Saturday, 28 March 2015

Elephants :: Stationery

During March I've been taking part in a daily instagram challenge organised by Kate over at Beak Up Crafts. Day 29 (tomorrow) is stationery. So this months celebration of elephants have stationery in mind ...

1. Elephant tape dispenser, I picked up one very similar to this from Tiger
2. Elephant scissors, love these scissors but why not make the tusks the scissor blades?
3. Wooden elephant ruler (in the full size photo you can see the tail too)
4. There are loads of elephant pencil toppers, including those you can't make yourself, but I liked the design of these ones
5. Elephant pencil case, it seems you can pick this up for 59p, bargain!
6. Elephant dung note pad. I visited Sri Lanka in 2012, which included a visit to the elephant sanctuary and a visit to the elephant dung paper factory, I bought several notepads similar to this one
7. Elephant paper clips, elevating the humble paper lip
8. Elephant pencil holder, you could combine this with elephant pencil toppers for elephant overload
9. Everyone loves washi tape, so why not elephant washi tape.

For more images elephants in art and craft 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, 21 March 2015

My bookshelf :: Bead weaving books

As I mentioned when thinking about my love affair with bead weaving, books fuelled my knowledge and inspired me to explore bead weaving especially at a time when there weren't the beading magazines there are available now. I'm starting off my 'craft of the month' look at bead weaving by browsing my bookshelf for inspiration of projects I can make to help improve my skills.

Here's a look at my bead weaving books (and a little bit of reminiscing on my part!):

The Complete Guide To Traditional Native American Beadwork by Joel Monture* (1993)
This really is more of a textbook than a 'how to' type book. It does cover more of the theory about bead weaving (and bead embroidery) such as what the different colours mean. I love this book because it helped me understand how beads were part of the culture of Native Americans.

Fashion Beads by Sara Withers* (1996)
This book has a number of different jewellery projects of which bead weaving is just one and therefore this is aimed at the beginner beadweaver (or jewellery maker in general). A good book to expose you to different bead jewellery techniques.

The Beadworker's Companion by Judith Durant and Jean Campbell* (1998)
I bought this book on my travels after university, if I recall correctly it was in a bead shop in Cambridge Massachusetts. Anyway I love this book. It is spiral bound and is all about the materials and techniques for both loom bead weaving and bead weaving on a loom. The edition I have isn't available any more, but there does appear to be a new updated version with colour photos (mine only has black and white drawings). I would recommend this if you are a beginner bead weaver but it's also a great reference book if you haven't tried certain techniques for a while.

Big Book of Indian Beadwork Designs by Kay Doherty Bennett* (1999)
This book does have a lot of both graphed bead weaving patterns and bead embroidery designs. Whilst an interesting resource, part of the fun of bead weaving is to take a bit of graph paper and start coming up with your own ideas. I also loved graphing patterns from old pieces I saw in museums - I could enjoyably spend ages just stood in front of a piece of beadwork studying it and sketching it. But I also appreciate that isn't everyone's idea of fun so books like this can help in the design process.
The only thing to note is that all the designs are in black and white with keys for different colours - like cross stitch patterns - I did end up colouring in s few of the designs I wanted to try so it was easier visually to follow the pattern when beading.

Bead Weaving Classics by Takako Sako* (2000)
I picked this up on the same trip as The Beader's Companion, but this time from Beadazzled in Washington DC. I remember not being sure whether to buy the book because it was quite pricey for the budget I was on ($22 back in 2001 was a lot of money to me). But I'm so glad I did buy it, the projects in it are exquisite. All the projects are loom based and whilst there is the odd straightforward project, but most of them are rather detailed bags. Because of the complexity of the designs and the shaping of the bags (as you can see from the front cover) I would say this book is more for the advanced bead weaver. The size of the pieces is also amazing and if you've mostly been weaving on a little loom this will make you want to splash out on a bigger loom.

Beadwork A World Guide by Caroline Crabtree and Pam Stallebrass* (2002)
I always associated bead weaving with Native American's (maybe because we seemed to study them all the time in History lessons at school). It wasn't until I headed out on my travels and especially to a couple of museums in New Zealand and Australia that I learned that the South Pacific Islands also had a great tradition of beadwork. This book covers beadwork from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania and Europe, and really is a reference book rather than a 'how to' book - although it does cover contstruction and techniques. It's great for inspiration on different colours, patterns and styles of beadworks and shows the variety of objects that can featured beadwork.

Native American Bead Weaving by Lynne Garner* (2003)

Wow Amazon has a good memory - it's just told me I purchased this on 7th August 2004! That sounds like I treated myself to this book following some overtime pay. Anyway, the focus of this book is on bead weaving with a loom. There is a wide range of projects, not just necklaces and bracelets, but also bead weaving you can stitch to other objects such as bags and glasses cases. It also has projects such as hair accessories, cards and picture frames that use bead weaving in a different way. It also has a 'how to' section at the front. I would say this is a book aimed at the beginner to intermediate bead weaver as many of the projects are just straightforward loom work using seed beads.

Beading on a Loom by Alexandra Kidd* (2005)
I bought this book not long after it came out, I remember coveting it for a while as I loved the cover image. The projects in this book use different sizes and shapes of beads which makes the projects that bit different. It also includes a nice clear materials and 'how to' section at the front and has a range of projects from the basics towards the more advanced. I would say this book is pitched more at the intermediate bead weaver who has a few straightforward bracelet type projects under their belt.

So these are the books on my book shelf about bead weaving - do you have any recommendations for books you think I might like? As you can see I haven't bought a bead weaving book for 10 years!

*there are some affiliate links in this blog post. If you click on the link and buy the product I get a small amount of commission. All pictures are from Amazon (except for Fashion Beads - Amazon didn't have a photo of that so I took this one!)

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Review :: Cross stitch brooch free gift

When I saw what the free gift was for Mollie Makes 51 I was very excited. I'd see similar kits on the internet and had thought about buying.

I opened it up the same day the magazine arrived in the post (normally the kits sit on my craft table for a few days/weeks) and immediately started stitching (whilst watching the Sewing Bee). I didn't want to follow any of the suggested patterns and wanted a colour palette that was more me. So I headed to my stash of threads and embroidery floss and picked out some colours.

I started by stitching the middle section in dark blue and then experimented with the different shapes I could make either side of it.

I'm very happy with the finished piece - I just need to add the brooch back and it's ready to start wearing.

Below you can see a couple of examples of designs suggested by the magazine.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Review :: Embroidered bear free kit

It's been a while since I posted a review of a free kit. For Mollie Makes 49, although I loved the idea of providing additional project ideas you could make with your free kit, I ended up taking the hexagon templates and floral fabric and started making myself some hexie patchwork. That is still very much a work in progress - maybe I'll celebrate finishing the patchwork by finally reviewing the kit.

Anyway onwards to Mollie Makes 50 which was an adorable bear with an embroidered tummy.
I actually really enjoyed stitching this kit and improving my embroidery skills. It was a shame that on the basked the printed detail came through a bit too much - I perhaps should have used an additional floss to give it a bit more body but I was following the instructions.

Here's my finished bear ...

And here's his tummy ...

You can see the cream fabric showing through :-(

As with some other free kits such as this one, I struggle to know what to do with the finished make. I may end up just using him as a pin cushion.

Oh, by the way this is what he should have looked like - pretty similar.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Craft I love :: Bead weaving

I selected crochet as my first featured 'craft of the month' because it is probably my favourite craft of the moment. For my current 'craft of the month' I've picked my first serious crafty love - bead weaving.

Once again I've cast my mind back (this time over half a life time ago) to when I first picked up a bead loom ...

How I learned the basics 
This goes back to a time when I enjoyed those long and endless school summer holidays, I was about 12. Anyway my parents were obviously looking for things to keep me occupied and I was asked if I wanted to go to a bead weaving class at the museum in the next town

So I went along and learned the basics and came home with a little knowledge, lots of enthusiasm (and a bead loom). This is the first project I made at home with my own design. I love its simplicity!

Over the months and years I craved more knowledge (and beads). As this was pre-Internet it wasn't particularly easy to get my hands on a range of either. 

My knowledge was fuelled by borrowing every bead related book from our library (and from across the whole county). 

I sourced my beads from a little local gift shop that had a separate bead shop, as well as from Creative Beadcraft. Back then ordering beads mail order involved buying a catalogue with samples in such as this and sending off an order form in the post (wow things have really changed in the past 20 years thanks to the internet!)

Making design for bead loom projects is best done by drawing the design out on graph paper. Although I was still at school and taking maths (so had graph paper about) I got through graph paper quite rapidly and that stuff is pricey when you are purchasing it out of your pocket money. Luckily one of my friends Dad's was an examiner and was often issued graph papers for use in writing or marking exams and I got his surplus!

Soon I started making bracelets to sell on  a corner of my Mum's stall at craft fairs she went to. I don't recall being wildly successful but I sold enough to keep me busy inbetween doing homework. 

The most successful I've been at selling my wares was what I will term the 'football bracelet craze' that swept through my year group at school. I don't recall exactly how it started but I believe I made a beaded bracelet for one of my friends birthday. Another friend saw it and asked if I could make one for her with the initials of her favourite football team on it, which I did. Then others around the school started seeing them and wanting them and the orders started flooding in. 
Each bracelet cost pennies to make and I charges £1 and I remember having made about £90 out of the whole craze. But as with every fad eventually people didn't want them any more :-(

Where I got my inspiration
When I was sixteen we went on a family holiday to Western Canada and I visited the most wonderful museum - University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthology (do have a browse of the online catalogue).
I ended up buying a brilliant book on Native American bead work which I devoured (I'll be posting about my beading book bookshelf soon if you want the details).

Travel after university further inspired my interest in beads and traditional forms of bead work. My travels took me to the east and west coasts of North America as well as the Antipodes. And I spent many an hour on that trip in museums making sketches.

I haven't got out my bead loom for a while. I'm not sure why I don't bead as much as I used to - I think it's something as simple as I can't easily pick it up and do in front of the telly like I can crochet and knitting. But featuring it as one of my craft of the months is a great excuse to start up again. 

My favourite projects
I've made so many pieces over the years, I don't have photos of all of them (because I started beading before cameras went digial) but here are a few pieces I have kept.

Loom woven

Top row from left to right:
A range of my different bead loom bracelet patterns
Rose inspired piece of beadwork
Traditional Native American style design  that I remember I spent ages copying from a book onto graph paper

Bottom row from left to right:
This collage doesn't do this piece justice - it is a necklace with beads strung onto the extra long warp threads - I saw something similar in fashion magazine and set myself a challenge of figuring out how it was made
This red rose pattern I took from a cross stitch magazine, added a border and turned it into a little bag. Cross stitch patterns are great for turning into bead loom designs as long as there aren't too many half stitches in the design as you can't have half a bead.
Another bag this time with gaps in the beadwork to let the lining show through. Although it looks fairly simple this is actually quite complex to construct as you have to keep doubling back or rejoining the weft threads to cover all the horizontal and vertical elements.

Off loom bead weaving

Top row from left to right:
Very intricate off loom bead weaving of a Victorian style choker (it was the 90s chokers were in)
Similar style of bead weaving to the first piece but with the added complication of a) colours and b) no pattern just a picture in a book to work from
Another more straightforward Victorian style choker - I sold a few of these in my tentative craft fair days.

Bottom row from left to right:
This is bead weaving worked with two needles, Daisy necklaces were a popular pocket money purchase from my craft fairs
Peyote stitch bracelet - peyote stitch is great for patterns with little flowers like this because of the way the beads are stepped between each row.
Leather and bead bracelet - a great way to weave with bigger beads using leather cord as the warp thread - you don't need a loom for this one.

So that's how I got started with bead weaving (and crafting in general). What's your story?

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Finished make :: #edsanimals

A bit of crochet creeping into my second craft of the month - I just can't help playing around with other crafts even when I'm meant to be getting better at my bead weaving.

Anyway, back in September I bought a copy of Edward's Menagerie which has rapidly become my favourite book. Of the animals featured in the book, Samuel the koala now lives with my niece Charlotte, Bridget now lives with the daughter of some friends - I didn't get a chance to take photos of them before they had to head to their new homes. Since then I've restocked the shelf with a few more animals ready to gift to friend's kids.

Blake the Orang-Utan

Emma the Rabbit

Fiona the Panda
Do you have any favourite hand made items you keep in stock for gifts?

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Craft of the month :: Bead weaving

My second featured 'craft of the month' is bead weaving. I've selected this because it was my first serious crafty love.

Look out for blog posts over the next two months showcasing my efforts to meet my goal to 'stop learning so many new crafts and get better at the ones I've already learned'.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Inspiration :: Sunny Seville

A couple of weeks ago I headed off to sunny Seville for a winter break with my other half (his take on the trip can be found here).

Anyway, as I did with my trip to Malta at the start of Feb, I wanted to share a few of the photos I snapped that have got me thinking about my crafting. The first of these I've just shared over on Instagram as part of #makeitmarch instagram challenge organised by Kate at Beak Up Crafts. Day 3 is about pattern and all these photos are 'pattern' inspirations from Seville.

Wooden carved and painted door in the Alcazar
Also from the Alcazar, these inlaid tiles have an amazingly intricate pattern and a great use of colour
Matador outfit from the Bullring Museum, love the range of pattern features in the embellishment
Roman road at Italica, love the shapes and textures of the slabs

Do you take any inspiration from your travels that you incorporate into your crafting?

PS If you want to see a few more snaps from Seville more head over to my Flickr page.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Finished make :: Craft of the month January/February roundup

A slightly belated roundup of my first self designated 'craft of the month'. I nominated a craft of the month to help me try out new techniques of some of the crafts I already dabble in. For January and February I picked crochet.

My first project was a colourful tea cosy, customised to my new teapot and using some stitches I hadn't tried before.
I used the custom shaping technique I applied to the tea cosy to these crochet covered jars. This project was also the first time I actually tried tapestry crochet.

I designed my own colourful circles pattern to use as a placemat on my coffee table

I tried Tunisian crochet for the first time, although after being declared 'too bumpy' for a scarf I still haven't found a project I can apply what I've learned too.

On Saturday I also finished making a toy orang-utan 'Blake' from Edward's Menagarie which gave me the chance to learn a new stitch - fur stitch. I haven't had a chance to blog about Blake yet (although he is a bit of a hit on my instagram feed!)

Overall I'm pretty happy with what I experimented with crochet wise over the past couple of months, especially finally learning Tunisian crochet, especially when I managed to take a couple of trips abroad too!