Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year everyone

I felt I should give you a break after the advent blog but I just wanted to drop in and wish you a Happy New Year! So as the door closes on 2010 and we head into 2011 I feel the need to take stock!

2010 has been the most creatively satisfying year of my life. I have produced more (and better quality) work than ever before and I really feel that my art is developing in new and exciting directions. I have made new friends who have such great talents and have kindly passed on some of their knowledge to me. I have even given up the stressful old job and hope to spend more time in 2011 being creative!

My family has also grown in 2010 - with the addition  of Misty the invisible cat and Maisy the worrisome kitten (though she has got into the spirit!!!)

So I am not going to make any resolutions this year - apart from trying to make the most of it! I never manage to keep any of the others anyway.

One project I will be starting on soon is my Gift of Quilts for the Olympics in 2012 which I am quite excited about being involved with. I am quilt number 398 and they are still looking for volunteers if anyone is interested!!!

Before I head off to a friend's house for a few drinkies I just want to wish you all the best for the season, and remind you that my giveaway is still open until the end of tomorrow!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Day Twenty Five and an Advent blog give away

Well I made it all the way through - a blog post every day until Christmas Day! Congrats to all those others who kept it up too. It was more of a challenge than I expected, especially as I couldn't share everything I had made in case the recipients had read it! Pics will now follow over the next few days as all orders/gifts have been safely delivered.

And to say thank you for sticking with my (sometimes inane) ramblings, I have decided to give a Christmas give away. I have been through the studio packing together some little bits of treasure as an inspiration pack. I have chosen two of my favourite colour ways -  purple and turquoise and you can see some of the items below:

These include beads in a tiny kilner jar, various pieces of wool, cotton, silk fabric, silk rods and cocoons, some small cabochons and a small piece of worked felt.

All you have to do is leave a comment between now and New Years Eve for one entry, or blog about this give away for a second entry. I don't mind which post you comment on, and if you link through please do make sure you leave a comment so I can add you to the 'hat' twice! If you win I would love to see what you make!

The draw will take place on New Years Day.

So all there is to say now is Merry Christmas to you all, and may you have the season you wish for, wherever you and your loved ones may be!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Day Twenty Four and another gift delivered

Well I had a fab day at Art & Stich yesterday and I got Kiah's dress finished (well I did the final florishes one I got home). I even mastered button holes on my machine which is something I have not tried before! I will share pics of the finished article after it has been unwrapped!

But until then, here is a gift I made for my friend Vicki who alos stitches, and who joined me at the shop yesterday for sewing and gossip!

Vicki says I am a 'colour whore' because I am attracted to anything bright - so I have decided to award that title to my new range of boxes and receptacles in her honour!

 It is 4 inches by 9 inches - so big enough to hide some pens in!

I used my new labels to finish it off!

She seemed pleased!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Day Twenty Three - and some final finishes....

Today will be a a social stitching day at art & stitch when I hope to get Kiah's Christmas dress finished. But until then, here is a box I have made for her brother James, who is 6. His room is always untidy (being a 6 year old boy) so I thought I would give him some incentive to put stuff away... in his very own box! I found this fabulous fabric with tools all over it at A$S and appliqu├ęd his name on two of the sides!

I think I may have to make another one in the new year....
At least she seems to be enjoying the season, though maybe it is getting a little tiring now!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Day twenty two - and the end is in sight!

So the countdown is getting shorter and only a couple more sleeps to go. The tree is (barely) dressed (due to kitten related issues), presents are wrapped, the shopping is done, and the gifts are done.... well... almost!

But at least another one is finished. My brother's girlfriend is always going on about how much she likes my elephants! So this year I have made her one! Her bedroom is purple and silver - hence the theme.

The silver was quite hard to work with but we live and learn!!!!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Day Twenty One and an afternoon with Peppa Pig

My niece Kiah is 3 and she lurrrrrvs Peppa Pig. I mean... she is mad about the little lady. So for part of her birthday box we caught the train to London to pay a visit to see Peppa in person! Now I dont have any little bundles of joy myself (well apart from the kittens) and this is the first time we have been out together unsupervised by an adult! So who knows what was going to happen!

Well as it turned out she was a little angel! We got the colouring book out on the 1 hr train ride down to London, and she was so good on the tube, chatting away the whole time.
The show was brilliant - with lots of opportunity to sing along and dance about. Kiah (and I) had a fabulous time. She was having such fun I almost had a tearful moment as she sang happy birthday to Peppa Pig.  And then they made it snow at the end.... well! 

The only downside was when I managed to lose the train ticket when we went to the loo, but Kiah thought it was hilarious when we ran down the platform to find the lost ticket. We made the train in time and collapsed in our seats laughing! Just like funny Aunty Sarah!!!

What a brilliant way to spend the day! I dropped her off at home at about 7pm and I think we will both sleep well tonight!

Thanks to my baby brother Tim for letting me take her all the way to London on our own, and for letting me publish this pic of us both! I hope today is a day she will remember for many many years to come!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Day Twenty and a gift delivered

This gift is for Ella, the 12 year old daughter of my best friend Sarah. She is fascinated by my studio and always wants to play! So I suggested that her gift this year would be a 'makey day' in my studio. And that day was today.

So Ella arrived this morning and we decided to make a book - and didnt she do a good job!

She layered scraps of silk and the foil bits of quality street wrappers (yes we did eat a few but hey - it is Christmas!) onto pelmet vilene and covered it with a fine man-made fabric. She stitched it all down with an underwater theme - you may be able to see the cute little red turtle near the bottom of the book. You wouldnt guess that this was the first time she had used a sewing machine with an embroidery foot!

She then burnt away some of the man-made fabric to show the scraps underneath. We finished the cover with a button clasp and a beaded tie.
And she is, justifiably proud of a days work well done!
She said she cant wait to show her art teacher when she gets back to school in the new year. I think the teacher should be impressed! I certainly was! Ella worked from 10.30am to 7pm with a short break for lunch. It just goes to show what kids can do when they are having fun!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Day Nineteen and it's been a busy day

I have spent most of today in the living room wrapping gifts! Nearly all the home made gifts are finished (well almost finished!). So now the tree is up, the gifts resting underneath it, and the only thing left to do is get out the Christmas dollshouse. I built this two years ago and it spends the other 11 and 1/2 months of the year packed away. It is not a whole house - just a house box, but it has a lit tree and gifts for the family who have just popped out of the room.

Here is a video of it that I recorded after I first made it.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Day eighteen - and my other kitty house guest

Those of you who read my blog will know that I have a very naughty kitten called Maisy who came to live with us in the summer. You may not know that we have another resident who joined us almost a year ago. After the sad and rather sudden loss of our cat Millie who came to us from Wood Green Animal Shelter, we paid another visit to that brilliant cat home to find another treasure. And we found Misty. She is a rare treasure, but has had such a rough time in the past that she was too shy to settle in a previous home. We brought her to our house as we are suckers for a sob story! And here is a rare photo of her!
I say rare because even after nearly a year the best we can hope for is that she occasionally ventures out of her basket. Since we got the kitten she has been better, especially because if she doesn't come out for her tea Maisy eats it in a flash!
However I can count how many times in the last year she has left the kitchen on one hand. She once came into the living room and sat on a cushion for about 3 minutes - it was really exciting and has not yet (unfortunately) been repeated. Maybe she will never get any better than this, and we will be living with an invisible cat for years to come, but as long as she seems happy we will keep on feeding and attempting to stroke her! After all Maisy is really enough trouble for two cats :)

Friday, 17 December 2010

Day Seventeen - And Santa came early

In our family we are quite a practical bunch, and we like to give practical presents at Christmas. When my Dad asked me what I would like this year I knew exactly what I wanted - and yesterday it arrived! 32 feet of shelves! Yes my dear Dad is a handy chap and he came over and spent the day putting up my new shelves in my studio including 8 feet in the studio en-suite (how posh is that - my sewing machine has it's own loo!!!).

Here are the shelves partly filled already!

And additional space in the loo:

Isn't that brilliant? I am so spoilt! I have so much stuff that I forget I own because it is tucked away in a draw and I never get to see it. Now I just need a few more clear boxes and I am away! Tidy-tastic!! Though this is the other (yet to be tidied) side of the loo....

I am sure there is a tonne of UFOs in that little lot some where! Maybe I will get through it before the new year!!!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Day Sixteen - and some more folding!

Well I have been busy in the studio over the past couple of days finishing christmas presents and a commission, but unfortunately I can't share until after they have been delivered.

So here is another tutorial from my YouTube Channel - Origami instructions on how to fold a box in 3 parts. These can be scaled up to make bigger boxes as an alternative to wrapping!

The base:

The dividers:

The lid:

I hope this acts as inspiration to use up some of that left over wrapping paper ;)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Day Fifteen and another order completed!

Now the delivery has been made and the gift presented I can share a couple of (dark) pics of my latest elephant.

It was ordered for a second wedding anniversary gift which just happens to be cotton, and it is for a man so I used some 'butch' colours rather than my usual colour explosion!

I am particularly pleased with how his ears turned out because I have used some heavier weight interfacing and it really makes them stand out. He could probably fly with them ears!!!!

I also got to use my new labels for the first time, but it is tucked behind his ear and I forgot to take a pic before I sent him on his way!

I have one more elephant order to complete before Christmas - in purple, which is my favourite colour! It is beginning to become a problem that I am making things for orders, and then I don't want to part with them! I suppose I will just have to get used to it!!!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Day Fourteen - Christmas Baubles

I made these baubles after a class at Art & Stitch with Ann Stacey a couple of years ago. They are so simple and fun to make, using scraps of fabric and polystyrene balls.

They look rather professional don't they! At least when Maisy knocks them off the tree they bounce!!!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Day Thirteen and the tree is trimmed... with more than just decorations!

Well the tree is trimmed, the lights are hung and we are ready for Christmas... but what is that in the tree? It seems to be wobbling - what could that be about half way up?

Could that be a Maisy kitten hanging upside down INSIDE the tree? Just below the second row of tinsel! I think it might be!

Uh oh - busted!

Might as well enjoy myself while I am here! Mmmm pine needles!
I think Christmas is going to be fun! Shame mummy won't let me in the living room on my own!  I wonder why?!?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Day Twelve - Contemporary Embroidery and a litle something for me!

I follow a lot of blogs and I like to treat myself to something nice from one of them every now and again. And as it is Christmas I thought now is the time... and Karen at Contemporary Embroidery was having a sale in her Etsy shop.

So I thought it would be rude not to buy something!

I settled on a piece called Grandmas Sunday Linen in her signature white on white and it is delightful!

It is 25cm square and exquisite! Constructed from vintage cotton cloth this piece is heavily embellished with hand stitch and is designed to be very reminiscent of the domestic linen your grandmother may have owned this piece (though probably not mine!) I love the fact that I can own a unique piece of art which has been created with love and a generous spirit by someone sitting in a room anywhere in the world - and blogland brings it to my door!

I am delighted and will have to find somewhere special to display it!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Day Eleven - and who's a naughty kitty!

Well Maisy is always up to something, and no exception this morning!

Look what she did to my plum loaf overnight!

Who knew she even liked plum bread!!! She totally destroyed a mince pie that I found strewn all over the kitchen floor - I think she likes Christmas.

Safe to say she was no where to be seen when I came down in the morning! Safely secreted under the sofa!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Day Ten - Keep on blogging

Well I have made it to double figures - Yay!

It it the lovely Paul's birthday today and we both have the day off so this post is going to be a short one!

There are a few of us still in the running with Gina's Advent Blog so do pop over and take a look at them. If you are joining in let me know and I'll add you to my list.
This has been very therapeutic for me - and has made me make time in my day to blog. When you sit alone late at night writing your blog posts it can be hard to imagine people all over the world reading the thoughts as they tumble out of your head! But it seems that people do - and they leave comments (sometimes). I am a terrible lurker - following lots of blogs and not commenting on them very often. Well that is going to be one of my New Years resolutions (perhaps one I will manage to keep) - is to comment more frequently and let the blogger know that I am there... and listening! So to all those fabulous bloggers out there - who I follow and don't always speak to - I raise a virtual glass to you and thank you for making my day a little brighter!
 Pic courtesy of wikipedia - not me :)

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Day Nine - guests this Christmas

Today I thought I would introduce you to a couple of guests that my Mum sent over to stay with us last year and who have settled in nicely!

Aren't they fabulous! She made them from a pattern she saw in an old magazine she has had for ages. The bodies are made from a 'suede-y' coat she found in a charity shop so they feel lovely and soft. The hats are from some old fleeces and the 'fur' trimmings are recycled from an old winter jacket. She is so clever!!!

I love them and they always make me smile! They will be watching the festivities from the sofa again this year!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Day Eight - giving a little back at Christmas

So far so good - I have managed to make it to day 8!

I thought today I would share with you some ideas for Christmas gifts once we have run out of time to make some!!!

Not everyone appreciates a charity Christmas gift so you want to make sure you send them to people who wont be offended. Paul says that if I give a charity gift I am really giving myself the gift of 'smugness' and not giving the recipient the choice, but I disagree. There are people in my circle (friends, family, work colleagues etc.) who have everything they need! If they want something, they buy it! So what better gift to give them than something that helps out another who is less fortunate!

I like to choose a gift that relates to the interests of the recipient, i.e my mother is a stitcher and I have sent her sewing machine to India (obviously not her ACTUAL machine - that is more likely to make her grumpy!!!). I have also sent a gift to train a woman tailoring skills so she can start her own business as well as sewing kits to schools all on Mum's behalf.

My stepfather keeps bees and chickens, so in the past I have sent some hives, some chicks and a coop to Zimbabwe.

There are three sources I have used, but there are plenty others!

So maybe I have given myself a gift - and my Mum and Stepfather - but we know that we have changed the life of someone, somewhere in the world, and that will always bring a smile to my face!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Day Seven - Steampunk box

This is a great project to get the kids involved in because it is so simple and so effective!
Following on from my post yesterday about how to make the purple fabric box, this one is a paper box and uses a very similar method of construction, i.e - using the same six square pattern as yesterdays post only this time I have drawn it onto card. 

Don't make the card too thick or you will have trouble folding it together at the end. Remember to cut out your card a little larger than the finished box needs to be in order to ensure you cover right up to the edges.

To decorate your box collect together appropriate pieces of paper. They could be scraps of tissue paper, wrapping paper (for a Christmas themed box) or images printed from the internet (non-copywrited ones of course). For my box I have printed out some Leonardo Di Vinci drawings to go with my steampunk theme.

Tear up the pieces of paper and glue them onto your card using an appropriate glue. I used PVA diluted to a single cream consistency to hold it all down. Cover the whole of the card base with paper and leave to dry.

Depending on your choice of paper and how thin your glue is, the paper may ruckle as it dries. If this happens don't worry - a quick run over with the iron should sort it out - and if not just think of it as part of the eclectic charm of your box. The trouble is often deciding when to stop!

Once the card is dry, cut it to size and  add any additional embellishments you like. I used a text stamp and some gold paint to add another dimension to the paper and then I glued on some clockwork cogs to echo the images on the paper.

To put the box together use a hole punch to make holes in the corners and put ties through these wholes using something appropriate to your theme. I used wire but you could use wool or ribbon or anything else that you have lying around.

You can use the same method to fasten the lid too - I threaded wire through two holes on the lid and looped it around a watch winder that I had glued onto the front of the box.
Now sit back and admire your handiwork, and work out who deserves their Christmas gift delivered in such a treasure!

Please do comment with a link if you make any of these - I would love to see them and will share them on a later post.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Day Six and look what I made!!!

Well day 6 is here and I thought I would share with you two things I made over the weekend. These boxes were intended to hold Christmas gifts as an alternative to wrapping paper, but I am so pleased with them I may have to keep them!

The purple box is 4 inches square and the 'steampunk' box is 3 inches square.
Here is how to make a fabric box (the purple one):

The pattern is a very simple 6 square configuration making sure all the squares are the same size so they fit together as a cube. Each square needs to be 4 inches square to make a 4 inch square box. I drew mine onto pelmet vilene and left about 1/2 inch all the way round so I  could ensure that my materials went over the edges. You can leave a little flap on the square on the right of this picture (which will become the lid) to secure the box lid if you wish.
Then gather together your materials. You can use anything you have handy, including paper, silk, cotton, velvet, wool and anything else you have lying around. This is a great way of using up all those little scraps we end up with! Use a sewing machine stitch everything down any way you like. I kept some areas 'straight' so that when I put the box together I would have some horizontal areas, but just go with your gut! Then stitch over the top of the whole piece with contrasting threads in a pattern. I used circles, but you could use wavy lines, or flowers or anything that takes your fancy. The idea is to draw the whole thing together.
Then trim the box back to size and iron a lining material onto the back using bondaweb. I used some purple silk dupion to tie in with the outside but you can use anything you have to match or contrast the outside design.
Zigzag stitch around the whole thing to secure the backing and strengthen the edges.
Then use a slip or ladder stitch to hold the edges of the box together. I ironed the folds before I sewed it together to get a good fold, but you will need to be careful here if you have used fabrics or embellishments that don't like the iron. If this is the case, work the folds with your fingers, or you could run a line of running stitch along the crease to make it fold more easily.

Secure your box anyway you choose. I used a piece of wool that I had zigzag stitched over to make a crod, and then sewed a button onto the front of the box to loop it around.

Well there we are - I think that is probably enough for today. I will share the instructions for the smaller box tomorrow.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Day Five and a tutorial

I thought that I would share a couple of Christmas tutorials that I posted on YouTube before I started this blog. This is the first and has to be one of my favourites - how to fold an origami Santa!

Christmas just wouldn't be the same without one :)

Apologies for the fuzziness but my camera is great for stills, but not so hot on video!

If you can't view it, here is the link.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Day Four - Christmas Stockings!

Just a quick one for day 4 - I have just finished the Christmas stockings for my nieces Kiah (3), Jade (8) and my nephew James (6). I thought that this year I would get them some little gifts (including some Christmas decorations with their names one them which are too cute!!!) and make them something to put them in.

These are from some fabric panels I bought in Leicester recently and I have simply quilted around the images and added some sequins for a bit of sparkle, Not difficult, but actually more time consuming than I expected as they took 2 whole days to make all three. I have also stitched their names into them to stop the kids fighting over who's is who's!!!

I hope they like them!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Day Three - cooking frenzy

I think I am a good cook - and I make a mean casserole, but I can't seem to crack bread! And as I should be working on the proposal for my thesis which is due in next weekend so yesterday I thought I would have a go at bread. (talk about work avoidance!!!)

The first batch didn't make it to the photo stage as the little buns would be more suitable as cannon balls! But I persevered and the result is a passable loaf of wholemeal bread.
But what good is bread without something to dunk it in... so enter the sausage and potato casserole!
And a quick shot before Paul dived in and demolished it... (he was hungry!!!)
Talk about a winter warmer!!!
And as the oven was already hot I thought I would finish it off with some fairy cakes!
Because there is always room  for sprinkles!!!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Day Two - more treasure

So I left you with the image of Vicki and myself 'whoring it' (otherwise known as shopping!) around the knitting and stitching show in snowy Harrogate! Two days is definitely a better option than trying to cover it all in a single day.The first day was exhausting so we started Sunday gently with a course. I did a gold work course with Tracey Franklin - (which I can't photograph as I can't seem to find it today!!!) . I did one of hers sessions a few years ago and enjoyed it just as much this time - whilst adding a few new gold work stitches to my 'bow'.

Vicki did a bag class with Sally Holman which she enjoyed - even though it was hand stitching which V has no patience for!

There was (of course) more shopping to be done.

I had a voucher from Art Van Go I paid a visit to their stand. I was looking for some aluminium because I need to make some dog tags for a commission (more about that in another blog!). I couldn't lay my hands on any, and ended up being swayed with some copper shim and some netting. I have NO idea what I will do with them but that is half the fun of these shows!!!
 This didn't cover the value of my voucher so I picked up a couple of books including one from the fabulous Ruth Issett She was there demonstrating and remembered me from the dying weekend we had a tArt & Stitch earlier in the year. I had been particularly taken with the Markal sticks and have since purchased a set, so the book will be a valuable source of inspiration. I got the other book for Paul as he likes playing around with photos (he takes great pictures) and I thought it would be nice for him to see how he could use them in a different way (it isn't aimed at textile people!)
I also picked up a few kits: 
The one on the left is an origami kit for making a Christmas ball which I am quite keen to have a go at! The pattern in the middle is a plan for next Christmas - it was so charming and a bargain at only £6. I can see elements of it being used for all sorts of things! The final kit is a Japanese tote bag kit for my friend's daughter who is keen to get making - so a perfect start! One Christmas gift down... plenty more to go!

So all in all the weekend was a success. The journey home was a nightmare as the weather had taken a turn for the worst and it took us an hour to cover the first 9 miles as we skated sideways down the A1, but it cleared up about 20 miles south of Harrogate and we got home in one piece!

 See you tomorrow for day 3 of the advent blog!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Knitting and Stitching Show - of snow and treasure and 'One' advent blogging!

Well Gina has come up with the idea of an advent blog - 1 post a day until Christmas and I think it is a great idea, so I thought I would have a go! So here is my first post!

Any of my British readers will now that we have been experiencing some early snow over the past week, but we are made of sterner stuff than to allow a bit of 'weather' to get between us and some shopping! So the valiant Vicki and myself packed up the MX5 (I had already added new batteries to the torch in the boot, packed a quilt, water and emergency chocs) and headed north to Harrogate. All was fine until we came off the A1 and a vindictive SatNav sent us onto some B (and C and possibly D roads) but traction control and ABS kept us on the road and out of some very snowy (but attractive) ditches! So we made it in one piece and the hotel looked like a Christmas card in the snow! Magic.

So we made it there and then it was time to shop - and I HAVE to share my treasures with you!
The background piece is the pith from the underneath side of tree bark and has a wonderful texture. I have no idea what I am going to do with it! I couldn't resist another piece of  hand dyed velvet, and now I have a few I might actually do something with them, instead of keeping them in the studio because they are 'to beautiful to use' - a problem I know I am not alone in suffering! I also picked up some unusual beads including the lava cubes in the top left - simply because they are fab! The other beads were just so cheap that it would have been rude to ignore them!

I couldn't resist the 2ft long piece of purple scrim in the background here, and there were some lovely tiny sequins that strangely found their way into my basket. Some how I ended up with some buttons too - which will probably end up as elephant eyes.I couldn't resist (notice a pattern here???) the wool - because, as Vicki loudly pointed out, I am in fact a colour whore! Give me anything brightly coloured and I am immediately lusting after it!! There are also some scraps of leather and some wire for me to play with 'one day'! 

Well that is enough for today, I will regale you with tales of the rest of the shopping (and the weekend) tomorrow!