Oh where does the time go??!! I cannot believe how long it is since my last blog post…since then we have had Christmas, put the house on the market, taken it off again, started building work, I have stitched a lot of commissions and been blown away by how well my work has sold at Made in Bradford on Avon, and been accepted as a member of the Society for Embroidered Work!
Pet portrait commissions are great fun to do, and have been winging their way around the world – flatteringly, most have gone to other artists.
…Bradford on Avon scenes sell well at the gallery, and some don’t make it beyond Instagram!
Mice, it seems, sell like hot cakes!
Wildlife…and the not so wild life…are still popular…(really helped with a recent thread recommendation)
I have a sneaky suspicion there are a number of plump, older ladies with poodles around – have made and sold several each of these designs.
I still love designing and making greetings cards, and they always do well…pocket-friendly mini art!
Other free motion appliqué too.
There have also been miscellaneous creations, including Christmas tree decorations, fabric ‘paper’ boats, cushions (and chair painting) and felt chefs!
I have also had the privilege of spending some time with an incredibly talented 11 year old, as we made a toy turtle, a baby chair cover and plenty of free motion embroidery!
The Winter is such a busy time with craft markets and Su and my ‘At home’ – not to mention a busy time in my day job and lots of Christmas baking…
I rather thought the New Year would be quieter all round, but actually all aspects have been decidedly busy – not least with commissions (and gifts) of appliqué and free motion embroidery portraits of pets…
Hampus the Swedish Vallhund
..and even horses!
Applique and embroidery landscapes and seed heads…
There are more commissions but I can’t share photos of them until I know they have been given to their final recipients.
Ooh it’s been a busy Winter. Busy, but profitable. What has slipped has been writing (and housework…sorry Mark!). So here goes…a brief summary of 6 weeks in the life of Sue Deere, textile artist.
I have worked on a teeny weeny Artist Trading Card for the Very Berry Handmade swap:
I have had lots and lots of orders – many for pieces using the customers’ own photos, so I can’t really share them here while others were freemotion pieces and now Christmas is over, I can let you see!
My photos as well as textile art:
I had a number of craft markets and hugely successful and enjoyable open studio with my friend and willow artist, Su Macpherson (involving plenty of mulled wine and mince pies too!) – for the Christmas Fair at Bath Library I even had a very lovely young French lady to help me run the stall.
Su and I treated ourselves to a half day fused glass course at Silversides in Larkhall:
Excitingly, Su and I have also decided to work together running craft workshops – a creative fun day out, suitable for the absolute beginner: Grownups Playgroup
We are now booking for:
21 March 10.00 – 16.00 willow plant supports (only two places left)
28 March 10.00 – 16.00 willow sculpting
11 April 10.00 – 16.00 introduction to free motion embroidery
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in attending.
I will also be running a workshop for the Bath WI, making pincushions in teacups:
As well as all this crafty loveliness we have had a lovely selection of frosty mornings and Winter sunshine…stunning sunrises and delicate moonfalls.
A few brisk Winter walks to put roses in our cheeks:
Lots of wildlife to admire, including a kingfisher in the Botanical Gardens in Bath!
In contrast, the cats have been making the most of the central heating. Max has been experimenting with different resting places including Christmas presents, a hamper, boxes and a rather nice pack of truffles! Rio stuck to Mark’s dressing gown and the ironing board…
There were decorations…
…and lots of baking…
…injuries – little ones like burning my arm on the oven and bigger ones involving an ambulance ride to A&E when our neighbour tripped and cut her head badly.
There were party hats, racing wind-up robins, cocktails, two Christmas dinners, accounts and my first tax return…
Just at the moment it is a bit of a struggle fitting everything in to the day. All things I enjoy, but I am being pulled in so many different directions….having to ration cups of tea with friends at the moment as I just don’t have time. If that means you, I am really sorry!
Anyway, I am trying to organise my days so I can fit in a wee bit of sewing first thing, followed by paperwork and by lunch time make sure I am stripping wallpaper in the front bedroom.
There are some achievements from my efforts, for example my very organised fabric stash (I won’t show you my haberdashery and art supplies drawers, as a lady should not post photos of her drawers!)
I have cleared out a load of craft books and magazines I am hoping the WI ladies will take away with them at the next Crafty Night In and made some shelf space. However, there is one spot I am going to have to leave empty for Max the cat!
In addition, yesterday I had one of those wonderful days when you get to realise a project you had only ever seen in your mind. I popped in to the Plush Addict website to get some more linen look cotton (great for book bags) and stumbled across some fabric with a newspaper print. It called to me…“Sue, Sue, buy me and turn me in to a paper boat made from fabric..!”. Yesterday I did just that.
I made a paper version first to get the right size rectangle to start with and used it as a pattern (plus seam allowance) to cut two pieces of the fabric and one of interfacing. Ironed the interfacing to one of the fabric pieces then sewed the two fabric pieces right sides together, turned it inside out, ironed it and top stitched around the outside. Then I just made up the paper boat, ironing at every stage and hand sewing a few stages to help it keep it’s shape. I know I should be modest, but I confess I am a wee bit chuffed at how it turned out!
In addition, last week I had a short telephone interview about crafting and well-being; the way having something to create and to focus on helps deal with anxiety and depression. It is all the more pertinent with the sad news of Robin Williams’ suicide. I am very fortunate and haven’t had much trouble at all with anxiety or depression over the last couple of years, but I am aware of how it lurks in the shadows looking for an opportunity to creep back. One of the reasons I wanted to do the interview is that I believe we should talk about how we feel. Anxiety and depression are not signs of failure, just of being human, and talking about it helps us know we are not alone and that there is always the choice to keep on living…the darkness will pass. It is so sad that the world has lost someone who brought so much to people’s lives through his work.
One of my favourite blogs is Knitsofacto, and Annie has been sharing 10 (rather wonderful) random things. In addition, with my Bath WI hat on (a virtual hat…although I rather like the idea of us all wearing hats!), I have been researching local artists and crafty people to run workshops for us. It has been, and continues to be, lovely and fascinating seeing what people make and how they market themselves and I love reading their blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. It gives me a warm squishy feeling that the world is full of such nice people. One of the creative types I have signed up for a Bath WI workshop is Sami of ‘Made by Sami‘ and I have been enjoying her blog posts about 10 things she loves…do have a look at her Little Red Button blog.
These two ladies have inspired me to think about 10 things I love (in a random sort of a way):
1. Mark. He is mischievous and troublesome but he has sparkly blue eyes, a kind heart and an indefatigable sense of humour – and he puts up with me even when I am, as he describes it, grumpilicious.
(oh and his work colleagues are going to love this photo!)
2. Cats. Our two cats in particular. They are brothers from the same litter, but Max is long-haired and of a generous stature, while his brother Rio is short-haired and of a more athletic build. They are affectionate and loving…and only dribble a little bit.
3. Sewing. Everything to do with it – fabric, haberdashery, designing, making…even unpicking, as long as it is not too often.
5. Stately homes and gardens
6. The City of Bath
7. The seaside.
8. Friends and family
10. Afternoon tea (and teapots)
I would love to know what your favourite things are!!
Yes, sunshine makes a difference in so many ways, but in particular I am thinking about product photos. I have quite a few pieces to add to my Etsy shop and have been waiting for enough light to make the photos pop. Finally, the sun has shone! (these will be going in my shop very soon)
The cats have been enjoying the sunshine too…
…and so have Mark and I, with a visit to Lacock Abbey!
This is less of a tutorial than a nudge to give free-motion machine sewing a go – whether it is embroidery, applique or quilting. If you are like me, you may have put off dropping your feed dogs and going for it, and I am here to tell you it is easier than you might think. All you need is a sewing machine that allows you to drop the feed dogs (usually a switch at the back of the machine’s table somewhere) and although not absolutely necessary, I do prefer to use a darning foot. I have heard of people taping thin card over the feed dogs if they cannot be dropped.
Most of the feet for my machine are changed by pushing the release at the back of the foot and reattach just by pushing them back on, but I think a lot of darning feet are like the one in the photo and you have to undo the screw at the side…I am embarrassed to admit that took my a little while to work out! You can free-motion sew without a foot at all, but please do watch your fingers as there is nothing to stop you stitching through more than just the fabric.
To stop the fabric getting out of shape as you sew you either need to hold it firm with an embroidery hoop or – as my lovely friend Karen pointed out to me – you can use a fabric stabiliser. I use stitch-and-tear, which I iron on to the back of the fabric. It gives you more to sew through and you can tear it away when you have finished. You can also get stabilisers that wash away.
I suggest setting up your sewing machine, ironing some stabiliser to a scrap of fabric and just having a play. I was really surprised how quickly I started to get the hang of it.
I find I end up sewing over my starting thread and the criss-cross stitches hold the thread in place, so it is not necessary to pull the thread tail through to the back and tie it or anything – just trim it close. If you are writing with the machine or sewing discrete areas with the same colour thread, just raise the needle and the foot and pull the fabric away from you to give yourself a loop of thread, so it doesn’t pull when you go on to the next bit of stitching. You can trim all the loops at the end – it saves time, rather than trimming each bit before you move on.
Free-motion applique is a really quick and easy way to applique. It leaves a raw edge to the fabric pieces, but I rather like that effect. You can either cut a shape and sew around the edges or use a piece of fabric, sew your outline and then trim away excess fabric. I usually use the first way, as I like to get an idea of how the finished piece will look, but the second way may be a little quicker. (One little hint: if your sewn line goes a bit wobbly, just sew over it again as somehow two slightly wobbly lines together look like they are meant to be like that). You could pin or tack applique pieces in place, but I find it far easier to use a fabric glue stick. They are designed to be suitable to sew through without getting your needle all gummed up.
I am now practiced at changing to and from the darning foot (and keep a small Phillips screwdriver in my sewing kit), but still find myself choosing to do all my free-motion projects at the same time rather than switching between feet too often. Today, I decided to do a little (very basic) free-motion quilting, making an ivory satin dolly bag.
I had thought I might do some gardening today rather than sewing, but the sunshine kept making way for Spring showers. However late afternoon, the lure of sunshine in the garden was too much for me.
Before I go (sorry but Philadelphia is on tv and I am a big fan of Denzel Washington!) I just have a special photo I would like to share – especially for Shellie and Christina! 😉
I am pretty chuffed to have been asked to put together some tutorials for making gifts for your pets. It is part of the ‘I heart my pet’ campaign being run by the nice folk at NOAH – no, not Russell Crowe’s new film (although I do want to see that!) – this is the National Office of Animal Health, which provides expert advice on caring for pets: http://www.pethealthinfo.org.uk/
I want my tutorials to be:
quick to make
and of course, safe!
So I thought a bit of upcycling would be a good idea and I am providing instructions to make:
a pet bed from an old jumper
a catnip fish from a baby sock
a dog coat from an old jumper
Before I start there are some basics about sewing for pets – apologies if I am teaching my grandmother to suck eggs (not that I recall my grandmother ever sucking eggs!). In many ways making crafts for pets is a lot like making toys for children – items need to be washable, they can be chewed so avoid fabric paints that might come off and cause health problems and trimmings that could be a choking hazard, avoid highly flammable materials. Equally, it is important to be sure to keep pins and needles away from little paws. I keep a set number of pins and needles in a pincushion so I can always tell if one is missing and may be stuck in the carpet, and I keep a magnet handy to help find any stray pins and to double check nothing has been left in a craft project.
Of course the really good thing about making things for your pets, is that they are never going to turn round and refuse to use something because ‘it makes my bum look big!’ or ‘nobody else has homemade stuff!’ or ‘I want designer labels!’.
1) how to make a pet bed from an old jumper
1 old jumper or sweatshirt
toy stuffing or the stuffing from an unwanted cushion
ideally a sewing machine (it can be hand sewn, but will take longer to make)
hand sewing needle
Step one – make sure your toy stuffing is packed in a cardboard box (other retailers are available), remove toy stuffing…oh well that’s it really!
What? You want more? Oh well ok…
1) Choose an old jumper or sweatshirt. Any shape or style will do but if, like me, you have used it for decorating, make sure you have scraped off any lumps of paint etc. It needs to be washable so, if it is pure wool, wash it and you can even tumble dry it before you start. It doesn’t matter in the least if it felts when it is washed, but you need to be sure it is not going to shrink to a size too small to be useful.
If your pet is like our cats, they really like to sleep on things that smell of you, so you could wear the jumper for a couple of hours before you cut it up and sew it, and your scent may encourage the pet to sleep in the bed, as it will not smell strange.
2) Although our two cats are quite big, they like sleeping in small spaces, so I only used the sleeves of the jumper to make the sides of my cat bed. If you want to make a bed for a small dog or larger cat, you can cut a piece of fabric, just bigger than the neck hole and either machine or hand sew it in place so you can use the whole of the top section of the jumper. It will make the back of the bed higher than the front, but I think that looks rather good.
3) Turn the jumper inside out and pin the front and back together to hold in place. Use a ruler or straight edge and draw a line from armpit to armpit (I used tailor’s chalk, but as it is on the inside of the jumper it doesn’t matter if you use a felt tip pen). Cut along the line.
4) Stitch along the raw edge – I used an overlocking stitch, but any stitch will do. If you are hand sewing, use a backstitch* to make it stronger.
My jumper is rather old and misshapen but that’s not a problem, just catch in any extra folds.
5) For a smaller bed, cut at the arm hole or either side of the neck hole and join the two pieces together (not necessary if you are using the whole top section). Turn the arms inside out and place one inside the other, right sides together and pin in place.
6) Sew the raw edges. Many sewing machines allow you to remove part of the sewing table, leaving a narrower section to make sewing around a sleeve like this easier.
7) Stuff the long tube made from the sleeves. It is important that you use a stuffing that is washable and has reduced flammability. You can buy toy stuffing that conforms to British safety standards online and in craft shops or you can take the stuffing out of an unwanted cushion; just make sure the cushion has a fire safety label (some older cushions do not and should not be used). I used a couple of unwanted cushions.
8) Use the stuffed arms as a guide for the size of the base. I used a round tray to draw around to cut the base of of the bed from the body of the jumper. I like to make the base circular as it is forgiving – no need to match the centre of the sides to a particular point on the base or to make sure each arm is exactly the same length, but you can make the base any shape you like.
9) Pin the back and front of the jumper to hold in place and cut along the line you have drawn. When you sew the two pieces together you will need to leave a gap to stuff the base of the bed. I have a bad habit of getting carried away and sewing the gap closed, so I use pins with a different colour head (or two pins together) either side of the gap so I know to…’mind the gap’.
10) Turn the base the right side out and stuff it – I often use a chopstick to push the stuffing right up to the seam.
11) Fold over the raw edges, pin in place and hand sew (slip stitch**) closed.
12) Hand sew a running stitch around the open ends of the sleeve tube with a doubled piece of thread, pull tight and over-sew to hold in place.
13) Hand sew (slip stitch) the sleeve tube to the base, gently pulling the tube over the seam in the base as you sew it in – just to be tidy.
I left a small gap at the front of the bed, but you can join up the two sleeve ends if you prefer. I have made the bed quite puffy, as it will flatten once it has a cat in it.
I really like making pet beds from old jumpers – with the sleeves as the side of the bed, it is just like making a hug for a cat.
* with backstitch you overlap your stitches so there are no gaps between them
** slipstitch is an almost invisible way of joining two pieces of fabric
2) how to make a catnip fish from a baby sock
Now we don’t have children, so I don’t have baby socks lying around the place, but I suspect lots of people do (and the socks I use were only a few pence in a charity shop). So save those teeny weeny odd socks from the recycling bin and reincarnate them…in to fish!
1 baby sock
1 bag catnip (available from most pet shops or online)
scraps of felt
needle and thread
1) Turn the sock inside out and push the toe towards the ankle so the heel is sticking out – the aim is to turn the boomerang shaped sock in to a tube, so you need to take out the heel. The sock I used has a coloured heel which makes it particularly easy to see what you are doing.
2) Sew a straight line across the heel, so when you turn the sock the right way out it is now a tube.
3) Using a double thread, over sew by hand to fasten the end of the thread to the sock and then do a running stitch 6cm to 8cm from the ankle opening. Leave the thread and needle hanging from the sock; do not pull tight yet. It is just easier to do the running stitch before filling the sock with catnip.
4) Pour catnip in to the sock as required. I use my jam funnel to make it easier, but a spoon works perfectly well.
5) Pull the running stitch thread tight and fix by sewing back and forth through the gathers. Once the gathers will not come undone, do another row of running stitch lengthwise along the middle of the sock to the ankle opening. Pull tight and over sew to fasten the thread.
6) Cut two circles of coloured felt and two smaller circles of black felt. Sew the black felt to the coloured felt and sew very securely to the sock. Catnip toys get chewed and bitten and scratched, so be sure the eyes will not come off; you don’t want your cat to swallow them!
The only thing left to do is to let your cat(s) play! Our cats go totally mad for catnip and act a bit crazy, so we only let them play with catnip toys when we are there to keep an eye on them.
3) how to make a dog coat from an old jumper
As we head in to the warmer weather you may be packing away your Winter clothes and weeding out a few old things – perfect for making a dog coat so you are prepared for when the Winter weather comes back (usually around July!).
We do not have a dog, but I walk our friend’s dog, George, when she cannot. So before I start, I should like to thank George and his mum Julie and her daughter Jade for letting me be a nuisance and pop in to measure and fit and photograph George.
1 old, thick sweater*
small piece of sew on velcro
* I used one of Mark’s old gardening jumpers because it was really warm and thick, but you could use anything that is big enough. If you use a lighter weight fabric, add a piece of quilt wadding for extra warmth.
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, so it is difficult to provide a definitive pattern – it all depends on your dog. There may be some trial and error.
1) Start by measuring your dog; you will need:
length of back, from neck to the top of the tail
total circumference around tummy where the strap will be
the required width of the coat
the length from the neck to where the tummy strap will go
2) As this is not a precise science, I recommend making yourself a paper pattern, so you can put it on your dog to check it is the right size and shape before cutting the fabric. You can use dressmaker’s pattern paper, but I just tape pieces of greaseproof paper together to make a large enough piece (mind you, George really did not like the sound of the rustling paper!). The pattern should look like a saddle and should be symmetrical, so it is best to fold the paper in half and cut out the two sides together so they end up exactly the same shape and size.
Hold the paper pattern over your dog and adjust your pattern if necessary.
3) Pin the pattern to your jumper (right way out) and cut around it. If your fabric is lighter weight use the pattern to also cut a piece of quilt wadding (or fleece or old sweatshirt) to sandwich between the two outer layers of fabric.
4) Pin the bias binding (either shop bought or home-made) around the edge of the layers of coat pieces, right sides together.
4) Carefully sew the bias binding in place (you can hand sew using back stitch of you do not have a sewing machine), sewing along the ditch of the fold in the binding and removing the pins as you go.
5) Trim any excess fabric so the edge of the coat pieces and the edge of the binding match. Fold the binding over the edge of the coat pieces to the other side so the raw edge of the binding is folded under and stitch in place. I use hand sewing for this, but you could machine sew close to the edge of the binding if you prefer.
When complete, you should have a contrasting bound edge to the coat, which is probably narrower on one side than the other – pick whichever side you prefer to be the outside of the coat.
6) You will need a short strap to join the two sides of the coat at the front and to hold the coat in place over the tummy. For each strap cut two rectangles of fleece, each about 5cm wide and as long as you need for your dog (see 1. above) – I use fleece as it doesn’t fray, so you do not need to neaten the edges.
Either leave the ends square or pin the two pieces together and round off the corners.
7) For each of the two straps sew around the edge, joining the pieces together – trim if necessary. Starting with the front strap pin in place on the coat and sew, trying to follow the stitching where you joined the two strap pieces together. For George the front strap needed only to be long enough to connect the two sides of the coat, but a larger dog may need a longer front strap.
8) Repeat for the tummy strap, but only sew one end of the strap to the coat – sew velcro to the other end of the strap, the soft side on the strap and the harder, scratchy side to where you want it to join the coat.
Doesn’t George look handsome!!
I hope you find these DIY pet craft projects fun – and I would love to see what you make! Don’t forget to check out what else is going on in the ‘I heart my pet’ campaign on the website, Facebook and Twitter!
Last year in my sewing exploration I stumbled upon artist trading cards (ATCs) through a swap organised by Ali at Very Berry Handmade (brilliant for all things fabric and sewing – lots of excellent tutorials). I have posted photos of my secret garden card, and here is Alix’s gorgeous Pride and Prejudice card I was lucky enough to receive.
I am such a fan of Jane Austen and the card is so beautifully made, I was over the moon when it arrived. Alix writes a blog at Used-to-Bees, which is full of lovely things and well worth a look (I subscribe to her posts as I don’t want to miss anything!).
diamond anniversary cake
Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time will have realised by now that, as well as sewing, I like to bake. Friends and family often ask me to make celebration cakes and this week I was asked to make a Diamond Wedding Anniversary cake…with two cats on it. It could have been a problem as I knew it was 60 years, but had it in mind that 60 was a ruby anniversary…eek. However, I checked first and switched from a sparkly red 60 to a sparkly white 60.
Hilary the Hippo wanted to help…
the Bath WI crafty night out
I quite recently took over organising craft workshops for the Bath WI – what we like to call our ‘crafty nights out’. Yesterday lovely Eirlys at Scrapiana came over (with lemon drizzle cake) to show us how to make scalloped bunting. There is something so sociable and relaxing about sewing with friends. We talked non stop, ate lemon cake and flapjacks and even did some sewing. It was just a really good evening…can’t wait for the next one!
I chatted far too much and didn’t actually sew my bunting until today…ta da!
Molly the mannequin? Delia the dummy?
You may have spotted a tailor’s dummy in the bunting photos – it is another early birthday present (this time from Mark’s mum and dad). I see her as a Delia…must be the apron!
The cats have been as cute as ever…Max took a particular liking to a new shoe box, but it really wasn’t big enough!
I feel I have not achieved much this week. I just got to the point I needed to do some sorting out in order to work more efficiently and to remind myself of the materials I have to hand. My workroom is also our dining room so I have to be able to operate a clear desk policy when dinner is ready. As I look at my orderly shelves and drawers, I know it has been a good deal of work and it is worthwhile, but it is not…yet…something I can put in my Etsy shop (and tomorrow I am spending the day with mentor Karen and little James, so no sewing tomorrow). I guess I will just have to do some work at the weekend to make up for it – I haven’t seen Karen in ages and refuse to feel guilty about it (at least not tomorrow anyway).
So would you like to see my workroom? I can’t hear you? I am going to assume that people around the world are jumping up and down with anticipation, and show you anyway…like it or not. It will remind me to keep it orderly and tidy.
I started with my sewing box – it is actually an antique Indian writing box from Artique, our favourite Tetbury shop. It is far larger than most sewing boxes, but is still far too small for the reels of cotton I have (kindly augmented with a donation by our next door neighbour…gorgeous wooden spools rather than the modern plastic ones, but mainly for hand sewing). I am still a newby yarnstress, so my yarn collection fits nicely in the ‘basement’ of my sewing box.
I bought a wooden cotton reel rack last year, only to find it was the type you fix to the wall so, always fond of a fudge, I leaned it against the mirror over the large chest of drawers for many months. It was still not large enough for my thread collection, so this week I did actually fix it to the wall and treated myself to an additional free-standing thread rack, that can stand by my sewing machine but can also be moved to sit on my sewing box when the table needs to be laid for dinner. (Note also my thread cone stand as the glow in the dark thread was not small enough to use directly on my sewing machine – and the cute little box of bobbins).
…and there is still not space for my box of rainbow threads that have to live in their box.
Am I the only one who loves pencils? Seeing them in this Baker and Maker mug makes me want to just sit and sharpen them…!
I keep most of my buttons in an old carousel herb rack, sorted by colour of course. Needless to say I have more than will fit in one spice rack, and next week will get a wee Ikea filing drawer thing on casters…in red…too, for easy access to beads, button overflow and trim. I also have a weakness for teapots (one day I will show you the shelves of them in the living room…something to look forward to, eh?) and this one came from Scrapiana, sewing and mending guru and vintage teapot temptress,
Every sewing room needs an ironing board – sometimes Max likes to sleep on it too.
Whenever Mark and I go to Dorset, we have to ‘do’ the antique shops in Bridport…this 1907ish sewing machine is the result of one such mooch around.
I have sorted my fabric by both use and size. Contrary to popular belief, size does matter!
I know it’s rather sad and possibly not common in creative types, but I find calm and contentment in order. I do enjoy a bit of a Spring clean.
Let me end with a photo of a gift that keeps on giving – the box my Valentine’s roses came in is much appreciated by Rio the cat (and has lasted far longer than the roses…my beloved will not be buying from Moonpig again!…although the chocolate heart and champagne were lovely).