Thursday, 31 December 2015

Elephants :: Patchwork plushies

Plushies is only a term I've really become familiar with since I started reading While She Naps - to me these will always be called soft toys ...

Anyway here are my favourite elephants I've found on Pinterest on this theme.

1. I love the Indian inspired colours used in this elephant - if you go to the blog post you can see some close ups of the embroidery between each fabric piece
2. Not much patchwork going on here but I just loved the colours - there is a great tutorial on the blog this picture is from
3. A flat elephant but I just love the ears and trunk
4. The bright red lining of the ear and under carriage make this elephant stand out 
5. The inspiration for this selection - Abby Glassenberg design (While She Naps)
6. Crazy colours and embellishments make this elephant stand out 
7. Not strictly patchwork, but the applique on this elephant is just beautiful 
8. More red inner ears this time using floral prints
9. Knitted patchwork elephant - looks like it would be a difficult knit but beautiful

For more elephants visit my Elephants board on Pinterest.
All links above are to Pinterest as some of the items pictured may no longer be available at their original link.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Elephants :: Tea pots

This month I spotted these wonderful elephant tea pots on Pinterest. Aren't elephants just the perfect shape for a teapot? There was such a range of beautiful designs, here are some of the favourites that I found.

1. This reminds me of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz
2. Just add a couple of ears to any teapot and you have yourself an elephant
3. Love the shape that creates the face and the rider who makes the lid handle
4. A vintage 1930s tea pot, the pinks contrast so beautifully with the main colour
5. The colour of this one is just gorgeous and has such a cute face too
6. Such ornate metal work on this tea pot
7. Love the trunk shape on this one - so different to the others
8. The texture on this tea pot gives it a real elephanty feel
9. Another vintage tea pot, this time from the 1950s, love the kitsch design - comes with elephant sugar bowl, milk jug and cups

For more elephants visit my Elephants board on Pinterest.
All links above are to Pinterest as a number of the items pictured are no longer available at their original link.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Tutorial :: Customise a free tote bag with crochet

With the new 5p plastic bag tax in England, carrying around a tote bag or two will need to become a habit for many people. I've take my own bags to my supermarket shop for the past 5 years or so and seem to have accumulated tote bags in the same way I used to acquire plastic ones. All kinds of companies seem to be wanting to give away free canvas bags with their logo printed on them. I always take them as I know I can customise them with my own designs.

Last year I took one such free tote bag and added my own embellishment. Inspired by the colour of the daffodils I bought from Lidl and the flowering tree in my garden that just looks so jolly, especially when the sun I decided to do this by adding some crocheted sunflowers.


Here's how:

Starting with the free bag, I measured and cut a piece of felt to the size needed to cover the advertisement printed on the bag.

Free tote bag

Then I pinned and stitched the felt in place using crochet cotton.

Felt covering advertisement on tote bag

Felt covering advertisement on tote bag

Next step was to make the flowers. The pattern I used was one I found on Pinterest. The original design is by Sonia Karen.

The yarn I used for this project was a mixture of anchor crochet cotton I bought from the this shop on ebay (as I've not been able to find anywhere local that stocks crochet cotton), cross stitch thread that I had left over from a teenage cross stitching phase, and 3 strands of standard sewing thread held together. Across these different sources I found a good range of sunflower colours.

As the thread I was using was generally quite thin I used a 1mm crochet hook.

Ten sunflowers later I figured I had enough to achieve what I was aiming for. The sunflowers were a bit curly round the edges so I 'blocked' them. Being a self taught knitter and crocheter I hadn't ever tried this before. I followed a this blocking tutorial.

Blocking crochet sunflowers

The result gave slightly flatter sunflowers than I had started with, but maybe because of the thin cotton I had used (or my technique?) they still had a hint of curl. I arranged them on the felt balancing position and colours.

Pinning crochet sunflowers

So the final step was to stitch them onto the felt cover. I first stitched the centre of the flower to the felt using the tail of the crochet cotton.

Sewing on crochet sunflowers

Then I lightly stitched each petal in place.

Sewing on crochet sunflowers

And here is the finished bag. Something to brighten up my shopping trips.

Finished crochet sunflower tote bag

A version of this post first appeared on my old blog.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Out and About :: The Second Handmade Fair

Last year I made the decision to go to the Handmade Fair just a few days before the event and because of that a couple of the sessions I was interested in going to weren't available. Overall my opinion was that it was worth a visit but there were a couple of lessons I learned.

This year I was pretty sure I wanted to go a few months out, but didn't want to book too far in advance. I did keep eye on the website about what workshops/sessions were available though.
What was most annoying about the build up was the incessant emailing from the Handmade Fair. There were so many emails that in the end I just had to unsubscribe from the mailing list as there wasn't the option to receive for example just a monthly update.

Other changes for the worse this year:
  • no option to print your tickets at home. Luckily I booked a week before the event, not sure what would have happened had I wanted to book the day before
  • change of location and Hampton Court Palace with no signs pointing you towards the new location. Granted had I looked around before entering the palace grounds I may have spotted it but still some signs in the grounds would have been useful for those of us who attended last year (I wasn't the only one to make this error - one of the ladies in my workshop was late for one of her sessions as she had gone to last year's site)
Grumbles out of the way, what did I think of it this year?
Well for a start, the increased number of food and drink vendors was welcome, although there were still queues, it was nothing compared to the queue to get a cuppa last year. There also seemed to be more places to sit. 

Last year I went on the Friday and arrived just after it opened. This year I went on the Sunday and arrived at about midday (due to booking on late workshops). However, at that time the shopping tents were heaving and with the narrow gaps between some of the stalls it was just impossible to get to see very much.

My first session in the Super Theatre was on craft photography with Lyndsey James which was just excellent and I hold that session responsible for helping to get my blogging mojo back. There will be a post on putting the tips from this session into practice soon.

Then I went to the block printing grand make. I wasn't particularly inspired by any of the grand make sessions (or at least the ones that fitting in with the Super Theatre and Workshop sessions that I really wanted to go to).

I learned a new skill and may make use of it in the future, but being more of a stitcher printing isn't (yet) my thing.

My final workshop was the last session of the day so between the Grand Make and Workshop I got a chance to shop. It was much quieter at this time and there was a distinct lack of buggies clogging up the aisles too. I picked up a few purchases, but nowhere near as many as last year.

Given the name of this blog I just had to buy this Elephant block for printing for just £2. It was from a stall that I didn't catch the name of and as I didn't splash out £6 for a programme this year I can't figure out which stall it was...

On it's own it doesn't look like much, but fill it with sparkly beads and it looks great. Purchased from Totally Beads. £2 x 2 packs = £4

When I saw these fat quarters on the Fabric Fox stall I knew I had to buy them. My initial though was to make some small purses with beaded/embroidered detail to fit in with the silvery printed pattern. £3.30 x 2 = £6.60

Last year I picked up a few small packs of vintage bits and pieces that I still haven't done anything with. But at £2 I couldn't resist buying this one - for those buttons along. Again, didn't catch the name of this stall ...

I bought a little pack of Christmas shapes from Artcuts last year that I made in to tree decorations. This year following my love for Mollie Makes 51 free kit, I couldn't resist this for £3.50.

I also bought a kit from Hobbycraft for £7 which you can see on the Hobbycraft website.

With lunch at £8, tea £1.50, fudge £3, can of drink £1.80, I reckon I spent about £40 on the day - about half of what I did last year.

Personally I felt there were far to many people selling finished makes. Being a maker myself and at an event dedicated to workshops for makers it feels odd that there are so many finished items for sale. I personally would like to see more suppliers in the shopping village.

The final workshop was needle felting. I picked this workshop as there have been a few needle felting projects in Mollie Makes over the time I've been a subscriber and I've never tried this craft so I thought I'd give it a go.

I was very pleased with the finished object and I've already given it another go with my Hobbycraft kit.

So all in all. Was the second Handmade Fair worth a visit?
I think my opinion is the same as last year. I like the fact it isn't just about one craft or type of craft. I like the mix of shopping and workshops. I'd learned my lessons from last time and minimised the time between workshops and that worked well for me. (Although one thing I hadn't considered before would be booking onto other workshops when I get there - something to factor into planning next year.) 
So yes, I think it is worth a visit, as long as you plan your day carefully.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Finished make :: Jam jar pin cushions

I recycle as much as I can, but glass jars get put to one side for other uses - mostly crafting. Back in February I covered a couple of jars with crochet to store my craft supplies.

The stockpile of empty jars was growing, as was the mess on my craft table so I set about making some glass jar pincushions.

Most of the tutorials that I could find on Pinterest all used mason jars, whereas these were just basic jam jars (well mustard jars really). I eventually found this tutorial. The only difference between my jars and the ones in the tutorial was I'd soaked the labels off first.

The pincushions on the lids give easy access, whilst the jars are great for storing crafty bits and pieces.

Jam jar pin cushions

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Elephants :: Halloween

End of the month elephants is back!

And what is a more elephanty theme than Halloween!?! To be honest I'd prepared a whole different set of elephants for this month, but when I went to schedule the post and saw the last Saturday of October was Halloween, I knew I just had to have a look on Pinterest to see whether 'Halloween Elephants' threw up any search results.

And guess what, it did...

I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of Halloween, but if you're on Pinterest you can't help but get a glimpse of some very creative Halloween costumes and pumpkin art, which is what my selection below is made up from.

1. Take 6 pumpkins of different sizes and a knife and you can make yourself a pumpkin elephant
2. If you don't want a full on Halloween costume, try this arm puppet made using a couple of paper plates and a leg from a pair of grey tights
3. These felt masks are wonderfully detailed - there are loads of plain elephant masks on Pinterest but this is just beautiful
4. Who knew you could get yourself an elephant trick or treat caddy?
5. There are a few elephant costumes around, but this seemed the most sophisticated!
6. I'm not quite sure of the purpose of this, but hey it's an elephant with a Pumpkin head (for some reason this is giving me a bit of a flashback to watching this as a kid)
7. When you absolutely positively need to embarrass your kid in 20 years time
8. Very cute and intricate carving, but surely carving a pumpkin is supposed to produce something scary?
9. Dogs have to embrace Halloween too

For more elephants visit my Elephants board on Pinterest.

All links above are to Pinterest as a number of the items pictured are no longer available at their original link.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Inspiration :: Bilbao

Each year since my other half and I have been together for our Summer holiday we've done a mini inter-rail trip - there is something magical about traversing Europe on the train.

This summer we inter-bussed (due to poor rail infrastructure) from Biarritz to San Sebastian to Bilbao and finally Santander (primarily Santillana del Mar). I've been wanting to go to Bilbao for ages to go to the Guggenheim and San Sebastian for the food - the start and end points were selected due to the price of flights but were great additions to the trip.

Whenever I travel I get inspired by what I see. I have notebooks full from a round the world trip from spending hours in museums. My other half doesn't tend to want to spend hours in museums studying crafts so I take my inspiration from other sources now such as the architecture of Bilbao.

What's not to love about the Guggenheim Bilbao building? I particularly liked this angle as it reminded me of silver beading such as this piece that I started a couple of years ago.

This floral puppy sculpture by Jeff Koons at the Guggenheim Bilbao reminded me of a patchwork toy such as Abby Glassenberg's patchwork elephant. I do love the random nature of the colours and made me want to experiment further with the beaded patchwork design that you can see a glimpse of in the header for my blog.

This building is on the opposite river bank to the Guggenheim, a bit closer to the old town. The colourful windows were beautiful and the white stone a great contrast to the bright blue cloudless sky. It got me thinking about bright and colourful crochet blankets such as the one below from According to Matt.

Opposite the entrance to the funicular railway was this mish-mash of a building. Art Deco, Moorish and modern architecture all in one space. The art deco curves reminded me of the beading on 1920s flappers dresses such as the one shown below.

Do you get inspiration for your crafts from your travels?

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Work in progress :: Sixth time lucky ...

I like knitting (although I prefer crochet). And at this time of year, for the past few years, I've dusted off my knitting needles and started work on Christmas pressies for one or both nieces.

Last year I made this dress - Meredith knitting pattern (Ravelry link). I originally printed it off when it was a free pattern on Let's Knit Magazine website. It's now available as a paid for download from the author.

Beautiful (if I do say so myself). Very intricate lace pattern at the top and bottom of the dress makes it look very girly. But it took me several unravellings and re-starts to get past that bloomin' lace section.

This time I picked a much more clean, classic and straightforward design - the River Dress by Nadia Crétin-Léchenne (Ravelry link).

Photo: Nadia Crétin-Léchenne
Or so I thought! The challenge with this pattern is the way it is written. I think more experienced knitters than me will find it really straightforward. The instructions such as "After 19 raglan increases, there's 58 stitches for the front" make it seem really simple, but raglan increases with a pattern on the front isn't that easy, or at least it isn't that easy for me and I ended up not knowing whether the number of stitches I had was right or not!

After five attempts I sat down and wrote out row by row the number of stitches for the front, back and two sleeves. I also knitted a swatch just of the pattern as that was causing me problems too.

So sixth time lucky and now it's growing nicely!

Update :: Back to blogging

At the start of the year I set myself a challenge/New Years resolution to get better at the crafts I already practice.

For my first craft of the month I did try some new techniques, stitches and projects. Whereas for my second craft of the month I struggled. This was partly down to April being a busier than expected month at my day job meaning I worked a couple of Saturday's which significantly ate into my crafting/blogging time. But what I also found was I just couldn't find any new projects for my designated craft (bead weaving) that excited me.

What I also learned that forcing myself to do a particular project at a particular time just doesn't work for me and I lost my blogging mojo because of the expectation I'd put on myself. I also lost interest in Instagram and in Pinterest (yes it is possible).

I already knew that I'm not a big fan of New Year resolutions, again because of the somewhat forced nature of them. I prefer to set those challenges at a time that feels right such as learning to drive or buying a house - which coincidentally both happened at about this point in the year.

I haven't stopped crafting over the past 5 months, just blogging about them. But after visiting the Handmade Fair last month (blog post to come) and attending a great super theatre talk about craft photography, I'm now inspired to blog about my projects again. So coming up over the next few weeks will be projects that I've worked on during that time.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

New technique :: Bead woven flowers

During my trip to York at Easter we spent some time browsing in the Oxfam bookshop. For once it was me that came away with all the purchases including this book - although slightly battered it was a bargain at £5. I thought this was a perfect way of trying a new bead weaving technique for my 'craft of the month' project'.

When I got home I tried out a couple of designs and will try out some of the others in the future. But I'm just not sure what I'll do with all the finished flowers ... I'll be scouring Pinterest until some inspiration strikes!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Out and about :: A brief trip to York

In the years that I've been with my other half I've learned that if he says 'do you fancy a weekend in ...' it is normally because there is a football match in that place and he hasn't convinced his mates to take the trip with him.

For the Easter weekend the plan was to travel up to York on Thursday, for him to see a match in York on Friday before travelling on to Barnsley for his team's match on Saturday.

It was lovely and sunny on Thursday so we headed off to Clifford's Tower.

The hillside was covered in daffodils and geese were roaming around including some cute cygnets.

On Friday after a visit to the Jorvik viking centre we wondered towards the Minster. It being Good Friday they were letting people in for free (normally £10) there was a service going on though so we had to be on our best behaviour.

One lower league football match live in a weekend is enough for me so in the afternoon I took myself off to York's Quilt Museum while my other half headed to the match. It's only relatively recently that I've become interested in making quilts, although I've long admired their geometric designs.

The quilt museum is set in the upstairs of an old hall which is a wonderful space.

Source: The Times
The museum had three exhibitions on when I visited:
  • All shapes and sizes which included a range of modern and vintage quilts
  • 'Chinese whispers' - the concept of this was that one quilter was given a photo as inspiration to make a quilt, when that quilt was finished they quilter took a photo of their finished item to send to the next quilter and so on
  • Voices from the Inside which was fascinating exhibition of quilts created by prisoners
These exhibitions are all on until 9th May, so if you have an interest in crafts and are in the area it is well worth a visit - I just wish I'd taken my sketchbook to jot down a few ideas.

There is also a great shop in the quilt museum, I limited my purchases and just bought a Japanese style Sashiko quilting kit. I've stitched the design on the sashiko cotton and it looks great. The next step is to add the lining and fastening.

We stayed in York Central Travelodge which was in the edge of the shopping district but just a short walk. It also has a great range of eateries nearby - we tried Mumbai Lounge and Barbakan which were both amazing - if you are planning on going to either of these places I would recommend you book ahead as they were both very popular.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Skill sharer :: 8 ways to finish bead woven bracelets

Ages ago I saw a post on Thanks, I Made It about beaded bracelet inspiration.

What struck me was not only the beautiful design, but the different ways of finishing the bracelets that had been selected as inspiration.

So here we go with the variety of ways to finish a woven bead bracelet ...

1. Raw warp threads
I've called this method raw warp threads as you couldn't get a more basic finish than this, although the addition of the large bead before the knotting of the warp threads together makes a really interesting feature. I'm not sure I'd use this method myself because of the potential for tangles, but you could probably resolve this by knotting again at end of the threads.

2. Plaited warp threads
All you do is make sure that your warp threads are long enough for both the beading and to plait together at the end - better to err on the side of caution and have the threads too long than too short.
Before you start plaiting you can secure the beadwork in two ways:
1) one single knot at the end
2) pairs of threads knotted together

Generally this method works better for slimmer bracelets and is fastened to the wrist using a simple knot. However, this can sometimes be a little difficult to do up and undo again (unless you have someone to help you). A slight alternative to the first method is a combination of plaited warp threads with a clasp added on the end.

These bracelets look like they use both techniques - knotting the warp threads in pairs before then knotting all the threads together in one knot. Love the colours used here - especially the gold, turquoise and white one on the left.

The technique here is to add a clasp to the end of the plaited warp threads. It is a way of making a feature of a short piece of beadwork and would probably work quite well with a slim piece of beadwork and some thicker warp threads. If you look really closely between the beadwork and the top of the plait the weft thread has been woven amongst the warp threads to create a triangle shape which is secured with a crimp bead.

3. Loop and bead/button
This is another of my favourite method of fastening bead loom bracelets, I like it because it keeps the bracelet as an integral piece of beadwork, rather than adding any non-bead findings. You can also use this method on relatively short warp threads as you can always weave those in and add an additional thread to create the fastening. This is a off loom woven bracelet that I made. I posted a tutorial on how to make a bead woven bracelet using this finishing technique here.

It works well with both slim pieces and much wider pieces, as you can add several loops and bead fastenings such as with this one.

4. Waxed cord finish
This alternative way of finishing the bracelet is made by adding some waxed cord. This is difficult to add just by stitching as the waxed cord is a completely different thickness to the thread used on the bead loom so the one in this picture is most likely glued.

There are plenty of bead woven bracelets that incorporate waxed or leather cord into the design such as these ones.

5. Direct clasp
With this method you weave a pointed end at each end of the beadwork. The it's just a matter of weaving in all the warp threads so you just have a flat length of beadwork.
Once you have that you add a jump ring to the beadwork and add the two ends of the clasp.
Love the border effect on this design as well as the use of a snap clasp to finish.

6. Ribbon crimp ends
I've only just 'discovered' ribbon crimps after my last trip to the bead shop, and I've not yet had a chance to use them myself, but there are plenty of great examples on the web. From what I've see the key is to weave a length of the weft thread along the warp threads to give the crimp something to grasp.
This example uses ribbon crimp ends with a short piece of beadwork and then uses the crimp ends to attach a chunky chain.

7. Leather (or fabric) ends
A traditional way the finish bead loom bracelets is to sew leather to the ends to cover the warp threads.
This example fastens the bracelet with a button. Again weaving the weft thread across the warp threads for a centimetre or two would give you something to stitch the leather too.

I found a similar bracelet to this in the online collection of the Museum of the American Indian. If you have an interest in bead weaving I recommend you spend some time browsing their collection - they have some amazing pieces.

You can also add leather tie ends such as in this example.This gives a more traditional native American feel to this bracelet, there is a bracelet with a similar fastening (although made with different materials) in the NMAI collection.

8. Sewing to felt (or leather or fabric) backing
This technique is great when you are wanting to make a cuff type bracelet that involves quite a wide piece of beadwork such as this example.

Are there any techniques for finishing bead woven bracelets that you use that I've not covered - it would be great to hear about them.

All images above are from Pinterest and the links take you to the pins that I found - a number of the items pictured are no longer available at their original link.