Sunday, 18 December 2011

Christmas Craft

Hi folks, sorry for the gap in posts but I'm sure you can all appreciate that this is a busy time of year. I've also been having some laptop issues, i.e, I don't actually have my own and the other Magpies are very protective of their toys and are being a bit mean about sharing.

I've been having another break from my sewing machine, but have been doing lots of hand sewing. I made a 'Merry Christmas' decoration as a present, similar to this one that I made last year.

And this is what I came back from work one morning to find. (We've been watching Ice Age films recently, Scrat is a character from them!).

I'm sensing lots more anagrams over the festive period; a quick Google revealed over 5,000 variations!

For Christmas last year we bought Grannie Magpie a copy of the book 'Knitivity' as she is a fantastic knitter. I was really looking forward to seeing this. It has taken months of hard work and we all think the results are amazing!

The dolls are really detailed, with all the pieces knitted separately. I didn't mind undressing baby Jesus but I thought I'd better not undress the adult dolls, you'll have to take my word for it that their clothes come off!

Mr Donkey still needs some wire in his legs.

I don't think I would have the patience to finish the whole scene so hats off to Grannie Magpie for this, it's brilliant!

We're currently enjoying our Christmas visit to the family in the Midlands, then it will be home for some last minute present making and wrapping before getting settled in for the main event.

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Bad Seam, Good Seam (Sewing an Invisible Seam)

I know that I showed you my pincushion fruits in my first post but I learnt a new skill last week that I wanted to share with you. Please excuse me if I am teaching you to suck eggs but I'm hoping I wasn't the last of the un-initiated and this might be useful for someone!

From my very first fruit I was aware that I was not possessed of the proper knowledge to sew an invisible seam when sewing up the stuffing gap, so I proceeded clumsily, stitching as closely and neatly as possible to finish off.

When my mother-in-law was visiting the other week and I was frantically busy with all the fairs, I was finishing off some more pincushions as I had sold nearly all my stock (in spite of the badly sewn seams). I asked Grannie Magpie if she could show me a better way to close the gaps and she taught me this method. (I'm sure it has a proper name but I'm too lazy to find out what it is, perhaps you can enlighten me?)

I had previously been putting the needle in one side of the gap, then putting it through the adjacent fabric.

What you are meant to do is make a tiny stitch along the seam line, putting the needle in and out of the same side in one stitch.

Pull through.

Then, you repeat the action on the other side; make a tiny stitch along the seam line.

And then pull through, thus drawing the gap closed.

Repeat all along the gap, alternating sides as you go, pinching the sides together with the seam allowance tucked under.

Et voila!

The apples have a button sewn onto their bottoms (with the stitches going right through to the top) as this helps to make the apple shape and stop the pincushion falling over.

And the the finished fruit!

I now feel slightly ashamed that there are a dozen of my pincushions out there with inferior stitching. If you are the owner of one, I will happily have it back to rectify the seam.

The garden gang, ready for their new homes.

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Paper Mache and Cupcakes

Things have been relatively calm here over the last week. The children were all back at school and it was the adult's turn to be poorly. Still, I'm pretty much fighting fit again and ready to crank up the machine for the last craft fair this Friday.

Some crafty-ness has been occurring here. Last year the school attended by our youngest two introduced 'home learning', which involves families in the current topic being studied. Whilst the current topic is being studied, the children are asked to do a related piece of work at home. Usually there is a choice between a report-type task or a model-making one. Our middle son's last topic was India. When I noted that the choices were between producing a powerpoint presentation and making a model of the Taj Mahal I felt sure he would choose the former, being something of a computer whizz.

To our dismay, this was not the case. He felt that constructing the Taj Mahal from the inside of toilet rolls would be far more appealing. I have to say, it turned out to be an enjoyable occupation. Mr Magpie deserves most of the credit, but the whole family got involved and we were all really pleased with the result.

Our version of the Taj Mahal. Please ignore the far superior version on the right!

Our youngest son is in the nursery at school. His topic has been 'Rainbows' and included the reading of the Elmer stories. For home learning we were invited to make ingenious 'Elmer' models by cutting the tops off of 2 litre milk bottles. I'm so glad we were given instructions for this, I would have gone into a minor panic as to how I would help a three year old make a model elephant otherwise.

First we covered the plastic in paper mache and sprayed it in white paint (done in conjunction with Taj-making).

Next we put my felt scraps to good use. It was quite hard for control freak me to let him decide where to stick the squares!

We finished him off with some of big brother's 'googly eyes'

Yesterday, the youngest demanded that we make cake. He is something of a cake-monster and I wonder whether he enjoys baking only because he gets to taste the goodies at the earliest opportunity. Sometimes he can't even wait for the finished batter, and I'll catch him putting his finger in the creamed butter and sugar!

Notice his tongue peeking out, eager to get the spatula in his mouth! Unfortunately, I can't show you a picture of the finished cupcakes. Whilst they were supposed to  be cooling for icing, my little monkey crept back into the kitchen and took a bite out of every last one!

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

All the Fun of the Fairs

Three craft fairs, three poorly children and a visit from the in-laws. Last week was rather manic and has left me feeling pretty shattered. The craft fairs were all really good though. I sold lots of stuff and met some more lovely people.

My brooches were selling really well. I was making them while I was sitting behind the stall. Some of them got sold within minutes of being finished. I also sold all of the apple pincushions and most of the pears. It was a bit odd seeing the first one I made get chosen, but it's new owner assured me it was going to a good home!

I've got the setting up and taking down of the stall pretty well sussed now, I can even speak whilst doing it and I'm getting less nervous and actually enjoying myself more.

On Sunday, we went out for a lovely walk along the beach and then through the town and back again. We're still having really mild weather in Bournemouth and it was lovely to be outside. As we headed back, the sun was setting and the sky looked brilliant. I took lots of pictures, but none that properly captured what it was like.

 Skies like this make me want to paint. I wish I could!

Usually I make my Christmas cake at Halloween but all the sewing has taken priority. I finally managed to get it done yesterday.

From this to this in only five hours!

Only one more craft fair before Christmas. I really need to get started on the presents I'm making this year, but the children very kindly passed their bug on so I'm taking it easy this week.

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A Very Busy Week

I had hoped to be showing you lots of pictures from Saturday's craft fair but I was trying to be so efficient making sure that the camera was charged that it got left out of the packing and the snaps I took on my phone are trapped there because I haven't ever tried to upload them and now don't seem to have the relevant means to do so.

The fair went really well, the best one I have done so far. I met some really lovely local people who are regulars on the craft fair scene and they were full of lots of useful information. Thanks to Louise, the lady I was fortunate enough to be positioned next to, I now have an extra fair this week tomorrow night.

The success of Saturday, coupled with the fact that I now have three fairs this week means that I have been flat out trying to replace some of the stock I sold at the weekend. My felt brooches were really popular so I have made lots more and I also have a commission to make up and send out.

This is just a quick visit to remind you I'm here but I promise a proper update next week with  lots of fair pictures. With three events, I'm bound to remember the camera at least once!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Craft Fair Prep

It's been another busy week in the mapie's nest. Lots of sewing going on. The machine and I are now friends again. I turned some of my new oilcloth into these.

The flowery print on the right is by Clarke and Clarke, I really love their fabrics and so far everything I've made using it has sold pretty quickly. This is another of theirs that I've used before and had to buy again.

I also have this in ordinary fabric and it's just as lovely. This is a little purse I made a while ago.

I also made some more bags using the Ikea prints that have been popular. The fabric bags take a little longer to make because I interface them to make them sturdier and it adds to the cutting and ironing time!

Last week I was very kindly given a big bag of remnants by my neighbour whose friend works making curtains. I love this kind of gift, it reminds me of when I was little and we'd receive a black bag full of clothes from a friend or neighbour and would all go diving in for the spoils.

New stash!

I haven't got plans for it all yet but I did quickly whip up these for the weekend.

This is just a quick visit, still got to price up this lot and make some tweaks to the stall. Will let you know next week how the fair goes.

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Evolution of a Sewing Habit

This time last year the only machine sewing I had attempted involved straight lines, no patterns and rather a lot of frustration. True, in this time I did manage to assemble several baby quilts (although the word quilt can only be loosely applied) a couple of cushion covers (not removable) and quite a lot of roman blinds.

My 'technique' was to buy appealing fabric, approximate a design in my head and then to begin making my chosen project with a mixture of trial and effort, struggling to marry up the image in my head with the wobbly lines of looped stitching that were emerging. I did have a book borrowed from my Mum for the blinds, which were fairly successful, except for the bathroom blinds (which were the first ones I made) which came out rather too short. Not sure what happened there! When we re-decorate the bathroom I will have to make new blinds.

Luckily, we never close them. Not that we could.

My sewing machine and I had been together for about nine years but I hadn't really taken the time to get to know it properly, hence many of the problems. The only textile lessons I got at school involved me and a couple of friends spending about half a term drawing five-petal flowers onto a very roughly sketched dress pattern that never got off the drawing board.

Around Christmas time last year I decided it was high time I had some proper lessons and booked a short course through the local adult education centre starting in January. This spurred me on to having my machine properly serviced, which cost me what I thought was an eye-watering amount, although several faults were discovered which had probably been caused by my ignorance. I confess now to never having oiled the poor thing in all the years of ownership, or removing any fluff, and only ever having changed the needle when it broke. I still had some of the original needles included with the machine left, I had never bought any or been aware that there were different needles for different jobs.

At my first lesson I discovered that there was a correct way to load the bobbin, something else that had probably caused many of my sewing problems. I also learned about back stitching at the start of a seam. This was also a revelation to me, who had previously and laboriously pulled the threads to the back of my work and tied them together. Every. Single. Time. Roman blinds have a lot of seams and I estimate that over the dozen or so I had made, tying the threads had probably taken me an extra few hours at least!

The lessons were spaced fortnightly, but after the first one I experienced something of an epiphany and was hungry to learn more. I took to the internet and found it to be an amazing resource. I still wonder why I had never thought to look there before.

I had also got the Cath Kidston book 'Sew' for Christmas. My version didn't include the materials to make the bag, but I decided to make a version of it.

For the very first time, I attempted button holes.I don't think they came out too badly, considering.

After my buttonholing experience, I thought I would try zips. I found this tutorial which I found really easy to follow and created this

I had never really thought about patterns until making this bag, but buoyed by it's success I then went on to adapt the pattern several times. By this point I had set up a dedicated area for my machine and this together with the increased knowledge of how to use it has changed my life quite dramatically, but definitely for the better.

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Snap unhappy

Well, apparently I'm not talking to myself, so I'll continue.....

I hadn't really thought the whole blogging process through because it is only when I come to write that I realise I need photographs to accompany my witterings. Therefore the past few days have seen me snapping away at anything vaguely connected with crafting and having an enormous file full of dodgy shots to sift through. I will share a couple of the less dodgy with you, but please accept my apologies. My photography skills have improved since the advent of digital cameras (I was always the one with pictures of headless bodies and blurred images) but I am thinking I may need to enlist the services of one of my more snap-happy friends if I want to keep any readers.

I'll start with this picture of a couple of the bags I made this week

Those who know me will recognise my most crafted item of this year, the wash/cosmetics bag. After quite a few botched efforts, I came up with what I think is a great pattern and  have probably made about seventy of these now, lots of which adorn the bathrooms and dressing tables of family and friends, and some that I have sold at craft fairs this autumn, which has been a new adventure for me. (More about that another time.)

The fabric is from Ikea and I really love it. It has been very interesting to see which of the fabrics I use is most popular, but so far Ikea seems to be winning out over Cath Kidston, surprisingly.

Something else I made recently was the pincushion caddy by Anna Maria Horner, from her book 'Seams to Me'. I bought the book because it was recommended by a few different people whose blogs I read, especially Florence's. Florence is my blog and sewing heroine. She makes beautiful clothes (amongst many other things) and her blog is full of tutorials, patterns (her own), advice and other nuggets of stitching wisdom.

Anyway, after spending two days trying to make the pincushion, I did some research and discovered that I wasn't the only one who found it difficult and even learned some good tips to make it successfully, should I be moved to try it again. (I won't.)

My version isn't a resounding success (the middle should be solid, not squidgy) but it does the job and was a good way of using up several Cath scraps for posterity. Should you ever consider making this, my advice would be don't, but if you are determined, get in touch and I can point you in the direction of help. Failing that I can recommend a great Pinot to help you through.

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

My First Post!

After much procrastination, here it is, post number one. It seems unreal to me that anyone will be interested in my ramblings, but if you are reading then you are most welcome, and I thank you.

I have spent a long time reading the blogs of others and finding lots of inspiration from so many clever people. I thought it only right that I should offer something back so decided to give you a quick peek at some of my latest creations.

I had seen these and admired them online but hadn't managed to find a decent tutorial. Then Mollie Makes featured them and with not too much swearing, I managed to produce my own.

This was my first attempt

I had bought some felted wool a few weeks previously at a vintage fair without really knowing what I would use it for. After making the pincushions, I was inspired to make these brooches

 After that, I went a little bit brooch crazy, and made these

All of the hand sewing gave me a little rest from the sewing machine, which was needed as we hadn't been getting on all that well for a while. I've just bought some lovely new oilcloth which is waiting to be turned into bags, so hopefully the break will have done us good and normal service will be resumed.

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x