“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ― Cicero
Well I have a garden and few bookcases and a Kindle, so it is looking good – what’s more I got to spend Saturday in Bath central library! The really cool thing was that when I got there I found I had been allocated the table smack in front of everyone coming to the library’s craft market. It brought back so many memories of the library in Loughborough when I was little and would be taken to change my books. I remember the parquet flooring and how clean and shiny it was and sometimes there would be someone reading stories to the children and most of all I remember a book. A book with an illustration of a long table covered with tall, elegant jellies. Some things never change!
I do have wonderful book childhood book memories – my dad reading me Alison Uttley’s Sam Pig stories at bedtime, my sister reading Alan Garner books to me, sitting on the windowsill in her bedroom, and reading Watership Down myself one of the Summers I was sent to stay with my great aunt in Cornwall…I spent the whole Summer digging rabbit warrens in the sand.
Anyway, I digress. The craft market was not as financially successful as some, but was still profitable and I came away with some custom orders and I met ever so many nice people (and I think recruited a few to the Bath WI), lots signed up for the Deerey Me newsletter and I heard about people’s vintage patterns and button collections, saw photos of beautiful crocheted shawls and gave little dog stickers to lots of kids (and only one cried). It was fun.
I wanted to have a few bits and pieces appropriate to a library, so made some book bags – classics as I am not sure about copyright and whether I can use the name of the book (I queried whether I could use Harry Potter titles and the nice people handling copyright for JK Rowling were really helpful and replied the same day and explained that the HP copyrights are now with Warner Brothers. Warner Brothers have not yet responded…but I will stick at it!)
I also put my new found crochet skills to good use and made some pocket money friendly bookmarks – my fist sale was one of these to a cute little girl who wanted to use it in her library books.
I know it is hard to believe, but on Sunday I was somewhat tired and grumpilicious, so Mark took me to the Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the American Museum in Britain (at Claverton on the outskirts of Bath). Nobody could be grumpilicious in the face of such colours!
Became even less grumpilicious strolling (well limping a bit) around the beautiful gardens before sipping lemon and ginger tea on the terrace.
After all this, I can only conclude that Cicero was right…If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
(Well…and a nice chap to help you unpack and pack your stock at the craft fair, carry your camera bag and lenses, wait patiently while you take even more photos of bees and has a pot of tea waiting for you when you’re finished)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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,
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.
Max the cat, was very interested in the little hippo.
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.
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.
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
Now this is all that is left of my piece of fabric…
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 have been having a Harry Potter hour or two. On Saturday, pottering (sorry!) around Toppings book shop in Bath I had a flash of inspiration about a book book-bag which, by the time Alison got there, had developed in to a Harry Potter book in the middle of a shelf of classics, with a little magic escaping from the Harry Potter book. I put it together and am chuffed to bits it turned out just as I imagined it! What do you think?
Well I am well and truly hooked on crochet. Don’t get me wrong, I still love sewing, but crochet is still at the learning stage so is just for me rather than for my shop. At the beginner’s crochet 2 hour course at ‘Wool’ in Bath (run for Bath WI) I learnt:
a slip knot (to get started)
The granny squares started improving and I felt I was ready to buy some more expensive yarn (although still not very expensive) and to treat myself to a couple of books to learn some more stitches:
Now I also know:
double treble crochet
I have moved on from the standard granny square to the daffodil square; have decided it is too heavy with only the border in white, so will make the centres in white too. One day it will be a blanket, sitting on our bed. My hope is that the more I do, the tidier it will get…at the moment it still needs work!
A couple of years back my sister gave me a book on making flowers, and now I think I may stand a chance of making something that resembles the photos in the book.
My first attempts are not quite right – I need to count better and I am sure I am not making my slip stitches in quite the right place, but this week I have a dear friend visiting and she is a very talented crochetist and I will take every opportunity to make the most of her expertise while she is here…and will pay her in lavender scented shortbread!
I am also experimenting with different styles of crochet hook…the steel one is ok, but sometimes my fingers ache (think I am too tense), so I got some acrylic ones (ok, I admit it, I liked the rainbow colours) and managed to snap the one I was using (but I didn’t like the way it kind of squeaked against the yarn anyway), so I will try bamboo and one of the Clover softgrip ones. Yes, a bad workman blames his tools, but there’s no harm in finding the most comfortable style to use! What do crocheters out there recommend?