Saturday, December 31, 2011

I may be gone for some time...

Firstly, I hope everyone has had the BEST Christmas. Ours was pretty chaotic but what else was to be expected with our very own indoor tornado reaching a fever pitch of excitement! There he is on Christmas morning. Beethoven anyone?Actually the first thing he did was lean into the microphone and say in an excited voice "Welcome to Christmas everyone!!"
Secondly, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I say this now because as of tomorrow we will have no internet access (aaarrrrgh!!) until the 20th of January!!! We have changed internet providers (because BT are rubbish and extortionate!) and there will be an interruption of service before Sky is installed.
So, it being the start of a new year, I have decided to see this enforced "cyber break" as an opportunity, and get myself the heck organised! I class myself as a pretty organised person. But lately I've taken my eye off the ball for various reasons, and life is not currently running like the well oiled machine I would like, to say the very least! So it's time to take stock, regroup, and hit the ground running in 2012.
We live in a small home, with practically no built in storage. We moved here 2 years ago and at the time, I organised things as well as I could. But it takes time, living n a space, to work out how you need that space to work for you. Also those needs change over time. Elliott wasn't even walking when we moved here. Now he's a walking, talking, running, jumping, screaming, shouting, singing and dancing 3 year old (He'll be 3 on 4th Jan, eep!) Well 2 years is quite enough and there are changes needed to how are home is organised, that are well overdue. I may be gone for some time!
If you're catching the organising bug, then check out this blog. I bow in the presence of such meticulous planning and organising. So as of tomorrow, as Jack Bauer would say...I'm going dark...see you on the other side ;)
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Px

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Embroidered Jam Pot Covers....

Back in the Autumn I made a couple of varieties of chutney as Christmas gifts. Spiced Marrow Chutney and a Tangy Beetroot Chutney using a combination of recipe ideas from this brilliant site. They've been "maturing" since October so should be perfect for the Christmas table by now. The only thing left to do was make them look all Christmassy and add a little personal touch to them; so I opted for some hand emroidered jam pot covers tied with grosgrain ribbon....(I actually had about 12 jars in total but some had already been gifted before I had a chance to take these photos!)

I got all OCD on getting the right size circle for my covers. Just didn't like the idea of cutting a square and trimming it to size once in place. I just KNEW I would screw it up that way. So if anyone else is as mildly obsessive about these things as me here's my method...

I had several sizes of jar so just repeated the process for each different size. Firstly draw round the the lid of the jar on a sheet of paper...

Then find the centre point of the circle by folding it in half lengthwise then across the width. It's actually the circle itself that needs to be folded in half so I held the paper up to the light as I was folding so as to see through it and line the edges of the circle up as I was folding...

Measure the diameter of the circle, let's say this one was 3". Then mark a point the exact same distance, 3", from the centre point, extending out beyond your original circle, on each of the four fold lines...

Then find a plate/bowl/object (or use a compass if you want to be super precise!) and use it to draw a circle that encompasses these four points equally(ish)...

Et voila...Cut out your template(s)....

Because I planned to emroider my covers I cut out heavy weight iron on interfacing the exact same size as my jar lids....

And some squares of fabric slightly larger than my templates.....

Place fabric square RS down on the ironing board. Centre the interfacing sticky side down on top of the fabric and press to adhere. Then pin the template on top of this making sure the centre circle of the template lines up with the circle of interfacing....

Cut around the template with pinking shears...

It should look like this...

I then embroidered snowflakes on each cover with embroidery floss. These are a combination of French Knots, Lazy Daisy Stitch, and Back Stitch and took about 15 mins each to do so great as a last minute personal touch...

Secure the covers to the jar tops with elastic bands then tie with ribbon......

There are so many ideas out there for "Gifts in a Jar" and these would add a nice finishing touch to anything in a jar. Not just chutneys  :)
Px

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Baby it's cold oustside...

Ice is really beautiful don't you think? There's something very pure and magical about it. Today we are having my very favourite kind of winter weather. Piercing blue skies, sunshine and cold enough for your breath to turn to mist as it hits the cold air. This morning I went to warm the car up ready for my deliveries, and was greeted with the most amazing formation of ice on my windscreen that I've ever seen....
Magical, huh? Like Jack Frost got his paintbrush out last night and decided to get creative....

Anyway, just had to share...it's beginning to look alot like Christmas :)
Px

Thrifty Finds # 32 - Gold or Silver?

Not so long ago, I wouldn't have been seen dead wearing anything but silver. Gold just didn't do it for me. Actually I went through a phase of detesting it.  Maybe it was a throwback from the "gold overload" of the 80's and 90's (especially here in Essex!!) when everyone seemed to have a gold ring on every finger, courtesy of Elizabeth Duke and the ill fated Gerald Ratner. Gold with black onyx, sovereign rings, keeper rings, belcher chains and chunky gold identity bracelets a la Only Fools and Horses. My response to this gold onslaught was to position myself firmly in the silver camp and I've pretty much remained there ever since (I'd make an exception for platinum of course ;). But in the last couple of years I've definately thawed towards gold as these recent thrifty finds testify...

Top to Bottom - Conical "Teardrops" Brooch £4 - Scarabs Brooch £3 - Bangle Watch £1

I am developing a bit of a soft spot for vintage costume jewelry and to be fair, it's poles apart from the 80's "gold rush" I describe above. There are some good blogs, articles and resources online to learn more about vintage costume jewelry...but I am yet to discover any info on these 2 backstamps....
 "WEST" and "9252". So if anyone out there knows about these particular backstamps, I'd love to hear from you. Heck I always like hearing from you. How about you? Are you for Gold, or for Silver? (Or indeed, neither!)
Px

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Felted Wool Needle Cases....

School's out for Christmas! Today was my last day of college this year. I like to take a little something in for my fellow students to mark the start of the holidays, that's just the kinda gal I am ;) . A couple of years ago it was homemade Elderflower Champagne (literally the best taste in the world!). Last year I made some dinky little pin cushions for everyone. This year I thought I'd whip up some needle cases and try my hand at some embroidery in the process. I kept it kitsch and silly. The overall effect is definately handmade, but I think they turned out pretty cute!

The blue felted wool that I used for the main body of the cases came as part of a joblot I picked up from freecycle.  The inside cover from thrifted fabric. The coloured felt was left from another project and the embroidery floss and buttons were all from my stash. So there was no outlay at all for these. In case you're interested, here's what I did...
I found something roughly the size and shape I wanted (yes that's an allotment card. I took on an allotment this week. Eeep!) and used it as a temlate to mark out my needle cases on the felted wool...

I cut out the number I needed plus a few extra in case I messed up...

The felted wool was a little too floppy on it's own and as I also planned to embroider the covers I interfaced using heavy weight iron on interfacing, a few mm in from the edges...

I cut the "inside covers" from a medium weave pure cotton (a thrifted curtain to be precise)and pinked the edges to limit any fraying. They are marginally smaller than the needle case but large enough to obscure the interfacing...

Then I applique'd (does applique have a verb form??!) and embroidered each cover with a different design using felt scraps, buttons, beads and embroidery floss(sorry about the picture quality. Light levels have been awful!)....

Sewed the "inside covers"  on to hide the back of all the stitching etc et voila!

I sewed with the RS up to make sure I didn't ruin things by sewing over the applique and used a dark thread on the spool and a cream thread on the bobbin to match the stitching to the colour of the two fabrics...

They're not perfect, but considering they were made from just what I had at hand, not too shabby either, and they were certainly snapped up at college with lots of  "oohs" and "ahhs" and exclamations of "did you make these" Ofcourse I concluded that they were just being polite but I did at least refrain from pointing out all the mistakes, lol! I'm getting better ;)
Px

Friday, December 09, 2011

Top Draftalong # 32 - Sway Back Part 2

This post has been in draft for some time. Seriously....weeks.  Day to day life and family matters have been pretty hectic to say the least. In any case, FINALLY I have a toile that I can turn into a block with which to begin drafting some designs! Hurrah!! That aspect of things I will now have to put on hold until the new year, due to Christmas gift sewing. I'm guessing though that anyone who may be following these posts will be in the same position, so it seems to me that starting the drafting process fresh in January is the best option. So this will be the last Draftalong post until the New Year.
When I last posted, I had adapted my pattern to take out a big tuck as part 1 of a sway back alteration, but had yet to test the results on my final toile. Well, here it is....(I'm not quite sure why I look like I'm striking a body builder pose on the right,btw! Heurgh!!))

See the difference?! Excess fabric gone and the additional ease at the side seams is alowing it to fall comfortably over my hips. The image on the left shows the excess fabric pinned out in a horizontal tuck in the small of my back on the original toile, and the very slight snugness on my hips.  The one on the right is the final toile, cut using the newly altered pattern . No more fabric pooling.......

and from the side......

Apart from the tuck itself, there were a couple of other elements to finalising my toile. In my previous post, I incorrectly assumed that I needn't square off the hem after I had taken the tuck out of the pattern. I assumed the "distorted" hem was all part of the "optical illusion"  to correct the sway back. Hmmmm. Not so apparently. I did indeed need to square off the hem from the CB to the side seam. You can see the distorting effect of the tuck on the hem in the left hand picture; and the "wedge" added on below the dotted line in the right hand picture....

In addition, I added a CB seam to this toile on the advice of my tutor. "Just in case" further alterations were needed. Good job too, because the tuck on it's own wasn't quite sufficient. In order to get the back to sit just right,  I ended up taking out a tapered vertical "tuck" along the CB seam of the toile,to remove the last bit of excess fabric. It tapers to nothing at the neckline, with it's widest point at the hem. Essentially, taking in the CB seam at an angle. Were I being truly conscientious or aiming for a totally accurate fitted toile, then the new CB seam would be curved inward at the small of my back. But I was happy to keep it simple and opted for a straight tapered CB seam as opposed to a curved one.

The overall shape of this toile is exactly what I'd envisaged as a basis for future designs. I will never want to make a top more fitted than this. It just wouldn't suit my shape. So for me, a simple, semi fitted, boxy shape that I can add some design details to, and manipulate shape wise, is just perfect.

One final tweak I'll make is to lengthen the bust darts. I shortened them a bit tooooo much on this toile, trying to avoid the pointy bust look. But where they are now, they're not providing quite the right amount of fullness. (Ohhhhh, NIPPLES to it!) I'm pretty sure just lengthening them will sort out any remaining drag lines on the bust....

Sooo, here is my block. Traced onto card from my final pattern. Without seam allowances. Ready to start playing with designs in the New Year. Here's a round up of the main adjustments I've made to my toile to get it to this point:
I've been sketching out some ideas as well as perusing the ones in the book that got me started on this draftalong in the first place. (Epic journey that it has become! 32 posts so far! What planet was I on, thinking I could have this done and dusted withing a few weeks??!)
I fancy starting off with experimenting with collars (Peter Pan, Sailor?) and maybe some pintucks, pleats, gathers etc. How about you? What design details would you try first if you were drafting a pattern to your own design?
Px

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Christmas Gift Planning....

Whilst I haven't yet made any meaningful practical progress on my handmade gifts (last minute? Self imposed pressure?? Moi? Of course!!) I have been putting in the planning and preparation. I do pretty much know what I am making for everyone, have most of the supplies I need and a clear schedule after this week to get cracking on everything. In the meantime I thought I'd share some of the ideas I've been furiously "pinning" in preparation....

Yummy huh? Even better, (apart from the felt tic tac toe and letters/numbers,) ALL of these ideas have free tutorials or pattern downloads!!! You can find all of the original sources and links to the original sites here :)
I'd better get cracking!!
Px
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