that local haberdasheries and craft workshop venues are including me on their course rosters. In addition to the crochet courses I’ve been teaching for a good while, I’ll be holding workshops ranging from beginner’s embroidery to simple cushion making. I am so excited to be spreading the crafting love!

I spent a good part of my bloggy break developing these workshops, creating projects, writing handouts and running some mock-courses with friends acting as crafty guinea pigs to make sure all ran to schedule.

Last week was the first lampshade workshop at The Cotton Wool Store in Petworth. Part of the fun of teaching here was that we had the shop full of amazing fabrics to choose from!

I made one in advance using the “Wee Wander” range by Sarah Jane Studios for Michael Miller. I love this enchanting line! I could make an entire bedroom set with the fabrics in this range...

Look at that sweet boy sitting in the tree, you know he’s imagining all sorts of magical adventures...takes me right back to the crab apple tree I spent hours in as a child.

I wanted to highlight this whimsical tree for the lampshade. Embroidery is perfect for this, lending just the right touch of embellishment. 

Lazy daisy stitches are ideal for the leaves, and as I started rummaging through my floss stash I realised that I didn’t have to choose one colour, I could make a rainbow!

No need for ribbon trim with the focus on what I’ve dubbed The Dreaming Tree, but I encouraged the class participants to choose pretty trims for their shades. They had such fun!

Guess which workshop participant made this doozy of a shade? None other than Naomi from Redeem Creations – you might recognise her work here:

Photo courtesy of Redeem Creations
She’s the cover star of Mollie Makes Issue 43! It was so lovely to meet her, she has such a creative flair (and she makes *fabulous* bags!). The room was brimming with inspiration!

Naomi and others left with extra kits to make more lampshades at home. The possibilities are endless – embroidery, patchwork, trims galore...and all bespoke. Hooray for handmade!

Happy crafting!

Chrissie x

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Foraging... the wood and around the heath this afternoon.

We found blackberries

for the season’s first apple-blackberry crumble.

And hiding beneath this enchanting fairy toadstool...

...I found my blogging mojo!


It’s good to be back. More soon!

Chrissie x

Friday, 8 August 2014

Hidden panda quilt top

Ah, what a summer! I’ve made a conscious decision to play a lot more and enjoy our final weeks of holiday before the girls start at new schools. We are being lazy, we are being playful and energetic; they fill me with happiness, they drive me up the wall; the house is in chaos, but the floor tiles are clean:

I have asked them to tidy toys, I have nagged them to clear a path through just one room in the house, but today they asked if they could mop their bathroom floor. With their feet, like ice skaters. Never refuse an offer of help.

In the midst of all this, I managed to sew together Bunny’s hidden panda quilt top.

These teeny hidden pandas are *too cute*!
You may remember when I first started this quilt in June. I used the super-speedy nine-patch technique I showed here last summer.

Yes, I know, I spy some loose threads, I haven’t got around to that fiddly thread-picking stage. I have ironed it, but it certainly doesn't look like it!

For this quilt I am trying a new technique for backing the quilt top. Instead of making a quilt sandwich, with the top, the wadding and the backing fabric, I’m using a fleecy fabric to act as both wadding and backing. This should be less tricky as I’m quilting it, as I won’t have three layers to keep together, and oh, that fabric is just so snuggly!

Last Monday evening was the local Quilting Club night. I was all ready to sew it all together, perhaps even start the binding, but as I was ironing the top I felt a little something was lacking. I love the fabrics so much, and I am pleased with the orderly fashion in which I lined up the patches (I struggle, how I struggle, to be more random! The busy-ness of certain quilt designs makes me feel somewhat agitated...). But I felt a strong need to embellish. With needle and thread.

I’m going to stitch some sweet embroideries on a few random calico squares for Bunny. Of course I had to start with a bunny, and I’ve been dying to embroider this little beauty ever since I first saw her in The Belle and Boo Book of Craft.

This is perhaps the most darling book I have; I am just besotted with Mandy Sutcliffe’s illustrations, and the projects are whimsical and nostalgic and destined to become heirlooms.

I spent Quilting Club chatting to fellow quilters and stitching the bunny. Very relaxing way to start the week!

I’ve doodled a few more designs which I will share at a later date, and I also wanted to include a few fun flowers:

Carina’s Stitched Blooms is my go-to book for stylish flowers. It is full of motifs perfect for this type of random embroidery – I mean, just look at the cover! I could fill every square just with the cover embroidery!

Heaven forbid I finish a WIP in a reasonable amount of time! I make more work for myself...knowing my schedule in the autumn, I’ll only be able to work on this quilt once a month a Quilt Club. But it will be stitched with love, from start to eventual finish...

Have a great weekend!

Chrissie x

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Teacher aprons (yes, I know it's summer holidays!)

I know the last thing anyone is thinking about at the moment is back to school...but a friend of mine is a teaching assistant in the primary school’s Reception class, and a while back she had a request. A little summer project.

She needed some sort of carrier for the flotsam and jetsam of Reception class – pencils, stickers, cards (and I suspect the odd chocolate treat for mid-afternoon pick-me-up?). A little bag on a belt? An across-the-body satchel?

Then Sandra from Cherry Heart posted about a gardener’s apron she had made, and I knew I had the solution!

This is a teacher’s apron, in jolly primary colours and fabrics that appeal to 4- and 5-year-olds.

I sewed a pocket slim enough for pencils, with two other pockets for stickers and whatnot/chocolate. You can see the contrasting turquoise thread above...

Sandra’s tutorial was very clear and super-easy to follow - this apron was made in under an hour, including breaks to fetch children snacks and towels for paddling pool play. You can find her original post here.  

Late last night Bunny had a night terror; I heard her crying at 2:45 a.m. She was burning up and delirious, shaking and scared. I cuddled her and comforted her, then she came into our bed for the rest of the night. Cool washcloths and a soft breeze from the window settled her, and a dose of Nurofen helped with the fever. She woke this morning sleepy but absolutely fine, like nothing ever happened. Such a universal parenting situation; I remember cuddling up to my mother after a nightmare, there is nothing quite as comforting. I don’t know which feeling is better: being the child being comforted, or now being the mother, and knowing that wonderful, deep happiness of being the one who can provide such comfort.

But I digress because I'm sleepy...

This morning I woke weary and bleary, with a foggy mind and rattled nerves. I decided a spot of creativity first thing would sort me out and start the day on a positive note. So I made a second teacher’s apron, for the Reception class teacher, using the remaining fat quarter fabrics.

For these aprons I used an inexpensive fat quarter pack of fabrics found on eBay, which fit the bill perfectly.

I matched up some ribbon and bias binding, including a bright orange shade from my grandma's stash, which I used for the pocket trim and apron ties.

I had wondered when on earth I would ever use that orange!
This time the apron was finished in 45 minutes, including yawns and a break to make more tea.

I have some scraps of each fabric leftover – I think I’ll make some little bunting for the classroom. Little Flower will have a very colourful and coordinated Reception class!

Enjoy the weekend!
Chrissie x