Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Salt Dough Gift Toppers...

I'll let you in on a little secret. These were meant to go on our tree. But I liked them so much atop brown parcel paper and tied with bright red ribbon, that they're going to decorate our Christmas gifts this year instead! (Although I might still whip up a few for the tree as they're super quick to do) I had originally planned to paint and glaze them too. But the natural texture and colour was telling me to leave them be. "We're perfectly fine as we are thankyou". That's what they told me after 2 snowballs and a mini bottle of Rose wine gifted to me by one of my Avon customers...What? It was my birthday at the weekend. I'm allowed! Yep, 38 years and still not feeling remotely "grown up"!
I made some of these a couple of years ago but never finished decorating them. A couple of weeks ago I dug them out, painted them white and then set about decorating them with a folk art design with a red sharpie. They didn't work out how I would have liked them so I decided to have another stab at them this year...

Anyhow, onto the scintillating subject of salt dough or "store cupboard fimo" as I like to call it ;)

Below: As I mentioned, I made some salt dough shapes last year so you can find the full low down on how to make the dough in this post. But essentially it's a ratio of 2 parts flour + 1 part salt + 1 part water (tepid not cold). Blend the salt and flour first, then add the water and work into a dough. Following that formula you can make any amount of dough that you like. If you want a really smooth finish then make sure you knead it thoroughly. But I quite like the texture result of a slightly less smooth dough...
Above: I used a variety of cookie cutters to experiment with, and found these sugarcraft snowflake stampers/punches. They can be used to press out actual shapes from the dough, just like a cookie cutter; or simply to emboss the surface of the dough.

Below: For these star shaped gift toppers, I cut the main shape using a larger star cutter. Then with the next size down I "embossed" a border; then using my sugarcraft stamp I added an embossed snowflake to the centre. I also cut some smaller stars with just the embossed snowflake in the centre....
Above: The humble drinking straw makes a perfect hole punch for your hanging loop hole..

Below: There are a number of ways to dry out salt dough shapes. You can let them air dry for several days. Erm, no thanks. Our house is too tiny to have trays of these hanging around for days on end. You can bake them in the oven on a very low heat. Well yes. But firstly, our oven has conked out just in time for Christmas (!) and secondly; in my experience they don't stay flat and have a tendency to catch and scorch in the blink of an eye. My weapon of choice in these matters is definitely the microwave. I left my shapes to air dry a bit overnight. Then, place them in batches, face down on baking parchment, on a microwaveable plate. Weight down with another FLAT plate. (I used a spare glass microwave plate). This will ensure they stay nice and flat and don't bubble up during the drying out process. Then microwave on full power in 1 minute bursts, checking them as you go and wiping away any accumulated moisture from the plate. It usually takes 1-4 minutes depending on the overall size and thickness of the dough...

Below: They can still scorch in the microwave, which is why it's important to check them between 1 minute bursts. But in this case I like the way a bit of added colour has enhanced the embossed details. I tried out a few different shapes and designs. The little round ones were cut using the little metal case that a tealight comes in. The "stylised garland" design on the heart shape was a bit of an experiment. I made the line indentations using the the edge of a ruler and added the "baubles" with a very narrow drinking straw...

And while all this was going on, Elliott was happy creating his own take on gingerbread men....

Hope all your Christmas preparations are going smoothly!





Friday, December 14, 2012

The Knitting Novice...

I love yarn shops. There's something really delicious about rows and rows of gorgeous yarns in a rainbow of colours. But when it comes to turning that yarn into something recogniseable, well, I've never quite managed it. A case in point here! I like the process of knitting (like cosy meditation on a winter evening don't you think?) and have recently discovered the joys of crochet too (only one loop to unravel when I inevitably cock it up!). But up until now my yarn exploits have been limited, well meaning attempts, but littered with UFO's.
Well peops, I FINALLY finished something that is getting worn every day! I KNOW! Check out Elliott's "model" pose in the centre pic, hee hee!

The yarn is recycled from a supersoft but unwanted sweater. I didn't do any of the stuff I was supposed to do with the yarn after I harvested it. (I think you're supposed to skein it, wash it and hang it or something. Anyone know?) I literally unravelled it from the sweater, into a ball, and knit with it straight away. Neither did I do any of this "blocking" malarkey. To coin a well used phrase, quite frankly, I couldn't be arsed ;) In defence of my slapdashery, for all I knew, this was just gonna be another UFO to add to my pile. But no! It all worked out ok! I think my lack of prep shows in the finished items, but to be honest, I don't care! They're soft, warm, and cosy and they fit! This people, is progress.

I knit them both in a "triple" rib. (3 knit, 3 purl etc). The hat was done on double point needles which for some bizarre reason I find less fiddly than circular needles.
In a potentially foolhardy act, this flush of success has spurred me on to make some knit and crochet gifts for Christmas. These will probably never see the light of day after they're gifted (as Karen so aptly describes) and will probably be secretly laughed at. But hey, I'm in a handmade mood this year. In any case, knitting to a deadline and for someone else, motivates me to actually get it finished and do the best job I can. In fact, I have one finished already. Blocked (well sorta!) and everything.

How about you? Are you a knitting novice? Do you have any advice for a knitting novice?!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How To: DIY Crochet Needle Roll

As promised, here's the "how to" for the crochet hook roll I shared yesterday. This make is easily doable in 1 hour AND is adaptable to any number of uses. Knitting needles, make up brushes, artist pencils/brushes. All you'd need to change are the dimensions. So it's great as a last minute gift if you're pushed for time but want to give something handmade...

I made mine to fit this set of bamboo crochet hooks. I spaced them out roughly as I would envisage them in the finished roll; then measured the length of the hooks and took a rough width measurement across the bottom of the hooks...

I cut my lining piece as follows:
Fabric length = Length of hooks x 2 - 1"
Fabric Width = Rough width measurement + 2-3" extra (I only gave myself 1" extra and barely scraped it! You can trim any excess in a later step. So give yourself enough width to play with)
Fold fabric in half to create a kind of open sided envelope/pouch. (Top right pic) You want the back poking up by about a 1". If you're happy that it looks about the right size against your hooks, use bias to finish the top and bottom raw edges (bottom right pic)...

To sew the compartments:
Sew your first line about 1/2" from one side. Starting from the base of the "envelope", and using your first stitching line as a guide, backstitch at the start of your stitching line; then sew a straight line all the way up and onto your bias bound edge but NOT past it. Backstitch to finish (first pic). Repeat this process until you have enough compartments (To gauge the width of each compartment, I started with the smallest hook(s). I knew each consecutive compartment would need to be incrementally bigger as the size of the hooks increased. So using the previous stitching line as a guide, I just made each compartment slightly bigger than the last; until I had enough for every hook. Middle pic) Then trim any excess along the side to within 1/2" of your last stitching line.
Now bind the raw edges of the sides with bias (last pic)...

Cut your leather/suede to the desired size. You want it to be 2-3"  wider either side of your "envelope" for flaps; and about 1/4" wider top and bottom so the envelope fits neatly in the centre as pictured.
I rounded off the corners of mine (bottom 3 pics)...

Stitch the "envelope" to the wrong side of your suede/leather by cathcing the edge of the bias tape all the way around. If you don't want your stitches to be too obvious on the right side,  make sure your bobbin thread matches the colour of your sued and your top thread matches the colour of your bias tape.
Then cut yourself a tie from your suede/leather; and secure to the right side of one of the flaps with a yummy button...

And there you have it....

It's absolutely worth noting that the suede I used was clothing weight (harvested from a thrifted pair of suede trousers) and therefore buttery soft and easy to work with. When working with suede or leather makes sure you use the right  needles and that your machine can take the increased workload. If in doubt, test on scraps first. I had to adjust my tension to stop the bobbin thread from skipping and making ugly stitches on the right side of the suede. Even sewing the button on was trickier and required a leather needle plus the very rare use (on my part) of a thimble to encourage the needle through the suede. But apart from this, it's a super quick and satisfying make, and I'm super excited to see the recipients' reaction when she opens it!
So why not get thee to a charity shop, find an old leather/suede skirt/jacket/trousers (delete as appropriate) and have a go yourself? Be sure to let me know if you do. Id love to see the results!


Monday, December 10, 2012

DIY Gift Idea: Leather /Suede Crochet Hook Roll

Stop Press! Over a week into December, and I've just got my first handmade gift finished! (Someone needs to get a serious wriggle on!) This little suede crochet hook roll (step by step to follow tomorrow) made to house a set of bamboo crochet hooks I found on eBay. (Superfast delievery too if you're interested!) You may recognise the suede from a previous project....

Kerry may recognise the button. It's from the ONLY giveaway I've ever won...

The inner "pocket" is made from a remnant of some thrifted curtains....

So essentially this neat little needle roll cost me zero to make!

If you fancy making one, there'll be a step by step up here tomorrow.

How's your gift making going? Any handmade gift ideas/tutorials to recommend? I'm all ears!


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Refashion a Peter Pan Collar

Hi everybody peops! Following on from my recent monochrome refashion, here's a quick run down on what I did to that boring pointy collar....

Below: Use something round. Position it so that the drawn line will blend seamlessly with the stitched line around your collar edge. I used a biro on mine. The edges will be bound in the final step so it doesn't matter that it's visible; and it helps to have clear marking to follow too.
Above: In order to make sure I drew my curve in exactly the same place on the opposite collar, I took note of where my pen line hit my stitching line on both sides of my new curve. I marked the exact same measurements onto the opposite collar, and used the marks to help me line up my "circular object" (that'll be my pin tin lid ;) in exactly the right place. No-one wants a wonky collar, no matter how cool geek chic is!

Below: Begin stitching on top of the existing edge stitching of the collar, about a quarter inch before your pen line/curve starts. The idea is to seamlessly blend the old edge stitching with your new curve. Continue stitching all the way around, on top of your pen line/curve, and blend into the original edge stitching again at the other end.
Above: The purpose of the stitching is really to kep all the layers of the collar together and prevent the from fraying or flapping about while you're working on them. Trim super close to the stitching and check the "balance" of your new collar. At this stage you could change the curve slightly, make the whole collar narrower etc. Just follow the same process (mark it, stitch it, cut it) again until you're happy with the shape.

Below: When you're happy with the shape, finish with bias binding in either a matching, coordinating or contrasting colour...


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Refashion: Monochrome Magic...

Isn't it great when the simplest of tweaks can bring a rather boring garment bang up to date? I've been loving this season's contrast collars and button bands, so thought I'd try out an idea that's been niggling me for weeks. I bought this shirt from, yes you guessed it, a charity shop. It cost me the princely sum of £1.75. It's a really good quality shirt but needed a little bit of "modernising"...

There were alot of buttons down the front of this shirt. One continuous line of them, with only a few of them being actually "functional. The rest were simply stitched onto the placket, in the gaps between the buttonholes, for decorative effect. Now I like buttons as much as the next stitcher, but this was just overkill. I removed all the buttons and used contrasting black ones instead, and went for a double button effect.

 I reshaped the collar from pointy to Peter Pan and finished with contrast black bias binding. I'll be sharing a "How To" on the reshaping technique tomorrow, so check back for that if you fancy giving this a go :) COLLAR TUTORIAL HERE
I'm not quite finished with this shirt yet. I can't quite decide what to do with the sleeves (if anything) and I need to take it in a teensy bit.  But I was so pleased with how this stage of the transformation has turned out, that I thought I'd share it early! What say you about the sleeves? Leave well alone or change 'em up a bit? I was thinking 3/4 length but I'd have to lose the cuff as it doesn't fit around that part of my arm. Hmmm, maybe make a new black cuff?? Decisions, decisions! Of course, what I really ought to be doing is cracking on with Christmas sewing...