Sunday, 1 February 2015

New baby quilt

Having a couple of days off work this week was a luxury that enabled me to do something I've been meaning to for ages.  Behold my new baby cot quilt!

This was made using one and a half Moda charm packs and a gorgeous delft patterned cotton fabric on the back.

The wadding is a high loft one called Dream Puff and it is extremely light and floofy. I've also gone so far as to use the wadding doubled up in this quilt, just because I have a real soft spot for puffy, fat quilts. I know it's not to everyone's taste - I just have a nostalgic yen for the big, puffy eiderdowns of my childhood. My sewing machine seemed to cope ok with the extra puffiness on a cot sized quilt, but if I ever want to do a double bed one I think I'll have to try a quilt-as-you-go method.

I've got enough charm squares left to make a couple of little matching quilted pillow cases, which I'm dying to finish but I want to back them with the same blue fabric as the quilt and, alas, I didn't buy enough. So I have to wait for some more to arrive in the post before I can do the pillows. Tsk!

Thing 2 is going to be in a tiny co-sleeper crib for the first 6 months or so, so my plan is to use this as a floor quilt/play quilt until next winter, when she'll be old enough to move into a 'big girl' cot.

But here's how it looks when modelled on Thing 1's bed...

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Liberty Tana Lawn Baby Bonnets

I once vowed to myself that, if I ever became pregnant with a girl, I'd make one of these adorable little Purl Bee bonnets using Liberty Tana Lawn.

Well - the time has come, and I am one to stick to my guns! And it's such a lovely pattern. Crisp and fun and spring-link on the outside, but warm and snuggly on the inside.

As it was, I couldn't decide which colour of Liberty lawn fabric to go for, so I ended up making two...

The fleece lining used in the original pattern is an organic sherpa material that's hard to source in the UK, so I substituted mine with a very close match, using an organic hemp fleece from a UK supplier called Eco Earth Fabrics.  As far as I can tell it's almost identical, though possibly a bit more lightweight. It has a smooth side and a fleecy side and has worked really well with the pattern for a spring bonnet. It's also incredibly soft.

Once I have a tiny baby's head to put inside these bonnets I'll update the pics so that you can see what it looks like on.  (For now, my ironing board is doing its best job at modelling!)

Amazingly, I also have some more knitting and quilting to share in my next posts...  suffice to say it's been a mega-crafty month for me.

Making a sewing kit for your pre-schooler

Something that warmed the cockles of my crafty heart this morning was watching the Microbe's intent little face as he fed a huge plastic needle through the pre-punched holes of a little sewing kit that I'd made him. He wasn't very well today and it was a perfect activity for a sick boy on a rainy day.

He had his very first go at sewing at Christmas, courtesy of a Mister Maker hand-puppet kit and it struck me the that 3 1/2 is an ideal age to start gathering together your very first bits and pieces for sewing.

After a quick sift through 8,000 candy-pink kits on the internet, I decided that it would be more fun, and probably cheaper, to put together my own customised sewing kit for him, tailored to his interests.

Behold - the sewing menagerie!

I made these little animal kits just by cutting out shapes from scraps of felt and punching holes around the edges using a leather punch. Luckily I had a little stash of felt at home, but I noticed that Poundland also sells multi-packs of brightly-coloured A5 sized pieces. The stuffing is salvaged from a bit of left over quilt wadding, but you could just as easily use offcuts of yarn as stuffing.

The yarn in his kit is from Poundland. Not the nicest quality acrylic, to be honest, but it's ideal for this purpose and you get 3 balls for £2. I re-wound a selection of colours into tiny balls and have also supplemented it since with a handful of brightly coloured Lion Brand Bonbons. (These are the world's cutest and tiniest sample-size yarn balls, discovered thanks to my highly enabling friend, Charlotte!)

The other thing I've added to his kit, thanks to a great suggestion from a friend, is a few sheets of plastic aida with large holes. You can leave them blank or draw shapes on these using a sharpie, for a child to sew along. At some  point I might add some large-holed buttons too, so he can play with sewing those on. As for needles, you can get sets of children's plastic needles for around £1 on eBay or Amazon.

So far all of our bits and bobs are residing in a little cardboard box - but a lovely friend of ours has bought him this fab little animal-themed sewing box, which looks absolutely perfect!

So - if you know any tiny people that love to craft, I'd definitely recommend spending a happy afternoon putting together a little kit like this. Applique templates online can be a good source of ideas for simple shapes that will work in felt.

Knitted fox and raccoon

Having a couple of weeks off work over our drizzly festive period, I somehow found my knitting mojo and made a couple of fun little projects for my son.

Firstly, say hello to Mr Fox....

The fox is a slightly  customised version of a pattern for an adult neck, using Sirdar Snowflake yarn. It's essentially a cross between a cuddly toy and a garment and, while arranging it around the boybot’s neck, I found myself wondering whether the effect was closer to Davy Crocket or Liberace. But he seems to like it, either way. The full details and pattern are on Ravelry here
Next up is Mr Raccon. He was commissioned immediately by the boy after receiving the fox "because I haven't GOT a raccoon, mummy!" 

He's based on a pattern called Backyard Bandits and, once again, the full details can be found on Ravelry, here.  He's supposed to have a cotton bandana around his neck, but a scarf seemed more in keeping with the English winter.
Happy crafting, all!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Little quilts

I've been meaning for some time to mention my latest fad, which is quilting! It started last summer when I made this fun farmyard quilt for my son's toddler bed.

This is what some might call a cheat’s quilt, in that the central panel of the quilt is a printed image, so all I had to do was assemble the quit with wadding and a backing and quilt around the animal shapes. The wadding is a nice high-loft one and the backing is a piece of pinstripe sheeting. I also added a border, to increase the size of the quilt for his toddler bed, and edged it with 2-inch bias binding.

This gave me the bug - so I decided that my second project would be a baby quilt for a friend's nweborn girl. This time I used a Moda charm pack to make up a patchwork quilt from squares.

Once again I added a border for added width and then 'stitched in the ditch' to quilt it. And, again, I used a fairly high loft wadding as I really like a quilt to have some ‘floof factor’. I made my own bias binding this time from some jelly-roll strips.

I’m planning to make a similar baby quilt imminently for my own little ‘Thing 2’ who is currently being baked in my tummy. I might even double up on wadding this time, for extra floof! I will be sure to post when it's done...

I also happen to have enough Liberty squares stashed to make a full size patchwork quilt for my bed, but I'm not yet sure whether my regular sewing machine will be able to cope with the bulk of a big floofy quilt. Hmmm. Maybe a bit ambitious!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Silver Clay Flower Pendant

Well hello there, dear old blogspot. Do you remember me? 

To kick start 2015, I thought I'd pop in and share a long overdue post about my first experiements with precious metal clay. I had a mini-obsession with this stuff early last year and my first project was this silver flower pendant. 

For anyone curious, metal clay is essentially powdered metal (in this case silver) held together with a binder that makes it behave like a clay.

You can buy it in tiny little quantities of 5 or 10 grams and make your own custom jewellery items such as pendants, charms, rings and even bracelets. You can also get it in syringes for fine work and in paste form, which is useful for making repairs and 'glueing' bits of clay together before firing.

When it comes out of the packet, you'd never know it was made of silver as it's a greyish white colour and behaves a lot like an ordinary clay. You can roll it out and shape it into anything of your choosing and I suspect anyone who's good at sugarcraft would find metal clay a breeze. (I used sugarcrafting tools to help with the cutting and shaping of this piece.)

A word of warning is that it does want to dry out very quickly. I found the trickiest element overall was having to model my fiddly flower shape at speed.

Because I was making a pendant, I punched a hole in the middle of the flower so that I could feed through a sterling silver wire, which was attached at the back to a silver hanging loop. These were secured in place to the main flower shape using silver clay paste.

Once I was happy with the flower shape, I let it air dry on a piece of mesh before firing it on my gas hob for a few minutes.

Incidentally, I advise NOT dropping it en route to the hob. This stuff is more fragile than an egg-shell and I ended up making so many repairs to my piece with watered-down silver paste that I might as well have started again.

Firing is where the magic happens. The binder burns away and, before you know it, your clay has turned into a piece of solid silver.  (For those who don't have a gas hob, you can also use a blowtorch).

You can't tell that it has become silver straight away, as it still  looks white and chalky, but as long as you've followed the instructions and fired for the right number of minutes, have faith and take it off the hob. I picked my piece up with tweezers and left it to cool for a few minutes before burnishing. If you drop it at this point, it will go "clang" like a piece of metal (ask me how I know)

Burnishing is the final step. This is where you rub the fired piece all over using a metal object, which can be anything from a special burnishing tool to a large paperclip. As soon as you start, you'll begin to see the silver sheen revealing itself, which is rather exciting.

The more you burnish, the shinier your finished piece will be.

Once mine was polished to a high shine all over, my final touch was to trim the piece of silver wire that was sticking out of the front so that it was just long enough to hold a freshwater pearl bead, which I secured using jewellery glue and this now forms the centre of the flower.

I must confess that it's been a year or so since I sent my metal clay and its paraphernalia up to the hobby graveyard (aka the loft) but I fully intend to get it back out again at some point.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Adventures with Lino Printing

This is just a quick post to share some little lino prints that I made using this lovely kit that my partner bought me for Christmas.

I'd been meaning to have a go at lino printing for years, having often admired other people's work, and it was great fun to finally get stuck in.  

For my first go I carved an image based on one of my own paintings from years ago, and ran off a few prints.  

For the second image, I tried something new. I had the idea that planning out my design using white chalk on black paper would feel as close as possible to the creative process of lino-carving - (i.e. if I can get it to work using white chalk, then it ought to work as a carved out piece of lino... yes?)

As it turned out, the theory was quite right and I'd recommend it. However I did make a few clumsy cutting errors in this one that stopped the final image from being quite as successful as I'd hoped. Lino is nothing if not unforgiving!

Now I have the bug - I just need to find the time to do some more... 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Honeycomb tissue paper

Hello dear old craft blog. Here's a rapid fly-by just to mention my recent discovery of honeycomb paper...

I presume this is the stuff that paper xmas decorations are made of, but I hadn't realised you could buy it in sheets for crafty shenanigans.  Good old Pinterest enlightened me and the microbe and I have had a go at using it today for a trio of children's 'pop-up' birthday cards.

If you're in the UK and fancy giving it a try, you can get honeycomb paper on Amazon and Ebay.  (Mine came from a seller called Lyndie's Craft).

The sheets are a bit smaller than A4 and it seems as though you can cut out pretty much any shape in cross-section in order to get a 3d effect.  I expect you could use it to make a garland of paper spheres too.

Well... that's it.  A fly-by as promised.  Toodle pip.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Adventures with ProMarker Pens

This post is dedicated to my discovery of some great little pens that are a joy to draw with and can be layered almost like watercolour paint.

These Letraset Promarkers come in 1001 colours and are really marketed at graphic and comic-book artists, but a local painter named Stephanie Wilkinson showed me how you can use them with high grade watercolour paper to get quite a different result.

It was in her workshop that I did this sample piece, using a style that she refers to as ‘pattern painting’.

Unlike graphic paper, which gives you a flat, comic finish, the watercolour paper sucks the ink straight out of the nib, giving a deeply saturated and almost painterly effect. Admittedly you get through twice as many pens this way, but I guess that's the price for such a vivid finish.

You can also layer them and, because they flow so well, I've found them very enjoyable to draw with. It's also a much more casual affair than getting out my paints and easel and so on, meaning that time-poor people like me can enjoy doing impromptu little sketches far more often than before.

After my session with Stephanie I had fun banging out this series of informal little sketches at home, mainly to amuse my animal-mad son. I'm sure I'll be playing with these pens some more, when the urge next hits...

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Customised Toddler T-shirts

Last weekend I had the idea of making customised t-shirts for my son, which started with a brief flurry of activity using special printer paper that you iron onto fabric such as t-shirts and tote bags, and ended with applique.

For transfers, there are two types of paper available - one is designed for ironing onto white fabric and the other for dark fabric. The white version works by printing in mirror-mode. You have to prepare and print your image as a mirror version of your end result - then you simply place your printed image face down on the t-shirt and iron over it.

This worked pretty well, and I made three animal-themed shirts, all of which went down very well with the microbe...

The dark paper works differently. You print in regular (non-mirror) mode and then peel off an (almost impossible-to discern) backing sheet before ironing the image onto the shirt through a layer of silicone paper.

I'm afraid to say that this stuff was a total flop for me. It seemed like I had to hold the iron over it for a decade before the image would think about adhering to the t-shirt and, even then, it transferred so thinly that the colour of the t-shirt showed through. I don't know what I did wrong. I was sure I'd followed the instructions - but perhaps my iron is just not suitable.

After this failure, I had a much better idea - applique! I'd never done this before but decided to have a go using some of my Liberty scraps.

I used an approach that gives you nice neat shapes with no raw edges. As a first step, you draw your desired shape freehand onto a piece of interfacing. Then you sew it together with a fabric scrap, with the right side facing inwards, stitching all the way around your drawn outline.

As a last step, you cut a slit in the interfacing and turn the while thing inside-out and iron it flat, leaving a lovely applique shape with no raw edges, ready to sew onto the t-shirt. (I attached mine simply by zig-zagging all the way around the edges on my sewing machine)

I love the results of these applique experiments and I'd like to do more.  Next time I might see whether it makes a difference to use iron-on interfacing, to get the applique fully adhered before sewing around the edges.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Gretel beret - knitted at last!

It's hard to believe but I actually knat something to completion last week.

We shall not talk about the HEINOUS number of UFOs that continue to languish in every cranny of my flat. It turns out that, if I want to actually complete something, hats are where it's at.

So - here be Gretel...  only 3 years later than intended.

Made using Rowan Silky Tweed in 'Bolero', purchased on a whim thanks to the highly-enabling post-Xmas sale at Black Sheep Wools.  As always, full details are on Ravelry.

When I added this pattern to my queue in 2010 I imagined I'd make it in grey, as with every other thing that I knit for myself.  But in the end I rather like it in pink.  And pink goes with grey...  right?

I decided to use some of the leftover yarn to make a curly scarf to go with it but the finished product isn't quite hitting the spot for me. I think it wants to belong to a small girl, really, so for now it's languishing on a wardrobe shelf.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Quick, easy and festive birdseed cakes

Do you fancy feeding the birds AND doing something fun with a small child?

This is a quick fly-by to share this brilliant and easy recipe for birdseed cakes. I followed this lady's instructions and it worked perfectly and made a gazillion of them.

All you need is bird seed, flour, water and syrup - and something like a cookie cutter to mould them in.  You can make any shape but as it's December I have made mine festive.

Now I just have to find a cat-proof place to hang them!  Hope the birds like them... 

(NB: the recipe suggests corn syrup but if you are in the UK it's easier to use golden syrup and works just as well.)

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