Soggy Sundays

Anyone else secretly pleased when it rains at the weekend? Before children it was in the hope my husband’s cricket match might be called off and we could spend quality time together. These days it means if the house is in a passable state, I’m not obliged to go out and do useful stuff, like weeding.

The girls were sleeping over at Grandma’s so the house was blissfully quiet on Sunday. I put on a film (The Help) and rummaged in my box of ‘Ready to Go’ projects. Every time I have a stash sort, I put bags together complete with instructions and all the materials I need to complete something.  This is especially useful if I’m going away as I can just grab a ‘kit’. Or, if I want to start making something straight away, it prevents the wane of enthusiasm when I can’t find the particular thing I’m looking for.

In this particular bag I’d put two balls of Hooked Zpaghetti yarn, a 12mm crochet hook, a bag handle and three patterns for inspiration.  After a bit of pondering, I decided to combine elements from the bag and basket patterns as I went along to create a basket of my own. Double crochet stitches (US single) make my basket pretty dense and strong, though being fairly new to crochet and this unfamiliar yarn, I did find the first few rounds tricky. The dark shade made the stitches more difficult to see and count and I found it hard to pull the hook through more than one loop at a time.

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I increased at regular intervals, spiralling the base until it was the diameter I wanted.  (A stitch marker was really helpful to mark the beginning of the round.) Then to create the angle, I crocheted into the back loop for one round. From then on it was plain sailing and doubles all the way until it looked like the yarn was running out.  Finally a round of simple slip stitches gave a neat edge and I attached the handles by picking up the yarn through the ring before making the stitch.

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I was pretty chuffed with the finished basket which grew satisfyingly quickly and was easily finished in a day.  It was good to take a break from my ongoing knitting project and the basket is ideal for storing my beautiful Scheepjeswol Sunkissed yarn. IMG_0031

If you’d like to make a basket with Zpaghetti or a similar T-shirt yarn and work from an exact pattern, the base of mine is very similar to the ‘large basket’ pattern found in Crochet published by DK. The hanging basket pattern is by Ilaria Chiaretti and found in Issue 45 of Mollie Makes magazine and there are plenty of free patterns and kits for Zpaghetti yarn on the DMC Creative website.

It’s A Small World

Every so often the Chair at our branch of Embroiderer’s Guild presents us with a challenge. For the latest one we were each given a petri dish and a theme, ‘It’s a Small World’. The only rules were to incorporate it in something textile related. Our creations would be judged by the visiting artist at the June meeting.

Now that I’ve been a member for a couple of years, I thought I might give this one a bash. For inspiration, I browsed through my recent photos.  I’m no photographer but I’ve always carried a simple camera (these days just a phone) to record something that catches my eye.

I found these from last time the fair was in town.  The fairground evokes fond memories for me of the times my Grandma took me on summer day trips to Southport.  We’d play the 2p machines, hook-a-duck and ride the caterpillar and carousel. I still love the blaring waltzer music, garish colours and the vinegary smell of a chip van.

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It was the spiralling wave on the helter skelter that I noticed first as it made me think of ric-rac, and then looking at the other rides, I could imagine my petri dish forming the base and top of a carousel. Last week I’d brought some self-adhesive red gingham ribbon that happened to be the perfect width for the edge of the dish and I also had some turquoise ribbon with red spots that reminded me of the lights on fairground rides. I used these as the basis for my colour scheme. Where and how could I get tiny horses though? Eventually I sourced these lovely buttons from Laura Matthews Etsy shop.

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Constructing the tented top was trickier than I’d imagined and required some long forgotten maths, strengthening iron-on vilene and a couple of paper models before I got it right.

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The central pole was made from a little cardboard pencil tube that I painted with acrylics before gluing on spiralling ric-rac and braid. I painted the horses and stitched them onto bamboo skewers that I’d covered in narrow ribbon. The kids’ cheap plastic beads had just the right sized holes to insert the skewers in to give a bit more surface area to attach to the dish, before the very fiddly process of gluing them in place.  My girls very kindly also donated their Lego flag!

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Here’s the finished carousel – not a prizewinner, but still a little tribute to my Grandma and happy memories of our trips to the fair.

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There were over twenty entries and the standard and variety was just fantastic. Below are just a few of my favourites (zoom in on those incredible tiny knots!). The winning creations and all the wonderful entries can be found on the branch blog and are well worth a look

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Yorkshire Buttons

I am lucky to belong to a vibrant branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild that has an enthusiastic committee who arrange an exciting program of speakers and events.  Just over two years ago, I was introduced to this welcoming and creative group, who I’ve found are extremely generous in sharing knowledge, as well as their textile stash, and not least, their cake!

Sometimes we have a practical night where we try a new stitch and at the April meeting we had a go at making Yorkshire buttons. Despite looking impressive, they are actually really easy to make with just a long piece of thread, some pins, a tiny amount of wadding and a circle of foam mountboard.  A full tutorial can be found here on the guild blog.

Be warned though, they are time-consuming and it will probably take an hour or two for one little button.  You will also need an extremely long thread as ideally you want to complete the button using one length, so there is no visible join.  This means it’s liable to tangle frustratingly. (Remember to let your needle hang loose every now and again to unwind.) A lot of elbow room is needed too so despite the lack of kit needed, this is no way to kill time on public transport!

For some members, life’s too short and this would be their first and last ever Yorkshire button. However, I do think they are rather beautiful, particularly in variegated thread and they can be made in any shade to perfectly co-ordinate with your project. I imagine I’ll be using them in future as fasteners for my handmade books and journals.

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Print, Collage, Stitch

When I feel the need for a little ‘me time’, I book myself onto a craft, art or textile workshop. Excitement builds as the date on the calendar approaches and I receive the list of requirements. I gather together bits and pieces from my stash, hopefully having a theme in mind. Then add some more stuff ‘just in case’ and then a bit more. Inevitably though, the exact button, bead, fabric or whatever it is that would have been perfect will still be at home, along with the packed lunch I forgot.

Those massive canvas bags from supermarkets with the flat bottoms are strong and ideal for lugging your stuff around, and you know you have arrived at the right location when you see a bunch of eager ladies laden with two or three of these, overflowing with gubbins and trailing bits of thread.

‘Print, Collage, Stitch’ was a day workshop with textile artist Anne Brooke.  We would produce wall hangings by hand printing papers, attaching them together and embellishing.

The printing part was great fun.  We carved our own stamps and used them along with ready-made blocks on a variety of textured papers, such as maps, glossy magazines and wallpaper.  I particularly enjoyed working so freely and layering print over print, enthusiastically churning out a deep stack of printed papers.

Once dry we selected our favourite areas to collage.  I had brought along some stamps of exotic birds left over from a previous project that I was keen to incorporate.  Finally we added stitched embellishment.

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When I attend a workshop, though it’s nice to go home with a completed item, I really see it as an opportunity to learn a new technique and generate ideas. Without fail, someone will announce at the end how amazing it is that from the same starting point, everyone ends up with something so different and that’s true.

One of my favourite tips from the day was not to fight against the colours you are drawn to. This is a really good point I think, especially if you are creating something for yourself that you will want to keep. When you are investing time making something, you’ll be spending hours looking at and handling it, so it is important to keep your senses happy.

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Anne Brooke’s lovely work and details of her courses can be found on her blog http://h-anne-made.blogspot.co.uk

She also has a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/hannemade 

Ninety Minute Makes

Every three months our church has a craft night where everyone is welcome, all materials are provided, there’s a choice of activities and no charge. It’s a lovely sociable way to spend a Friday night with friends of all ages. I had been twice before with my eldest daughter and we tried decoupage and jewellery making. We impressed ourselves by what we could make in less than two hours. My 12 year old made this for her bedroom door using knit-print decoupage papers and we made simple bracelets from memory wire and glass beads at Christmas craft night.

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Someone there twigged I have creative tendencies and put me on the rota to host a craft table at the next event. So my challenge was to come up with something both adults and children might want to try, that could be finished within 90 minutes and ideally make use of inexpensive materials from my existing stash.

Rummaging for inspiration, I spotted an Easter egg template in a paper-craft magazine and cut out the shape in felt to make a stitched hanging decoration that I thought would be feasible in the time.  I enjoyed the simplicity of the shape and mixing the cheerful colours while using up scraps of ribbon, thread and odd buttons. A little stuffing from an old cushion plumped up the shape a bit.

Craft night was really well attended with plenty of knitting, stitching, sticking, eating and chatter. It was actually pretty rowdy! I was so pleased that everyone on my table managed to finish and take home their unique finished egg.  Some were destined to be Mother’s Day gifts and the younger girls were especially proud of what they learned and made by themselves. Only a little help was needed with threading, knotting and lots of un-knotting!

I’ve got a little bit addicted to making these now. They are so quick and easy to complete in evening. I just need to decide how to display them over the Easter holidays.

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