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.