Sunday, 29 November 2009

Blue Bird of Happiness

Here's yesterday's sewing. I finished off this cushion cover from instructions in Sew Hip issue 10.

I decided to use metallic thread to give a more glitzy effect. And wished I hadn't, as I re-threaded the needle about a hundred times. (OK, I exaggerate just a little...) Funny, though, that the bobbin thread was just fine - all the trouble was in the top thread.

This is my second completed christmas present. Hopefully the recipient will like it. She lives in a crafty family, so is likely to appreciate a hand-made item.

Friday, 27 November 2009

On the needles

I'm pleased to report that my ruffle bag had the desired effect of prompting some knitting, even though I did not go to the knitting group, as to be honest the timing is not so good for me. At tea-time, I feel I am supposed to be at home feeding the kids, not sitting knitting in cafes, no matter how good the cake is!

Another spur to re-starting the knitting was being given a copy of this book:

I didn't buy it (as I'm sworn off new books for environmental reasons) - it was an early christmas present. I've looked through it, and now I long to knit the Battenberg Slice pattern.

However, I hate having more than three knitted UnFinished Objects on the needles at any one time (otherwise I just feel overwhelmed by the stress of UFOs...), so I have to finish something first.

The Apple Strudel seemed the easiest project to complete. Also, now it's turned cold, an aran-weight cardigan seems suddenly desirable. The body is done, so there are just the sleeves to finish, and then the button bands to pick up and knit. I've actually nearly finished the first sleeve this week, so I'm hopeful of finishing this quite soon*.

I also sped to John Lewis in my lunch hour and bought six reels of thread, including some in metallic silver. So I'm ready to do more work on my next sewing project - another planned christmas present. So far I've managed the princely sum of 1.5 completed hand-made gifts. Which is not untypical, but is still annoying.

*Footnote: My "quite soon", in a knitting context, equates roughly to other people's "in a few weeks".

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Homely Quilt

I finished off the little house mini-quilt from Sew Hip issue 8 yesterday.

Below you can see the lovely little house fabric better. I got this from Summersville on etsy. (As an aside, I see she also does a pack with this fabric print in turquoise, purple, black and snow - that would be a lovely alternative version.)

To be truthful, it's a little more mini- than I anticipated. If I make another, I will re-work all the measurements, as it seemed that the instructions had not factored in any seam allowances - I had to do a lot of trimming whilst piecing the quilt top. As well, the binding instructions were somewhat lacking, speaking as someone who had never bound a quilt round any corners before. Luckily I had Carolyn Forster's excellent instructions for mitred corners in issue 10 to refer to - that helped me fill in the gaps.

This is actually going to be a christmas present. Also, the cheerful red gingham I used for backing the quilt has given me an idea about festive napkins, if I can find some slightly heavier weight fabric.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Sweet treats

I came across this seasonal craft idea for making a candy wreath whilst browsing the web recently, and thought it was a lovely way to present candy at christmas.

My son was spellbound as he watched me make it. It really is very simple - all you need is an embroidery hoop (I bought one from a charity shop for 50p), some curling ribbon, a pair of scissors and a lot of wrapped sweets - they must be wrapped, because the technique involves wrapping curling ribbon round each wrapper end to secure the sweets to the hoop. The scissors are there to cut the sweets off when you feel like a treat!

Full instructions are here:

For this wreath, I used 750g of sweets - one pack each of fruit sherberts, toffees and chocolate eclairs - plus a few mini-candy canes and chocolate lollipops.

It was fun to make, but it seems a bit mean to have it in our house, because dd is not supposed to eat chewy caramels, toffee or hard candy owing to her orthodontic braces. So I plan to donate it to ds's school christmas fair. They have a sweet tombola and a raffle, so I daresay they will find a use for it. Ds is also in favour of that - he plans to buy a ticket to try and win it!

I have kept a few sweets and a couple of the chocolate lollies back, so my kids won't miss out altogether, in the event that ds fails to buy the winning ticket.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Send a Smile Appeal

Ds and I did a little crafting together today. We made two gowns for this year's Blue Peter Send a Smile appeal.

It didn't take us long. We basically cut clean, outgrown T-shirts down the back, made some holes and threaded them with ribbon for ties:

Then ds decorated the fronts with smiling faces, using felt and fabric glue. Finally, I sewed black buttons on the eyes to be the pupils.

The completed gowns are to be sent to hospitals in India for use during cleft palate operations. Each gown provided through the appeal will save the Operation Smile organisation about £3, which is then freed up for other expenses, enabling more cleft palate repair operations to be carried out. There is a collection point in ds's school, so we'll drop these off on Monday morning.

I especially like this appeal because I appreciate being asked for practical help in the form of items for use, rather than being asked for money. For anyone else interested in making a few gowns, which are needed in all sizes and which do not have to be decorated if you are short of time, there are drop-off points in all UK branches of PC World, Curry's and Curry's Digital.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

TLBG: Planning for a green christmas

The current topic for That Little Big Greener is how environmental concerns shape christmas present-giving.

I try hard to achieve the reduce principle (as discussed previously), but this is not so easy at christmas, with two children in the house. Santa fills the kids' stockings with little bits, and whilst recognising that a lot of the little bits are, in fact, unnecessary tat, I'm too soft-hearted to bring an end to this family tradition. I have asked Santa to scale down the contents slightly, though.

We have stopped present exchange with various friends' children, because all our kids were drowning in an excess of presents. Also, for several years, dh and I have bought items needed for the house, as a joint present to and from each other - just like Laura and Almanzo in their first married christmas - they chose a set of glassware from the Montgomery Ward catalogue (See The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder).

For the presents I do give, I sometimes give home-made food gifts. However, I very rarely give sewn or knitted items, only if I am sure the recipient will appreciate the item. (I'll gloss over my poor record at crafting to deadlines, which means I might not reliably finish projects in time for the holidays!) Anyone who wants to give home-made presents might like to take a look at, where there are some lovely craft ideas, categorised by recipient.

We also make our own wrapping paper. Last year ds and I potato-printed snowmen, christmas trees and robins onto (recycled) brown paper to make our gift-wrap. We also made strings of paper beads to hang on our christmas tree.

I wonder what we'll make in this year's christmas crafts session. No doubt I'll post about it here in due course.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Home Sweet Home

I had hoped to have another finished object to show you today, but unfortunately my sewing time was limited. I did complete the cutting out stage though. The lovely little house printed fabric came from Summersville on etsy.

I then had to cede the sewing machine to dd, who is on a deadline for her first piece of GCSE Art Textiles coursework. Here she is in action, making a first attempt at applique:

For dd's exam board, assessment is all through coursework. There are three pieces to be completed altogether, one of which is to be done at school under timed conditions. This will most likely mean we'll be competing for sewing machine time for the next 20 months. Hopefully we'll find a way to co-exist for the duration!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Shrek's recipes

Ds and I had a cookout session with the Shrek cookbook recently.

I previously mentioned my plan to make the three little pigs' apfelstrudel, and this turned out to be very easy. We just melted butter with a little sugar, softened the apples, then stirred in a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup. The cooked apple mixture went on sheets of filo pastry, which I'd bought ready made. I like to simplify as much as possible when ds is in the kitchen! Then we wrapped it up, smeared melted butter on top, and baked it in the oven for 15 mins.

Ds likes a healthy scoop of whipped cream on his desserts. (Maybe that should be, unhealthy!?)

We also made "frogspawn" jelly - basically lemon jelly with added passionfruit.

Ds's major role was in scooping out the seeds from the passionfruits.

The whipped cream was good with this too!

I feel I should add here that I only make desserts (and cakes) at weekends and in school holidays. The rest of the time, the kids eat fruit or yogurt.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Ruffle Bag

I made this bag over the weekend, using the Ra Ra Ruffle Bag pattern in Sew Hip issue 8. It's been on my to-sew list for a while, but as any regular reader of this blog will know, my productivity fell drastically over the summer.

This pattern is a good stash-buster, as it needs small amounts of different fabrics. Although I did buy a few extra half-metres of Tanya Whelan fabrics, from the Darla range, as I simply couldn't resist them.

Here's my cut-out fabrics ready to sew:

I found no errors in the pattern instructions, although I did do a couple of things differently.

Rather than hemming the top ruffle all the way round and sewing it on top of the front piece as instructed, I preferred to use a joining method. I cut the top ruffle 1/2 in wider than the others, and cut the front bag piece 1 in longer than stated. I hemmed the bottom and sides of all four ruffles, lined them up on the bag to my satisfaction and attached the bottom three on to the top of the front piece as per the instructions.

I then cut the front bag piece in two, 1/2 in above where I wanted the top ruffle to start when complete. I sandwiched the ruffle between the two front bag pieces and sewed a seam with a 1/2 in seam allowance. Here's how the pieces of fabric were laid out at the pinning stage - bottom of bag front, right side up, ruffle on top, also right side up, top of bag front, right side down:

I think the result looks neater than the magazine sample. A closer photo is below. If you want to try this, do check the ruffle is oriented correctly when it is still pinned. (On another occasion, I did not check, and inadvertantly attached a ruffle upside down!)

Another change I made was in the step order. I'm still a relative beginner when it comes to machine buttonholes. So I sewed the buttonhole into the tab piece before I assembled the bag - rather than after assembly as instructed. I figured if my buttonhole was inadequate, I could simply make another tab piece, and there would be no seam ripping involved.

I love my new bag, and intend to use it to tote my knitting to a group. Perhaps if I have my knitting in a prettier bag, I might actually do some!