Ahoy me hearties!

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!)

paper boat and bugs - 09
workroom/dining room all tidied up

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!

cat on a shelf
cat on a shelf

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!

paper boat and bugs - 11
‘paper’ boat
paper boat and bugs - 10
ship ahoy!

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.

As the interview was by telephone I had to provide a photo...a selfie of me and my sewing machine.
As the interview was by telephone I had to provide a photo…a selfie of me and my sewing machine.

beach huts, gardens and a wee bit of free-motion quilting

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.

11 may 2014 - 03
using a darning foot

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.

11 may 2014 - 01
loose ends before trimming

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.

11 may 2014 - 51
finished beach-hut cards
garden card
garden card

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.

11 may 2014 - 20
little bag of love
11 may 2014 - 18
cone flower and bee quilting
11 may 2014 - 06
love
11 may 2014 - 04
happiness and marriage

 

 

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.

11 may 2014 - 09
first clematis flower of the year
11 may 2014 - 29
I have a love hate relationship with dandelions
11 may 2014 - 24
the wisteria is the best I have ever seen it
11 may 2014 - 22
the garden
11 may 2014 - 17
the azalea my mum gave us as a low-calorie alternative to a chocolate Easter egg
11 may 2014 - 27
bleeding heart and little white alliums
11 may 2014 - 46
aquilegia in the shade of the cherry tree
11 may 2014 - 40
poppies adding a splash of colour
11 may 2014 - 21
poppies like drops of sunshine

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! ūüėČ

man and cat in perfect harmony
man and cat in perfect harmony

 

 

 

 

 

 

bags of bags

The zipper pouch bags seem to be a bit of a hit and are selling fast, so I thought I had better make a few more…now in my shop http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DeereyMe

I love bees – do my best to plant my garden to attract them and am forever taking photos of them – so when I saw this bee fabric in Country Threads in Bath I just couldn’t resist. The bag seemed to be calling out for a daisy and I remembered a tutorial I pinned on Pinterest and made my first Kanzashi flower; certainly not my last as they are so much fun to make!

bee garden pouch with kanzashi daisy
bee garden zipper pouch bag

 

Years back I treated myself to a bundle of seaside fabrics and you know how it is, some fabrics are so pretty it seems a shame to cut in to them, but finally I decided that this one needed to fulfill its destiny. I love it…and have enough to make another one.

large seaside zipper pouch bag
large seaside zipper pouch bag

I made a pincushion as a gift with some of this cute Westie fabric but had some left and thought it would make a nice little bag for a dog lover, and was the perfect opportunity to use one of the dog buttons I stumbled across.

Westie dog zipper pouch with shaggy dog zip pull
button detail

Now the new bags have been added to the shop I had better get on with some more sewing – a contemporary apron and then I need to get out the fabric paints to create a couple of Beauty and the Beast panels…eh Karin? Mark has a day off so I might finish early today and get him to help me pick crab apples – the jams and jelly season is with us, and spiced crab apple jelly is my favourite!

the bag lady

I spent last week working on zipper pouch designs – I now have patterns for pretty much every size of zip, and am getting faster, and what’s more I am starting to get orders…yay! So without further ado, let the bag parade begin!

First off let me introduce this burnt orange dupion silk number sporting a silk pansy embellishment and faceted, light-catching zip pull. I love this Autumnal colour – and it took some stiff upper lip to cut in to the fabric.

dupion silk zipper pouch with pansy detail
dupion silk zipper pouch with pansy detail

 

Next, modelling the season’s butterfly theme, we have a pretty little blue and cream number. I have a love of all things bugly and couldn’t resist this fabric – all the more so for the glittery gold highlights!

When Irene was visiting she bought me the most lovely teapot earrings (teapots are a big thing in my life), and I set out to source the lovely little teapot charms to use in some of my work and, serendipitously, I still had left some of the teapot/teacup fabric I once used to make a lavender heart for Irene, so the fabric and charm came together to make an afternoon tea bag!

It was my sister’s birthday yesterday and I wanted to make her something special, so used some lovely coastal village print cotton in grey and white and made a larger zipper pouch bag, with wadding rather than interfacing, to give it a cuddly quality. Rather stupidly I forgot to take a photo of the soft shopper tote I made from a mixture of this fabric and a grey/blue tartan (lined with part of my sister’s old duvet cover actually – I like to recycle fabric where I can), which I folded up and put inside the zipper bag.

IMGP7763 IMGP7764

I spotted this frame for a small coin purse at Sew n Sew at the Bath Guildhall Market and decided to give it a go. I was a little disappointed that the ‘pattern’ that came with the frame was a line 8.5cm long with instructions to add whatever you want below it…gee thanks!…but it didn’t turn out too badly. A little froufrou for my taste, but enough fun for me to seek out sleeker, square frames on eBay to try some more.

framed coin purse in crushed velvet
framed coin purse in crushed velvet

 

Friends and family are great at donating odds and ends of fabric they find hidden in their lofts and cupboards, and this lovely oriental style fabric, despite fraying like mad, worked beautifully for bag making. I am going to make some envelope clutch bags with it too.

I bought some sale fabrics from the Village Haberdashery and this Laura Gunn garden wall fabric is even more lovely in the flesh than it looked on the website – no wonder they only had one skinny quarter left! A very dear and clever friend (Karin that’s you!) asked whether I could add wrist straps to my zipper pouches…fab idea! I will be doing this on more bags…

Now my corners are sharp and my bottoms are flat and my zips are a joy to insert, I want to unleash my imagination. When I went on a small business finance course at City of Bath College (highly recommend it if you are local), we were asked what our USP (unique selling point) is. The group laughed when I said it was that I am untrained, but I explained that it means I am also untethered. If you know exactly how something should be done, I think it is quite difficult to give your imagination free rein. Of course it means a bright idea can take quite a bit of working out and practice, but hopefully the result will be uniquely quirky. So now I have the basics sorted, I want to try some more adventurous bags…I have an image in my head of a cloud bag with raindrop fringing, and a double-decker London bus bag, and a dragon, and fish, and….oh the possibilities are endless!

Of course woman cannot live on bags alone, and there have been other creations in the week. Ellen Mouse, fully CE marked, is now in my shop – modelling a white brushed cotton top and reversible pinafore.

A scalloped edge blue felt rose brooch with gold-speckled blue bead centre…for blue days. I love my scalloped edge pinking shears!

felt rose brooch
felt rose brooch

And finally, inspired by talented Rebecca Bourne, I decided to make my sister’s birthday card, to match the coastal village fabric I used for her bag. For a first attempt at sewing pictures in a non-applique sort of way, I was quite chuffed. Mind you, they aren’t kidding when they suggest using an embroidery hoop when free motion sewing – I do like the non-square cartoon-like quality of the beach huts, but not the little gathers in the fabric. Next time I will use the hoop, after all it’s not like I don’t have half a dozen of them sitting on my shelves already!

beach hut free-motion sewn card
beach hut free-motion sewn card

 

Of course all work and no play makes Sue a dull girl, so Mark and I had an outing yesterday to Westonbirt Arboretum’s tree fest. We resisted the swing seats and hand-carved mirrors and tables with tree root legs and the little wooden house, but – again with Irene in mind – Mark bought me a tea cup birdfeeder (and a trug so I can be a proper gardener).

teacup bird feeder
teacup bird feeder

If you would like to see more photos of the Treefest, have a look at Deere Diary:

 

wooden t-rex skull at Treefest
wooden t-rex skull at Treefest

some like it hot…

Some like it hot…and some don’t. I am one of the latter. Don’t get me wrong, I like sunshine as much as the next (wo)man; I just don’t like it hot. Give me a cold, icy day with blue skies and sunshine and long Winter shadows and I am as happy as a pig in¬† muck. Once the temperature gets much above 20C, I start to wilt and with temperatures at the moment closer to 30C, I turn in to the wicked witch of the west country – bad attitude and cries of “I’m melting, I’m melting!”

Everything is taking me longer than usual, but I have been surprised to find that keeping making things takes my mind off the far too hot weather and reduces my whingeing. So I have been quite busy…

1) a herd of seahorses. Actually, ‘herd’ is far too dull a word for seahorses. I understand they move through water through the undulation of their dorsal fin, so I reckon the collective noun should be an undulation of seahorses. What do you think?

an undulation of seahorses
an undulation of seahorses

I think I will add ribbon loops to the seahorses so they can be hung in wardrobes or from doorhandles. Good idea?

2) I have also returned to the granny’s flower garden patchwork we did with Scrapiana at the Bath WI craft workshop. I sew the little hexagons made from Liberty of London lawn by hand which means I can sit in the living room with Mark and nod and smile as he tells me what England has to do to beat Australia at cricket (I understand cricket about as well as I understand Mandarin). At the workshop we sewed together seven hexagons (I used some of Scrapiana’s Kaffe Fassett fabric) which back home I turned in to a pincushion. I use it all the time, and thought it might be something other people might like too. This one I backed with my favourite sage green cotton with white polka dots (it came from a Bath pop-up shop, and I will be very sad once it has all been used up).

Liberty lawn granny's flower garden pincushion
Liberty lawn granny’s flower garden pincushion

3) while I had the Liberty fabric to hand, I decided to make a little pencil case too…

Liberty lawn pencil case
Liberty lawn pencil case

 

4) …and to add another piece of granny’s flower garden patchwork to a larger bag (for make-up or, in my case, sewing machine bobbins). I love this purple fabric, printed with script and highlights of twinkling gold. Don’t try telling me that ‘all that glisters is not gold’, I am a total magpie for anything sparkly.

granny's flower garden make-up purse
granny’s flower garden make-up purse

 

Determined to open my shop this week

Now then, I am determined to sew my heart out Monday and Tuesday and then spend Wednesday and Thursday (and maybe Friday) working out prices and postage and taking product photos so I can open an Etsy.com shop at the end of the week! I think it only right to celebrate with a giveaway; just need to decide what…

 

little things please little minds

I remember when I was a small child being told that little things please little minds. If this is true, I suspect I must have a very tiny mind indeed. Not only am I fascinated by the little bugs and bees in the garden and the birds that hop around outside the window as I work, but today i have spent a very happy hour or so making mini candles in sea shells!

lavender sea horse and sea shell candles
lavender sea horse and sea shell candles

Today has been one of those days when I have bounced around with more of a spring in my step than Tigger himself. Strange really, as I started the day at the dentist. For two years I have been going back to Chepstow for dental checkups, and I decided it was a better use of my time to go to Mark’s dentist in Bath (Charlotte St Dental Practice, if anyone is looking for a good dentist in Bath). Today was my first visit and not only were the dentist and his nurse really nice, but also my teeth apparently are in very good condition…and they even offered to put my Deerey Me card/flyers in their reception!

From the dentist I popped in to East and got a load of goodies in the sale – real bargains! (two linen skirts, a silk top, a linen cardigan/shrug type thing and a linen dress…go me!). I was very proud of myself as I looked in the mirror and thought…’oh that looks nice’. Not,’nice dress, maybe if I can lose a pound or two it might look ok’ and not ‘you stupid woman, go find a navy potato sack of a dress immediately’…it’s an improvement.

From East I popped in to the Green Street House to book a facial and eyebrow threading as a pre-golden wedding anniversary treat for Mark’s mum (and booked myself eyelash tinting at the same time). A combination of nice ladies on reception, a bit of pampering to look forward to and sunshine before the day got too hot all worked together to put me in a very good mood. So when I got home, I took out my new green milk pan and a bag of old candles.

I have been trawling charity shops for weeks for a milk pan to use to melt candle wax and in the end gave up and bought a new one…and it’s green!

new green pan
new green pan

I looked in to buying wax from craft shops, but it’s really expensive and Mark has quite a stash of unused candles, so I thought that if the pan cannot be upcycled, at least the candle wax can be!

I heated some water in another pan, put the wax in the green pan and popped the green pan in the water; watching it attentively while it melted.

makeshift double-boiler
makeshift double-boiler

It took a bit of practice pouring the wax in to the shells, but I have to say I am rather pleased with the result.

mini candle in a seashell
mini candle in a seashell
shell candles
shell candles
she sells sea shells on the sea shore
she sells sea shells on the sea shore

The little candles will not burn for long, but I think they make a nice little extra to pop in with the lavender sea horses.

 

 

 

 

 

oh I do like to be beside the sea

I decided to make use of my lovely jar of lavender flowers and some beautiful Liberty lawn (from http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/RoseFabric) to make a seahorse lavender bag.

liberty lawn lavender seahorse
liberty lawn lavender seahorse

I will package the seahorse with some shells…and have every intention of making some mini candles in seashells.

seahorse wrapped with shells
seahorse wrapped with shells

 

finishing touches

I decided my bags and purses needed a little extra je ne sais quoi and ordered these fab little labels from Able Labels. I am very happy with themand will be stitching them in to everything from now on.

 

seaside shopper

I received them very quickly, but had already made this little seaside shopping bag…what is it about bunting that is so irresistable? I want to put miniature bunting on everything now!

seaside shopper
seaside shopper

 

greetings cards

Although I plan to mainly fill my Etsy shop (which I hope to open the week after next!) with sewn goodies, I also decided to get a few of my photos printed up as cards…here’s a few and I will put some more in the photos gallery.

seaside/countryside
seaside/countryside
birds
birds
bees
bees
butterflies
butterflies

 

strawberry gin

The strawberry gin is ready! I don’t quite understand how 70cl of gin, when left to stand with sugar and strawberries can now fill two 35cl bottles and still have enough left over to fill another small jar plus a good measure for the cook. I guess the strawberries must just have been very juicy.

I did find myself pinching the leftover gin-soaked strawberries as I cooked (mushroom and stilton pie) until I realised I was fast becoming a gin-soaked strawberry blonde!

gin-soaked strawberry blonde
gin-soaked strawberry blonde
strawberry gin
strawberry gin

 

and finally…

Last Saturday was the Flavours of the South West food festival in Bath and my cake won the WI Queen of Cakes title! It was a bit of a rush tracing the logo and filling it out with melted chocolate, and I managed to squish the icing while transporting it – I even forgot to take a photo (this was one the ladies (wo)manning the table took). I didn’t know there was a competition, but it’s very nice to win!

Bath WI cake
Bath WI cake