Saturday, 19 December 2009

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree!

Finally some pictures of the festival of trees! Firstly an example of the majority of trees, very tastefully done. This one is for the in independant shoe shop in town, and is decorated with little gold shoes.
Next is our handmade tree. I realised the day of decorating that I had nothing for the top of the tree so ferreted out a gorgeous mohair bear that Mum had made me a few years back. She was dressed in a pretty liberty print frock and bloomers but I hastily put together a fairy outfit for her and she looks so happy!
The pink tree was the winner in the adult category and was in tribute to a teenage girl who had been struck by cancer. I particularly like the way the ribbons have been run down from the top of the tree. It was very obvious how much thought, time and love had gone onto this tree.
There was a separate section for the children's trees, the brownies had festooned their tree in paper chains which was very effective.
The winner in the children's category was this hand print tree from Anna an Wills nursery. The hands had been printed in thick paint, sprinkled with glitter and laminated. These really do shine and I have Anna's on ourtree at home, it is a lovely keepsake of how little her paw is!

Looking at the photos I'm not sure I've done our handmade tree justice it was much fuller than it looks in this picture. It was the kind of tree where you have to stand and look and discover the little treasures.

I mentioned that our last Embroiderers Guild meeting had a speaker from the textiles department of a local school. Well it was a total inspiration, two students came along and bought their A level work with them. I realised how much I have missed not having some direction in my 'work' and came home determined to find some structured course which I could complete. I made a phone call and had a call back on Monday to tell me more about a distance learning City and Guilds Embroidery course. I am so excited because it looks perfect. There was the opportunity to start in January but I want to give this my all and produce work of which I can be really proud. I will be starting in September 2010 so have a few months to clear my 'stock' and finish off some projects. I feel like I have been searching for the right direction for my work since I began this blog and I have learned so much, had so many joys and a few disappointments but I am now sure that this course is my next step forward.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Book review- Embroidered Alphabets

Embroidered alphabets by Di Van Niekerk is a really pretty book. It containsdesigns and detailed instructions for embroidering monograms embellished with ribbon flowers. There are lots of suggestions for projects using the monograms and also guidance on how to make the monograms more or less complex, depending on time available.

There is a list of materials for each design, specifying threads which are not widely available in shops and ribbons which are the authors own. The technical instructions and stitch diagrams are exceptionally clear and concise and the book is very well laid out. The designs at the back of the book for other projects mean that there are a lot of ideas which would make the book more than a one project purchase.

It was my intention that when reviewing a title I would attempt to actually use each book, making some samples or a small project and this is where the book caused me some problems. The start of each project is to copy a coloured image of your chosen design and transfer it onto fabric. This obviously means that you can just a highlight a very pretty ready-coloured design with some stitch, but I am not confident with image transfer. Again the instructions are very clear and re-assuring and there is the option to buy a printed fabric panel direct from the author, but compared with the traditional method of tracing a design this all just seemed to much effort. I think the book would appeal to the more traditional embroiderer but because of the image transfer method and the fact that specific threads are required they would have to be a computer confident traditional embroiderer.

I think what this book attempts to do is to almost allow people to make up their own ribbon embroidery kits, printing a design, ordering their threads and then making a very beautiful heirloom project but perhaps not the book for someone who requires instant stitching gratification!

Again, I'm so sorry I haven't worked out how to move my pictures about! This review copy went into yesterdays Embroiderers Guild raffle and the lady who won it looked absolutely delighted, I'm sure she'll make some lovely things from it.

Friday, 11 December 2009


The tree is up and decorated! It was actually a really good thin having two poorly children helping me- no angst over the perfect balance and spread just a mad scramble to grab some decs for the upper half of the tree! I was really pleased to see lots of other trees with hand made decorations, and indeed some handmade trees! I almost didn't vote for my tree the others are so good! I will be visiting again at the weekend with Simon and will try again to get some pics- the light was just too bad at 3pm- meanwhile here are some more examples of what has gone on;

The yo-yo trees are super quick and very effective, there is also a bell at the base so they would be cute hung on a door etc.
The felt triangle trees are another very simple design and would be perfect for a children's craft activity.
Mum knitted the mice, which I think are probably from a Jean Greenhowe booklet, she has styled them as sugar mice with string tales and very cute star shaped eye and heart shaped noses.
But look at what Dad has been up to! When we were chatting at half term he got a sudden sparkle in his eye and flew off to the workshop to play on the lathe- watching inspiration strike is really magical isn't it? He came back a short time later with these sweet little bird houses all different shapes and sizes, and different woods. They are possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen- (except my own children obviously!!) I am very proud of my creative family, is it wrong to say that? I do hope I manage to pass the spark along., or at least the confidence to do what makes you happy whether it earns you money or not.

I am off now to have a look at Kitschy Coo's blog for a dress for Anna for Christmas day, and maybe a super cool T-shirt for the Will-ster. There is a sale going on the fabrics she uses are ace- Consider yourselves tipped off!!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Nice Mice

I have just realised how long it has been since I've blogged, the run up to the big C has peeked here, and now I feel like I'm on the home straight. The 'handmade' tree goes up in the church tomorrow. My lovely tree provider has also felt the time pressure and is providing a real tree rather than a fencing creation- maybe next year? Mum and Dad visited over the weekend and bought a Dorset contribution. How cute are these Angel mice, the mice are Uncle Ben's signature but the Angels are new and I am very impressed. Mum and Dad have also been making but I'll show those in the next post along with some pics of the tree if they come out O.K. Pomona has also been kind enough to share some of her stash in the form of three balls of ace wool which was a lovely surprise to open Leave a comment on his post if you would like to win a brown brooch made from the yarn in a kind of small scale P.I.F.

I was very relieved to finish my advent pockets before the 1st and am really happy with how they have come out. All 24 are different and are stuffed with little chocolate treats for the smalls. I kind of wish I had numbered them but.....frankly time was just too tight....maybe next year?
The Happy Zombie blog (link above) is well worth a visit with lots of cool free patterns for domestic use and they go together really well.
This is a bit of a bitty catch up post so I'm sorry for all the randomness, but there is a bit more. I always seem to tell you about the Embroiderers Guild meetings after I have been to them so here is advance warning that the East Kent guild has a meeting this Saturday at the John Baker White Memorial Hall, Lower Hardres. Doors open at 1.45pm. Our speaker for the Christmas meeting is the head of textiles for a local school and she is asking for textile stash rather than a speakers fee so that the girls at school have some new treasure. I love going to guild and it would be ace to see some fellow bloggers.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Chocolate orange- yum!

Firstly Simon has very kindly switched my browser to 'Chrome' so I now have no idea how to move my pictures around- but there are definite advantages- like spell checking on the comments I leave, which, as this keyboard is a bit knackered will be very useful!
Secondly LOOK AT MY TREASURE!!!! Mary is a complete genius! I sent Mary two fat quarters of fabric and some spangley bits and pieces as part of Contented's paper bag swap. I genuinely love this bright and loud fabric but as Mary is such a classy bird I thought it might give her palpitations. I need not have worried, Mary has taken my fabric turned it upside down, inside out, and into the most amazing array of lovely treats. The expectation ad excitement is my only excuse for the pictures taken on the ironing board in very poor light. I genuinely couldn't wait to get inside those gorgeous brown packages. It is always a good sign when a swap parcel contains sweets and chocolate, I want it noted as a rare moment of self control that I didn't open the rest of the parcel whilst chomping on love hearts! The parcel also smelt divine, both the froggy and the mini cushion are scented. The mini bunting is very beautifully crafted and the padded hanger is too, honestly Mary has managed to make this fabric look quite sophisticated! The brooch is particularly gorgeous, I know the brown velvet I sent resulted in a few headaches and swear words but using it in this way fr the brooch is inspired- and inspiring- I have now decided on my Christmas day outfit based on my yearning to accessorise with this beauty. There was also some very understated gifts, some subtle fragranced soap and a rather lovely bracelet in a mauvey grey. I am so very grateful for my lovely presents.
I have also managed to get my advent pockets complete ready for tomorrow so will show and tell that in my next post.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Feeling festive

I am a little behind in my blogging, busy making for the start of advent! This is what I got up to last weekend, and I promise another post very soon, showing you what the lovely Mary sent for my paper bag swap.
So last Sunday I invited some friends to play, Pomona and Tabiboo
came over and we set to 'work' making decorations for the handmade tree which I'll be putting in to the Sandwich festival of trees. It was so nice to have their company, and the company of their little princesses, as we stitched away at felt trees and some yo-yos, we even got some assistance and artistic direction from the younger members of our gathering. I will need to do a lot more stitching before the 9th which is the gala opening of the festival, but I have now found a provider of the actual tree. I work with a girl who's husband has started his own fencing company and I asked if he'd like some advertisng as in 'Tree kindly provided by...' but as we chatted we came up with the idea of him making a tree from fencing materials. I have no idea what he will bring to the church a week Wednesday but I am so pleased that the tree will fit with the whole ethos of handmade. I have mentioned the tree here before and a couple of friends have sprung forward with kind contributions; Ann from Embroiderers guild made this dear felt heart, so beautifully crafted and the ever supportive and lovely Daisie sent her signature ice skates to display. If anyone else wants to send anything you are more than welcome!
I was surprised but obviously thrilled that my lovely guests came bearing gifts, I had drooled over Nina's crochet hearts on her blog and now have a set for myself! I am thinking of stringing these into a pretty garland. Nina also gave me the dearest felt key ring, this will appear on the tree before it gets added to my keys as I think it is so pretty it deserves to be admired by all. Pomona also treated me to a very lovely bag holding two jars of her homemade jam. I am a total jam monster and my lunch is very often jam on toast so I am very grateful for something special to spread over the festive period. It was so nice to see Pomona again and to meet Nina in person, I know I have said before but the blogging thing for me is about more than cyber relationships, although these are lovely, and letters, swaps and meeting up have all meant the blog seems more real. Thanks for making the effort to come over lovely ladies and for lending me your skills for the day, it is really very much appreciated. xx

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Chim chim cherooo!

I have loved the paper bag swap organised by Contented. I have loved using Marys treasure to make something just for her. I have loved doing something new, and being able to spend as much time as I liked on hand embroidery without a single thought about whether it was 'viable'. Mary had made a bundle of some pretty buttons and the fabric looked the right tear drop shape for a jingle owl. I made lots of little treasures; a yo-yo keyring, and crochet brooch with covered button- (next years summer brooch?). I made a home from the brooch with a little draw string bag from a Kumiko Sudo book. I know I have raved about this author before but I never fail to find a pattern I want to try each time I have a flick through her books, and they always seem to turn out really nicely. Mum lent me the book 'The impatient patchworker' and I decided to be brave and attempt the zipped bag. I haven't set a zip for years, and have never even used my current machine zipper foot. I have to say it wasn't the easiest and I lost a needle but I was really glad I did it. I think there will be more of these little bags being made before Christmas. Mary had sent me some vintage embroidered table cloth and I wanted to make something really pretty from this so I added some more hand embroidery and some appliqued hexagons. The applique was new for me too and I decided to use iron on interfacing to make these. I had aimed to use every last scrap of the materials which Mary had sent but it all went quite along way so I returned some to her along with my makeys, a candlestick from the charity shop which seemed to match well, and some chocolate. Mary seemed pleased with her goodies, which is a huge relief as this is not my usual style, and now I am really excited to see what she made of the bag I sent her!
I have also asked Will to choose a number between one and nine for he 200th post draw and he said 9 so Karen will be getting the book- thanks to all of you who entered. Another review and giveaway will be coming soon!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Dorset, how I miss you!

A while back I promised some pictures of my visit 'home' to Dorset and lots of other nice things have happened meanwhile which have stalled me. No more waiting because here are some pics from one of my nicest afternoons back 'ome. We went to see Uncle Ben, he lives in a gorgeous rural setting, and he and my cousin Roo, are two very cool, clever and funny guys. The Messrs help look after a nearby big 'ouse and we wandered up with them to feed the geese. We came across a tree with these amazing fruits. Leave a comment if you've know what they are, and please I'd love to hear from anyone who's actually eaten one!
Next we found that a grape vine up the back of the house was fruiting some seeded but very yummy red grapes and we each grabbed a bunch and wandered the grounds spitting pips everywhere. I have never eaten fresh grapes and having then still damp with rain was perfect!
Thankfully Roo remembered that the electric fence on the goose pen was still on before the children did and here Uncle Be puts my mind at rest by proving that it was indeed 'off'!
Dad helped t keep the kids happy without any further danger or damage (!) by helping them find massive pointy branches to jab at each others faces. Honestly if two adults tried that someone would be blinded in seconds, two children can stab each other for hours and the worst that happens is that a stick breaks.
I always love to see the Messrs and was reassured to see that the wood shed was full and that the bows of holly were bright and shiny and ready for feeding the birds through the winter ahead. I also scrounged some cooking apples as these guys have enough stored to keep all of Dorset supplied with apple cake for a year or two

I have also update my Folksy shop and have decided that I will list in series so I have a whole front page crammed with fairisle brooches.
Don't forget to leave a comment on my 200th post to be in with a chance of getting the book, I shall draw a name on Sunday.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Swirly and Simon are Geniuses

Crazy Patchwork by Jeannette Knake was a surprising book for me. I am a traditional knitter and hand embroiderer and will admit to being put off by the cover images and my heart sank when just a few pages in I saw that the technique required spray adhesive. Usually this would be a total no-no for me but I felt that I should swallow my purist pride and have a go. I needed to buy the water soluble stabiliser and I was really pleasantly surprised to find that it had a soft texture rather than a slippery feel and felt quite robust. I also needed to buy spray adhesive and this is where I felt I went wrong. The book called for a water soluble spray adhesive and in retrospect I think they meant the kind you might use for holding a quilt sandwich in place, I just bought a standard artists spray ad I think either I used too much or it wasn’t water soluble as my sample is still sticky!

My three year old loved helping me lay down pieces of fabric scraps, net, organza and wool. I made my sample very fine but I think you could have made quite a thick layer with more spray. We machined it and rinsed it to make our piece in about half an hour, I will use mine as a base for hand embroidery rather than clothing. I remain to be convinced about how practical a garment constructed from this made fabric would be, but I am a reluctant convert to the joys of glue in textiles. I think this book would be a really good technical guide for anyone wanting to try a new method of constructing fabric from scraps. I also think that apart from the ventilation concerns with spray adhesive it would be a good basis for a workshop with children, and at £6.99 felt like good value, especially as the additional equipment you might need if you already stitch is not expensive.

Listen with you eyes

I received a parcel today and have had a lovely morning wondering at the contents. Trashys rainbow swap had already given me a heap of fun making things and now I have received my parcel from Wonderwoman (not!). All the parcels were so beautifully wrapped with lots of proper ribbon to go in my stash! Firstly I opened a paper bag full of supplies, buttons, pretty ribbon and some cute felt flowers which I have been sorely tempted to treat myself to in the past. I feel some cute hair clips coming on! Next I opened a parcel shaped like a bike saddle and found some bright and beautiful bunting, it was the word 'welcome' appliqued along it and will brighten up my place considerably. Next I opened these soft and fluffy hand warmers, I haven't broken out my gloves yet so these are going straight in my coat pocket ready for a cosy school run. I couldn't believe there was more but the next parcel contained a dear little appliqued and quilted hanging, I have just put this up in the dining room and it really does look so sweet.
Finally I found that Maria had made me a tea cosy. I currently use a knitted number for daily use and this rather special cosy shall be given a hook to hang upon until a special occasion arises and she can be bought into use for best.
All in all I can't quite believe the loveliness of my presents. Maria s so talented and these gorgeous rainbow delights are already brightening my home. A big thanks to Trashy for organising this brilliant swap. My special and heartfelt thanks to Maria. I was so delighted to know she was going to make my rainbow parcel and I am even more delighted now that it has arrived. Maria you are so very generous and kind and very very talented.
Don't forget the 200th post giveaway. I am still trying to get the review onto the blog and feel a step closer thanks to the expert advice of Swirly.