Hillarys Blinds Country Crafts Competition

Today I have been finishing my country crafts creations with the free fabric from Hillarys Blinds for their crafting and blogging competition: http://www.hillarys.co.uk/inspiration/the-hub/2014/country-craft-competition/

Hillarys Blinds Country Crafts Competition
Hillarys Blinds Country Crafts Competition

I requested the teal bird parade fabric and when it arrived for some strange reason it whispered to me that it wanted to be a giant rabbit. I think it was an Easter thing and the fabric wanted to be Pantoufle, the imaginary rabbit in ‘Chocolat’ – yes, I know Pantoufle is a kangaroo in the film, but I am pretty sure he is a rabbit in the book. I am sure I have talked before about my belief that, just as in Harry Potter where the wand chooses the wizard, in my world the fabric chooses the project. However, in this case the fabric and I had to have a bit of a chat about practicalities. Much as I love the idea of a giant rabbit, while I try to build my little business I have to be strict about use of limited resources…a large rabbit takes a lot of polyester stuffing and would not be something I could sell to cover the cost (not only does it feel odd selling something made from competition fabric, even handmade toys need to be tested and CE marked to be sold in the EU). The fabric and I had to reconsider the project.

The first step in deciding what to make is to get to know the fabric. I start by ironing it.

step 1 – ironing

It gives me a chance to see how the fabric handles and to appreciate the pattern – which is lovely, and would make a wonderful roman blind.

getting to know the fabric

This fabric is quite a heavy twill sort of fabric, but moves well and irons well. The peacock print is quite large and we, the fabrc and I, decided it needed to be something that had a large enough, flat enough surface to appreciate the pattern…we decided on an apron. Not a complicated project, but something that makes the most of the fabric.

I am a great believer that if you have a piece of clothing that fits well and suits you, it makes sense to use it as a template/pattern. I have a Bath WI apron that is just right, so used it to cut out my apron, making sure there was a complete peacock in the centre.

Bath WI apron as template
Bath WI apron as template

When I use lighter fabrics to make aprons, I cut two pieces and sew them together, right sides together, leaving a small gap to turn it back the right way out. It neatens the edges and gives the apron a better weight so it hangs well. This furnishing weight fabric is heavy enough to be unlined – in fact I think lining it would make it too heavy. All I had to do was was double over the edges and top stitch and attach cotton twill tape ties. For the neck I like to sew two D-rings in to a loop of tape and attach to one side of the neck, with a lose ended tape the other side. This makes the neck adjustable regardless of your height.

peacock apron
peacock apron

I often use curtain or furnishing fabric to make aprons – you can find some quite economical hard-wearing fabric (or upcycle old curtains), and some lovely prints. It’s a quick and easy and effective thing to sew; perfect for a first project or a last minute gift.

apron selfie
apron selfie

Now, I hate waste. I keep every scrap of fabric – you never know when you might need a tiny piece for an easter bunny’s tail on a handmade card or to cover a button. I had enough to make at least one more thing and in the way that one thing tends to lead to another, the apron made me think about making cupcakes, which made me think about eating cupcakes, which…for some reason..made me think of a hippo!

As I mentioned above, to sell handmade toys in the EU you need to carry out very specific tests in order to use the CE mark (I have done this for my Ellen mice). As the hippo will not be for sale I am free to just make it for fun without worrying about dye data sheets, burn rates or, for that matter, copyright issues. Ages ago I treated myself to this lovely book:

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If I make things outside the business, it feels like playing hookey so allowing myself to make the hippo from the book was a real treat.

pieces of hippo

I generally make my own patterns, and it was fun allowing myself just to follow someone else’s (excellent) instructions. In addition, Ellen Mouse has such tiny arms and legs, they take practice to turn the right way out, but these hippo limbs are huge in comparison and so much easier! A word of advice to anyone who has never tried to make a doll or toy with arms and legs before, some books will tell you to pin a safety pin to the end and slowly, slowly oh so slowly wiggle it down until the tube is the right side out. In my humble opinion, what you actually need is a chop stick.

magical sewing tool
magical sewing tool

This rather splendid chopstick has had several uses. It started life as a magic wand at a Harry Potter party, dropped quite a few pieces of sweet and sour chicken down my front and now turns fabric tubes inside out and pokes stuffing in to even the most awkward fabric nooks and crannies. Once you have sewn a fabric tube with right sides together and need to turn it the right way out, just push in the closed end of the leg or arm or other fabric tube slightly, push the end of the chopstick in to the hollow (the larger end of the stick if the tube is wide enough, so it is less likely to push through the line of stitching), stand the other end of the chopstick on the table or your knee and wriggle the tube of fabric down over the chopstick – rather like putting on a snug pair of tights.

My completed hippo seemed a little under-dressed for cupcake making, so I made her an apron of her own,

finished hippo
finished hippo

I decided that, given the source of the fabric, the only possible name for my hippo was Hilary, and took her outside for a bit of a photo shoot.

Hilary the Hippo
Hilary the Hippo

Max the cat, was very interested in the little hippo.

Max and Hilary

In no time at all the cat and the hippo were firm friends; they made a bond of friendship…you could even call it a hippo-catic oath! I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.

hippo-catic friendship

With Hilary the Hippo complete there were still scraps of fabric, so I made a zip pouch, a pincushion and three catnip mice! I filled the pincushion with crushed walnut shells to keep pins and needles sharp – just be careful with anyone with a nut allergy.

A side – peacock head
B side – peacock tail

If you make your own catnip mice or fish or birds, there are things to remember:

  • don’t use beads or buttons that might come off and choke your cat
  • keep cats out of the room when sewing (mine try to steal it while I am sewing it closed)
  • make sure it has a long enough tail to protect your fingers from sharp teeth and claws
  • don’t leave cats and catnip toys unattended; cats can go utterly loopy and may hurt themselves
three catnip mice
zip pouch and mice
peacock zip purse

Now this is all that is left of my piece of fabric…

fabric scraps

Even these tiny pieces will go in my scrap bag for making applique cards and fabric pictures…

It would be ever so nice to win the prize of ¬£1000 (that would buy a lot of zips and thread and toy stuffing), but regardless I have had a lot of fun with my free piece of fabric and I have already become very attached to my little hippo friend and our two cats will be giddy with happiness when I give them the catnip mice, so thank you Hillary’s Blinds!

I think mice are rather nice!

I don’t know where the week has gone! I spent last weekend in London with my stepmother – a lovely chance to catch up, indulge calorifically and enjoy the ballet (Matthew Bourne’s ‘Swan Lake’ at Sadler’s Wells). Then I have been researching and approaching some fantastic crafters to run crafty nights out for the Bath WI. We had an energised and enthusiastic committee meeting, complete with smoked salmon sandwiches and sparkling wine (well it is Bath, darling!). My only concern was the talk of working with the Federation…am I the only one who grew up watching ‘Blake’s 7’ to know that the last thing you should do is work with the Federation!!! (looks around nervously for Servalan and Travis).

My stepmother sent me home with a bag full of her mother’s grandmother’s and we think maybe great grandmother’s lace, table linen, nightdresses and bloomers. Some I will make in to bags, as I am doing with the antique Russian embroidered linen I took home with me the last visit.

drawstring bag made from antique Russian embroidered linen
drawstring bag made from antique Russian embroidered linen

The bloomers are going to theatrical Maddie to adorn Alice in Wonderland.

lace detail
lace detail
antique Russian bloomers
antique Russian bloomers

The nightdress is so perfect it is tempting just to keep it as a nightdress, but it might get more use if I were to turn it in to a Summer dressing gown.

antique nightdress
antique nightdress

 

Sewing wise I have been making aprons and lavender bags and some more Ellen mice…I am thinking of selling sweaters separately, so I can reduce the price of the mice….what do you think?

‘If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake’ apron.

A few lavender bag hearts and cats.

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lavender bag cats

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Ellen Mouse in grey and white, sporting reversible Spring tunics.

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I will put the new mice in the shop on Monday, when I can take some better photos for Etsy. For now I need to chop seville orange rind – baked in the oven earlier – and boil up the marmalade and pour it in to sterilised jars. I love homemade marmalade! Then I need to get my head around mailchimp for my first Deerey Me newsletter, oh and plant some seeds in the grow house. I guess this is where the time goes…on stuff.

 

 

 

pinnies and pencil cases

Much later typing this than I planned. Spent most of yesterday in the garden – a bit of tidying up straggly plants, sweeping leaves and lifting turf where we plan to put raised beds. I confess that my arms rather gave out – it’s hard work! – and I left Mark and his dad lifting turf and his mum picking up leaves and went to make soup and put together bacon butties. Foolishly I decided to do some sewing in the afternoon, planning to do the last hour’s work turf-lifting this morning, but today has been wet all day! It did however, mean I could do more sewing and make some more jam jar snow scenes today.

First, however, my lovely neighbours whose house backs on to ours kindly agreed to model some of my aprons – thank you! I had a really nice time, chatting away and drinking tea (and their little girl is so fab, I might see if I can borrow her sometime if she perhaps fancies decorating gingerbread houses for Christmas…my nieces are all far too old for such things these days). Unfortunately, I clearly was paying too much attention to the foreground (and the chatting…I do like a bit of a chat!) and realised when I looked at the photos that quite a few have my bags and the other aprons messing up the background. Some judicious cropping has resulted in some usable photos, but I must concentrate more another time.

Yesterday’s sewing took the form of a couple of pencil cases. I love this Star Wars fabric and had seen a pencil roll for coloured pencils and wanted to have a go. I think I will change the design a little another time, but it’s quite fun. Sorry about the poor quality photos – should have taken them earlier in the day!

coloured pencil roll
coloured pencil roll
pencil roll
pencil roll
pencil case
pencil case

Today’s bit of rain-induced sewing was a larger version of the Autumn artist trading card (ATC) I did for the Very Berry Handmade ATC swap – another ATCer liked it and asked if I would make her one too (and what’s more she is making me one in return!).

bigger version of the little dog Autumn ATC
bigger version of the little dog Autumn ATC

Finally, a thank you to the Book People – not only are the books I ordered as Christmas presents really nice, the cats really appreciate the box!

oh cute!
oh cute!
cats in a box
cats in a box

Santa Claus is coming to town…!

Such a wet, grey day seems perfect to do some quilting. All snugly on the sofa (half) watching slushy movies, toasty under the quilt as I work on it (with an eye out for muddy pawed cats!). Here is a sneak preview:

Moda 'Winter's Lane' quilt
Moda ‘Winter’s Lane’ quilt

I have also been making good use of some of the Christmas buttons I found. Sometimes I just ‘see’ things in my mind and it is such a joy when they work out as I imagined.

Rudolph won't you lead my sleigh tonight
Rudolph won’t you lead my sleigh tonight
Santa's coming to town zip pouch
Santa’s coming to town zip pouch

The reverse of the wash bag was just right for a left over Halloween button.

black cat button
black cat button
cat on a cold tile roof
cat on a cold tile roof

However, all this Christmas sewing is taking it’s toll – and just to make sure the old bah hum bug doesn’t surface from all this festive overload so early in the year, I decided to make a Spring apron, with a big white flower and a flower pot pocket – perfect for any young gardener.

apron for young gardener
apron for young gardener

Oh and one last thing….

Happy birthday for Monday Mum…see you for lunch on Sunday!

Mum...a few years ago.
Mum…a few years ago.

a touch of Cinderella

I have been very bad about keeping everyone updated – lots of sewing, lots of trying to get organised. I have had a load of custom orders and need to be very sure the requested fabric doesn’t get used for any other projects.

current custom orders:

  • 3 pairs of slippers
  • 5 drawstring bags
  • 2 zipper pouches
  • 2 evening clutch bags
  • 1 phone case
  • 1 Ellen Mouse
  • 2 Dr Who christmas stockings

As if this is not enough to keep me out of trouble, my favourite season is starting to take hold and I am loving the colours and that hint of chill in the air. To celebrate I have been making Cinderella pumpkin pincushions (also perfect for Halloween) with cloves tucked in the stuffing and cinnamon stick stems: available in my shop

pumpkin pincushion
pumpkin pincushion

The house smells delicious – I am just going to have to make some more!

Of course no Cinderella can carry out her housework duties without a good apron! I am hooked on these little cool and contemporary ones, and they really show off some of the lovely fabric in my fabric stash. My only problem is that it would be nice to include a photo of them being modeled when I put them in my shop and me standing on a chair taking a photo in my workroom mirror just does not cut the mustard…I am going to have to rope in friends and neighbours!

funky apron
funky apron
modern apron
modern apron
flowers and irons apron
flowers and irons apron
hmmm...could use a better model!
hmmm…could use a better model!

The aprons are fully lined – thank goodness for the fab fabric shop on Green Street in Bath (Fashion Fabrics) as I am getting through quite a bit of fabric.

My non-sewing activities have been taken up with the lovely crab apple tree in our front garden. Last year there were so few apples we left them all for the birds, but this year it has more than I have ever seen. I have already had 5kg and there is still plenty left for both us and the birds.

crab apple
crab apple
crab apple tree
crab apple tree

I am a big fan of cookery books but when it comes to jams and preserves I always come back to Gloria Nicol’s Fruits of the Earth; I do like to tweak recipes though and add cinnamon and cloves and ginger to the fruit when I boil it up before straining.

Fruits of the Earth
Fruits of the Earth
spiced crab apple jelly
spiced crab apple jelly

To finish, I have to share another photo. I just popped outside to photograph the crab apple tree and Rio the cat was in his favourite position on the door mat…he’s even there if you look at our house on google maps street view (not going to put my address here, you’ll just have to take my word for it!)

cat on the mat
cat on the mat