Tuesday 30 April 2013

Learning and teaching

I enjoy doing workshops and classes. In pretty much anything, from drawing to embroidery, cooking to willow weaving. I can learn a lot by reading books on various subjects, but I find that a class, large or small, provides like-minded individuals who have interesting viewpoints. Teachers have many, many tricks of the trade to share, and most classes have nice tea and biscuits, too!
So recently I decided I needed some hands-on help with sewing. My grandma isn’t down the road to teach me these things, and I need guidance.
Piping and zippers. I’m in the Big Time now, baby. I’ve done my patchwork cushion; I’m ready to take on the world! In a nearby town is an organisation that offers all sorts of sewing workshops, including dresses, blinds and curtains. They also do a cushion workshop for piping and concealed zippers.

Little Flower helped me to choose this scrumptious fabric. Isn’t it just cheery? I learned how to make bias binding from my fabric (including some excellent tips on how to cut cleverly to avoid wasting loads of fabric, and how to use various sewing tools), pipe all round the cushion, and do that fancy concealed zipper.

You can barely see it, huh? :-) I sure hope I can remember how to do this again – I need to make another one pretty immediately to reinforce the technique. Now I can make all those bags and other pretties that I have in my crafty books!
This is my second workshop I’ve done with group – the first being a fun freestyle machine embroidery class – and I hit it off with the instructor, who combines knowledge and fun in perfect measure. We got to talking about crochet, and it turns out they’ve been looking for someone to teach a crochet workshop...and would I be interested?
Yes indeed! I have taught individual friends to crochet, but a group? I am intrigued and excited! My mind has been racing since, considering what to teach in a two-hour time slot, how to teach more than one person at a time, etc.

A double crochet (US single crochet) dishcloth in the works.

I thought that after the initial “Here’s how to hold a hook, here’s how to make a chain,” it would be useful to have some examples of basic crochet stitches to see and hold. So I’m whipping up a few dishcloths in each stitch. I like to see a section of a stitch, not just a row or two, so I can really understand the look and feel of the fabric made by double crochet, treble crochet, etc. I want to offer lots of tangible examples to demonstrate what is possible once you’ve practiced the tension and holding the hook.
But hey ho, what’s this?

I bought a few balls of cotton yarn for dishcloths – a pale green, a pink and this juicy Sirdar Summer Stripes, because I liked the variegated coral-pinkiness. Then lo and behold, I eyed some green, then peeked into the centre to see a rainbow of shades! (Hence the name Summer Stripes, um, I get it now...) I might just have to find a summer project to see what all I can do with that palette...
How did you learn to crochet? Did you have a project, or just do row after row to practice the stitch? And if you are wanting to crochet, what about it appeals to you? I might have to test some workshop ideas out on all of you!
I leave you with my favourite little bit of springtime, found peeking out from under one of my beloved tulips this morning. Happy crafting!

Chrissie x

Friday 26 April 2013

Mystery Mother’s Day project unveiled...

Ta-dah! Here is the mini-quilt/wall hanging that I have made for my mother, ready to pop into the post just in time to arrive on American Mother’s Day.
I was inspired by the words and hand flower design, which I found on Pinterest a while back, but it all was painted onto a piece of yellow paper. I wanted something that was a keepsake, so I decided to use off-white linen, fabric paints and pens for the hand flowers and embroidery for the words. I decided on the pretty coordinating fabric for a border at the last minute. I used a bit of fusible fleece and the same floral fabric for the back.

I wanted to keep the words in a basic font, very simply done, to reflect the children’s hand prints. The light brown stitching uses backstitch, with two strands of floss. The red and purple words are in a chunkier chain stitch using six strands. It’s all quite tiny, and the finished piece is the size of a placemat. In fact, I’m going to include a note that states, “This is not a placemat!” Next time I’ll know better and alter the dimensions a bit.  
I do hope she likes it. She likes browns and creams, hence the border and light brown floss, but the girls chose the colours they wanted for their hands. I didn’t want to force them to use a muted green or brown to match her decor!
My mother definitely is not a fan of patchwork, so I had to choose carefully what I did with the linen. I considered a hoop frame, but there is no way she’d want that hanging around her house (yes, our tastes are very different!), a cushion wouldn’t work anywhere either, and I had already given her a framed piece of silk ribbon embroidery, so I didn’t want to frame this as well.
I have some books on quilting, including mini-quilts, but I hadn’t made one until today. This actually isn’t a proper quilt, as I didn’t use any decorative stitching all over the finished fabric sandwich, and I didn’t do a bias binding border, but honestly, she wouldn’t like that anyway, so I was let off the hook.
However, I consider this my first lesson in quilting, no matter how restrained the design. Now I simply must make a pretty, girly, pink patchwork mini-quilt all for myself!
I have some exciting crochet news to share with you next time you visit...happy crafting!
Chrissie x

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Bubbles in the sunshine...

I feel like I’m all over the place today. Scattered. I walk into a room for something, then stand dumbstruck in the middle of the room wondering why on earth I’m there. You know those days.
So. Let’s get things in order. First, Little Flower and I bake some chocolate chip cookies.

Ah, I’m feeling more settled now. Nothing like a spot of baking to shut out the world and calm the mind. (I also hear the same mantra from my yoga instructor. Only I would apply it to chocolate...)
Then the sun comes out, so shiny and bright, to warm the heart. Little Flower calls out: “BUBBLES!!!”
So out comes the bubble machine.

The photos are overexposed, blurry, hurried...but no matter, I captured the fleeting life of a bubble in the sunshine. Then I put down the camera and played with my girl.
(I noticed once that the bubble machine churns out so many bubbles, from the road in front of our house one can see dozens of sparkly orbs drifting into the sky from our back garden. Such a happy, happy sight, bubbles floating en masse to the heavens!)
I’m a bit behind with my second mystery project I told you about here. I’m distracted by sunshine, bubbles and giggles! Here’s a sneaky peek at what we’ve been up to

Fun with fabric paint

Then I had a change of heart withe the fabric pens and decided I'd like to do a bit of embroidery

More stitching this evening, then I'm nearly finished. Hint: it’s a gift for my mother, who lives in America, and the inspiration came from a pin I found and saved to one of my Pinterest pages – can you spot it? Mother’s Day is approaching in the US, so I have to get this WIP into the post toot sweet!
Happy crafting!
Chrissie x

Sunday 21 April 2013

Sewing confidence...

Sewing intimidates me. A bit less with each project I make, because it proves I can do it without breaking my machine or stitching through a finger. I also am fortunate to have some dear friends who kindly hold my hand, offer encouragement and don’t laugh at me when I ask silly questions.
I first learned to sew, as I’m sure most of you have, when I was young, at my grandmother’s knee, supplemented with a few basic lessons in home economics at school. Decades later and I became interested again, but it seemed so complicated – the machine, the space needed, the noise, all the teeny bits of equipment...I’m accustomed to a hook and some yarn!
I was “forced” into sewing just over a year ago, when I needed to line a crochet bag I made as a gift. I loved making this bag, from the fantastic Cute n’ Easy Crochet by Nicki Trench, which everyone learning to crochet should own. But the lining. A simple, plain calico – the horror! Scissors! I was afraid to even make one cut. (Perhaps when we’re relatively skilled at one craft, we’re very keen to try other ones, but the complete lack of knowledge leaves us a bit perplexed? Hmmm, there must be a branch of psychology that studies this...)
My lovely friend Jooles came to my rescue, sewing goddess that she is, and calmly coached me throughout the measuring, cutting, pinning and sewing process. The first depression of the foot pedal...Well, here’s the result, complete with a pocket, warmly accepted and appreciated by the gift recipient

And today I get to show off my sewing progress by sharing this!

Ta-dah! Remember the fabric bundle from my last post? This is a cushion cover for my Grandma’s sewing room. She is my inspiration and my role model, and her sewing skills...well, she is Yoda and I am a very young Luke Skywalker.

Here's the back of the cushion cover...

Making this made me happy. I am gaining enough confidence now that I enjoy the process of sewing. I like the anticipation of setting up the machine (I don’t need to consult the instruction book every time I have to thread the needle). I can measure and cut the fabric without worrying I’m going to shred a beautiful fat quarter.

And I even brainstormed some embellishments!

(Here I confess that my creative side took over to save the inexperienced seamstress who twice tried to perfectly line up all the patches, but two stubborn ones refused to stand absolutely straight together. So I used the tape measure ribbon to cover up the seams. The buttons just seemed to bring it all together quite nicely.)
I’m sure this all seems quite daft to you experienced sewing folks out there, but I do hope you can relate a bit, and recognise and appreciate your own talents and confidence. And those of you who are in the same boat as me know you’re not alone!
Happy crafting!
Chrissie x

Friday 19 April 2013

Take a broken headband...

...and some coordinating yarn

...and a sweet, super-easy tutorial from Tangled Happy, which is my daily dose of crochet happiness, and

Bunny's new bow!

Ta-dah! Upcycled is the trendy way to say that I refused to throw out the pretty ribbon from this not-entirely-cheap headband. It was accidentally stepped on about a week after it was purchased. Of course.

The pattern is great for beginners to crochet, as it only uses a double crochet stitch (single crochet for US peeps) in five rows. Done before you know it! The pattern called for a 4.25mm hook and worsted weight yarn, but I had the leftover purple from another project, and it worked better with a 4mm hook.
The pattern works just fine with little tweaks - Sara of Tangled Happy fastened her bow to an alligator clip, but my girlies prefer elastics, so I wrapped the yarn around a ponytail holder instead.

Don't look too closely - I noticed I still have some thread to snip! I can picture these in birthday party goody bags, as stocking stuffers – I may even attach a bow to a bag. The possibilities.
In other news...

Yes, I’ve bought another fabric bundle. Sew Retro from Makower. Look at this! So cute!

How could I say no? My name is Chrissie, and I’m a fabriholic. (hi chrissie.)
But I already have a purpose for these jolly fabrics, which I will work on this weekend and give you a peek next week.

These fabric pens and paints are for another secret project this weekend. Ooo, I am a woman of mystery today! You’ll just have to be patient, m’dears!
Enjoy the weekend, and hopefully some sunshine. Happy crafting!
Chrissie x

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Inspiration from the mundane...

A few years ago, when Bunny was small, I was painting what would become her new bedroom. I was indulging my girliness and love of pink by using pale pink above the dado rail, a shade darker below. And even though I thought them the perfect shades of pink, it all seemed so typical for a girl’s room. I wanted to inject some sort of personality, make it a bit unique.
I was making her bed when I took new notice of the fairies adorning her pillowcase corners

This didn’t inspire me to learn embroidery, that came years later. And no, I didn’t feel the need to buy a sewing machine, either. I don’t even think I was crocheting at this point...but I did have a few little tubes of paint, and I had been revamping furniture and painting rooms for years

So I took inspiration from the pillowcase and painted a fairy at the top of Bunny’s closet. I’m no artist, but I can manage a stick figure! She is about two inches long.
She was joined by some friends

I love fairies, and I had to sneak some into her room. When she was little and was afraid to go to sleep on her own, I told her the fairies would look after her. She liked that.
Then I went into overdrive with the decorative accents and got to the closet doors and dado rail

She was all smiles when she saw this (thank goodness!) and even now, at nearly 10 years old, she loves these details. She even said when she wants more “grown-up” colours on her walls, I have to paint little circles around the fairies so they are always there...
The way I see it, do something different, it’s fun! And really, it’s just a few tester pots of paint – if it doesn’t turn out right, paint over it!
With the closet doors, I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d do, so I started with pink polka dots. Dip a little paintbrush into paint, tap it onto the door. Took about five minutes. Then I thought some stripes would be nice, so a fatter brush in blue paint (I did measure the spaces in between the stripes to make sure they were a bit even).

The flowers are simply blobs of paint swirled together – pink dabbed on top of the green stem, then a red blob dabbed in the middle of pink and stirred a bit with the tip of the brush. I did similar all the way around on the dado rail, and pink polka dots on the skirting board.

This room is crazy girly, I know, but I wanted to show you what can be done with regular acrylic paint tubes and some inexpensive brushes (honestly, the brush I used for the roses was an old lipstick brush – I decided to do roses in the evening after shops were closed, but I didn’t want to wait until morning to buy a teeny brush!) Dots and stripes and doodles can be adapted to any colour scheme, and stars or other shapes could be substituted for flowers in a boy’s room.
I am seriously considering painting a wee fairy somewhere else in the house, like in the kitchen or a corner of the sitting room, and not telling anyone. See who spots it first. What do you think?
Happy crafting!
Chrissie x

Monday 15 April 2013

For lack of a better name, introducing the cropped poncho...

Here is my latest crochet creation. But what to call it? I’ve seen relatively similar crochet/knit pieces that go by various names: capelet – sounds too fuddy-duddy; shoulder warmer – eh?; and ponchini – I mean really, as if I’d walk around saying, “Do you like my ponchini?” Sounds like a cross-bred small dog or a new Italian dish.
I wanted something between a cardigan and a scarf/cowl to wear around the house, as one can be too warm, the other not warm enough, depending on the weather. I have a knitted cropped poncho-type thing with a big cowl neck, and I wanted to make a crochet version after I saw this begging for a cuddle at the local haberdashery

Ooo, so soft and gorgeous, and I love the neutral colours, greys and creamy whites and the softest rosy-taupes. I bought this without knowing what to do with it (I seem to have a habit of doing that), so I made up the cropped poncho pattern after I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for.
This is my first time making a crochet garment pattern. I usually prefer knitted clothes and crocheted household items and toys, but I’m happy with how this turned out. I based it on the foundations of a Lion poncho pattern, but changed it to suit my idea.
I am petite person so I made it small, but I’ve written in how to adapt it for someone taller. But I’ve only made one, so please offer feedback!
Cropped poncho
Here’s what I used:
Chunky weight yarn – about one-and-a-half 50g balls for size small (I used Sirdar Crofter Fair Isle Effect Chunky in Shade 0048)
9mm hook
Large button for collar
Written in US terminology:
Hdc = Yarn over hook; insert hook into next stitch; yarn over hook; pull yarn through stitch (3 loops on hook); yarn over hook; pull hook through all 3 loops on hook.
Ch 46, join with slip st to form ring, being careful not to twist the chain
Round 1: Ch1, hdc in each ch around (46sts). Do not join, but mark end of rnd with stitch marker or contrasting thread between last and first sts. Do not turn.
Rnd 2: Hdc in first st, *2hdc in next st, hdc in each of next 4 sts; repeat from * around – 55 sts
Rnd 3 and all odd rnds: Hdc in each st around
Rnd 4: Hdc in first st, *2hdc in next st, hdc in each of next 5 sts; repeat from * around – 64 sts
Rnd 6: Hdc in first st, *2hdc in next st, hdc in each of next 6 sts; repeat from * around – 73 sts
Rnd 8: Hdc in first st, *2hdc in next st, hdc in each of next 7 sts; repeat from * around – 82 sts
At this point the garment reached the curve of my shoulders, so I continued in single hdc in each stitch:
Rnds 9-18: Hdc in each st around. Fasten off and weave in ends
But if you are medium or large size, after Rnd 9, continue as such until garment curves over edge of shoulders:
Rnd 10: Hdc in first st, *2hdc in next st, hdc in next 8 sts; repeat from * around – 91 sts
Rnd 12: Hdc in first st, *2hdc in next st, hdc in next 9 sts; repeat from * around – 100 sts
Rnd 14: Hdc in first st, *2hdc in next st, hdc in next 10 sts; repeat from * around – 109 sts

After you reach the shoulder curve, do 10 rounds of hdc in each st around, then fasten off and weave in ends (see example Rnds 9-18 above) – the idea is that the cropped poncho stays slim against the body, ending just below chest level – so it keeps you warm and doesn’t get in the way with lots of bulk.
Neck: I made up this part by accident – I had the intention of making a cowl neck, but after two rounds I put it on to check the sizing and decided I was finished! Work the neck in the same hdc as the body:
Rnd 1: Join yarn to existing st, then hdc in each st around (46 sts). Do not join, but mark end of rnd. Do not turn.
Rnd 2: Hdc in each st around.
Try on the garment and see if the neck is high enough for you, then either fasten off and weave in the ends, or hdc another round or two. Add a snazzy button just off centre, and pat yourself on the back, well done!
Of course, now that I’ve finished it we’ll have a heat wave and the Spring we’ve been desperately waiting for...
Happy crafting!
Chrissie x

Saturday 13 April 2013

My stitchy must-haves

The talented trio that comprise &Stitches are hosting a competition
As a newbie to embroidery, I find the &Stitches web site so fun and informative. I’ve picked up some tips from those who have already posted about their embroidery kits, so I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring. I have the typical needles and scissors, as well as thread bobbins tucked away in their organiser case, but the following items have earned a place on my “life-just-wouldn’t-be-the-same-without-you” list
My magnetic Needle Frog, who stoically keeps my needles safe and close. Look at the fellow. He doesn’t judge.

I already featured this handy-dandy embroidery seat frame here, I love it, especially for silk ribbon embroidery.
And, finally, I’m taking it back old-school style with this

My Caboodle started life as a home for my glittery lip glosses and nail varnish when I was about 14 (check out the ultra-‘80s font of the brand name!). It has stayed with me all these years, serving as make-up case, as single-girl’s toolbox, and now as the perfect embroidery storage box.

Bubble-gum-flavoured lip balm has been replaced by a selection of embroidery needles, various hair accessories have been bumped by project threads and scissors (thankfully nary a scrunchie in sight, I’m not that kind of gal), and the frosty eyeshadow section now houses my silk ribbons and pretty violet magnetic needle disc. The base is large enough to hold a small hoop, fabric and pattern – though here I thought it only appropriate to showcase Sublime Stitching’s “Breakdance” floss pack...cuz I’m *fresh*!
Ok, time to act my age again and get some proper stitching done. Enjoy the weekend, and my latest crochet experiment is comin' right up!
Chrissie x

Friday 12 April 2013

A work of art...

I've had some more fun with paint

For years I’ve collected postcards from art exhibitions I visit. A postcard is a small, nice (cheap) souvenir...but I could never figure out what to do with all of them. I don’t like to keep them stuffed in a box, and I’m not a scrapbook person, so they’ve served as fancy bookmarks for my cookbooks. Until I found an old, damaged frame.
I painted the frame a matte, chalky grey shade a tone lighter than the wall (very tricky to photograph, with one teeny, north-facing window and lots of shadows). I didn’t want a decorative backing, I wanted the wall to show through. I chose some postcards, added some Blu-Tack and ta-dah! Art!
The fun with this is that I can change the postcards whenever I fancy, so it’s like my own art gallery.
Except that, um, it’s in the ground floor loo. I’m all class.

But this also could work in children’s rooms, painted pastel or bright colours for family pictures, it could frame children’s artwork in grand fashion (hmm, perhaps I should add a few to The Wall on the stairs? What do you think?), a craft room to frame inspirational magazine cuttings, etc.
I do like those pretty fabric-covered pinboards with the ribbon and whatnot, but I wanted something different. I think I'll go to some charity shops this weekend and try to find some more...
Happy crafting!
Chrissie x

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Look what the postman brought...

I have another new crochet project to share with you, but not today – something arrived in the post that I must show you!

Aren’t they pretty? It’s the Seaside Life charm pack from Tilda. I can never resist Tilda...
I’m not entirely sure what to do with this charm pack, because I have a wee confession: I’m still learning to sew...
I can count on one hand the number of things I’ve made. But my lack of experience hasn’t stopped me from this
This is my fabric stash. Well, most of it.
We are having work done in the utility room at the moment, and it has forced me into an early Spring Clean as I clear out the room and various cupboards (lots and lots of “Aha! I’ve been looking for that!” moments). And I have been able to collect all the fabrics I’ve been storing in various bags and bins into one place. 

I have no idea what I’m going to do with this one. Same story for the one behind it, and the one behind that...But I mean, really, how could I say no to this funky little fat quarter? It was smiling at me from the charming basket of fat quarters at the fabric shop, placed conveniently near the till so that I could have a rummage while the friendly staff member was adding up my purchases. Clever how the shops do that, eh?
I do have plans for a lot of the fabrics. I have so many ideas inside my head, waiting for me to learn the skills to actually become a reality (I also have a very skinny person inside me, but she can’t get out for all the cupcakes and cookies in her way). Here’s what I’ve made so far for my house, in addition to the basket liner mentioned in this post
Placemats based on a pattern in Zakka Style by Rashida Coleman-Hale
A cushion based on a pattern in Little Stitches by Aneela Hoey, sewing + embroidery = happy!
Oh, wait, I almost forgot this itty-bitty magnet, also from Zakka Style
I am becoming quite good at sewing straight lines...
I do have some projects in mind for the fabric stash

Patchwork feature for a linen sewing machine cover
Learning to paper-piece hexies for a bag for Bunny, who chose the charm pack herself
Christmas placemats

Night-time pillow, filled with lavender
And in a very bold and daring move, I even committed to this
These are the makings of a disappearing nine-patch quilt. Yes, I plan to make something larger than a loaf of bread! I will elaborate on this in a future post. Suffice it to say that I managed to sew together a gazillion charm pack squares into nine-block squares. I was as nervous as a bride on her wedding day when I had to take the rotary cutter to them to cut the disappearing nine-patch design. Still not the most confident of seamstresses.
Happy crafting!
Chrissie x