Friday, 22 February 2013

sea creatures mini-tote


Have you discovered Spoonflower yet? It is a treasure trove for fabric enthusiasts and also allows you to design and create your very own personal fabric! Last year my talented artist friend Ashlie Blake created this delightful sea creatures print and I instantly ordered myself some, without quite knowing what I'd make with it (which is why I put that on my list of 34 things).

It's my goddaughter's birthday party this weekend, and I'd been thinking about making her a mini tote, as I know little kids love carrying things around in their very own little bags (my son does anyway!) Then I had the idea of using Ashlie's fabric, thereby creating something incredibly unique and special for her.

It has her name in appliqué on the front (which just about works, though I wish I'd used plain, bolder fabrics for the letters) as well as a vintage button, and has a little pocket on the inside with more sweet little jellyfish, starfish and shells swimming happily on it.

I hope she'll love it - it was certainly made with love and I know she'll go crazy about the fabric, as there's so much to look at and enjoy - from the pastel colours to the little hearts & unique personalities of each creature. But it's not perfect: I learnt a thing or two about using such a complex print, something I'm not used to. I needed to think more carefully about how the print would be positioned on the tote, and also about what kind of appliqué would work best with so much going on in the background (strong, plain colours, I think).

I also made a gusset (a tiny one for a tiny tote) for the first time, and I can see how I'd do it with more precision next time - but I would add that it's surprisingly easy! I will definitely be using that technique again. I can't wait to give Abby her unique little handmade gift on Saturday. I also have plenty of the fabric left over and I'm looking forward to using it again soon! If you'd like to buy some for yourself, you can find it here (and you can find Ashlie's art in her Etsy shop here too).

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

patchwork playmat


Sewing has become one of my most important ways of relaxing. I had a very minor little car accident on Friday (no-one hurt, thankfully, although I was stiff the next day... oh yes, and it was my fault! And my kid was in the back...) and it sure shook me up. It was my first time. My instinctive reaction was to get out the fabric and sewing machine and the result was this brightly-coloured (and inadvertently slightly car-themed!) patchwork playmat for the new baby.

It's not a quilt, it's to provide somewhere to put the baby on the floor. Last time around I was forever putting the baby on my coat (it's faux-fur, so quite cosy!) or some such. This time I was determined to have something lovely and handmade. These colours make my heart sing and they're designed to go with the new room I'm making for the boys. There are two layers of wadding to make it nice and comfy, and ribbon tags to add a bit of texture and interest for when the baby starts reaching for things.

I couldn't resist proclaiming proudly that I handmade this with love! Also check out the multi-colour polka dot fabric on the back. You'll be seeing a lot more of this, as it's going to be used for various things in the boys' room. It's new fabric, not vintage, but it has the advantage of being a bit of a bargain: half-price in the January sales.

The patchwork fabrics I used are a mixture of new bits and pieces and vintage finds. Remember that strawberry-print feed sack fabric I picked up in Austin? I finally allowed myself to use some of it (there's still enough left for the Summer tote I'm fantasising about making for myself).

There are also a few nearly-abstract scraps of some transport-themed 1970s Marimekko fabric, which help tie this in to a large pillow I made for the boys' room a while back. And you can see a few squares of the same vintage fabric I used to make the cat I posted about here.

Here are a little bunch of things that start to give an idea of the look/colours I'm dreaming up for the boys' new attic room. It's the first time in my life I've been able to pretty much "invent" a room from scratch and I'm really excited about it! My husband is giving me free reign as I have so many ideas... I've no idea if it will turn out how I imagine it, but one way or another I'm looking forward to sharing photos here.

Whatever life throws my way, making things with my hands always helps me to feel calm and grounded again.
Polkadot Pretties

Thursday, 14 February 2013

retro craft heaven


I've been promising for a while a sneak peek of these amazing charity shop finds: 2 craft books from the mid-1970s. At £1.50 and £3.00 respectively these definitely count as bargains, as they are full of projects and inspiration. They are also great for just flipping through and travelling back in time. I'm really into 1970s style right now. I love the way all the brightly-coloured things are set on white shelves on the front cover of the book above (and am planning something similar for my boys' new room).

So now you can see the proper vintage inspiration behind the cat I made recently. I just have to do a tie dye version at some point. I'd love to try tie dye - I think it's time for a(nother) comeback!

Isn't this lion cute? I love their wide interpretation of collage and the chunkiness of the style.

I'm not sure I'd have the patience for this, but it's pretty. Both these books are crammed with different crafts, from candle-making to basket weaving. There's a real sense of a craft culture where everything and anything can be handmade.

A batik owl! You can see the instructions are pretty good. I've never thought about trying batik before but they actually make it look quite do-able.

This book is huge! It has a more cottagey, less funky style to it, but incredible numbers of projects, instructions and ideas. It is a kind of craft treasure trove. The awesome thing is that, even if you hate 1970s style, old craft books are a great way of finding cheap information and instructions. I have a book on appliqué from the 1990s that cost 50p and although I don't like the fabrics/styles featured, it contains everything I need to know about appliqué - I just adjust it to my own taste.

Look at that incredible contents page. Can anyone think of anything they missed out? Me neither!

I'm slightly obsessed with this denim/suede patchwork holdall. Basically I want one - I absolutely have to make one!

I love this too - all those rich glowing colours in the hexagon patchwork. That's the kind of hexagon patchwork I want to make (and since I'm using my mum's fabric stash from the 1960s-70s, it should be possible!) Also just look at that cute kid with his blonde curls and visor! These books make me so nostalgic. I was born in 1979, so didn't really know the 1970s, and yet these kinds of images are still very much part of my early childhood. It's a world half-familiar yet still exotic: the perfect retro fascination.

That glowing image with the sleepy tabby cat and beautiful terrarium looks like something from a modern day lifestyle blog! The beardy guy on the left-hand page looks more old-school - but only just, haha!

And to end, of course in my broody state I had to pick this image of mother and baby and the most fabulous knitted and fringed blanket ever. I am so making my next blanket full of stripes and patterns like that! (Also love the old wooden cradle, though it doesn't look very user-friendly...) I hope you enjoyed this little trip back in time. Do you have any old craft books in your collection?

Monday, 11 February 2013

pretty for icky


Rarely have I made such pretty-looking items with the express intention of subjecting them to the most undignified of destinies. Let's call them "burp cloths" for ease of reference - not a term we use in the UK, instead referring to the type of cloths we usually use, known as "muslin squares". These are neither square, nor muslin, but they are going to be very useful when the new baby comes.

These towelling rectangles, backed with some adorable out-of-print Cath Kidston fabric (amazing Etsy find from FrauSvensson), will serve for endless mopping, wiping and drying, as well as being thick enough to work as on-the-go nappy changing mats or emergency towels. They won't replace my stack of muslin squares (I seem to remember using about 10 per day last time around) but they will look a lot more stylish and make the whole messy business that bit more agreable.

I was inspired to make them having very rashly purchased the Red Velvet Baby On The Way E-Course in a moment of broodiness and blogging-induced fantasy visions of stylish motherhood. Whether or not it counts as a "course" is a moot point - more on that another time - but having shelled out for the package I'm determined to extract the maximum inspiration from it. And I must admit, these ultra-simple, pretty-yet-functional cloths were a satisfying place to start.

P.s. the lovely vintage toy bell in the first photo came from Uncommon Objects in Austin, Texas.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

doodle heart brooches


Hearts are for life: not just for Valentines Day! You may have noticed that I'm a little in love with the heart shape, and it doesn't matter what time of year it is. But I guess now felt like as good a time as any to make these little doodle brooches I've had on my mind.

Doodle brooches have been on my list of 34 things to make for a while. The inspiration came from the book Lovely Things to Make for Girls of Slender Means by Eithne Farry, which I won in a giveaway a while back (thanks Polly!) It is full of creative ideas, including these "yellow split pea badges".

I used fabric t-shirt pens on undyed cotton, simply doodled away, and then sewed on felt at the back and some brooch backs. Instead of yellow split peas, I just used toy stuffing. I have this feeling that although a little pouch of split peas would feel lovely, it might be a bit heavy for a brooch, tugging at clothing. I do love her doodled faces though. Clearly there is potential to do something more adventurous and detailed than my little heart/triangle doodles.

I so enjoyed making them though: I got to indulge my love of doodling, hearts and brooch-making all at once! I'll surely be making more. If you try making your own doodled brooches, let me know as I'd love to see them.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

win a hedgehog


Just a quick post today to let you know that you could win a cute hedgehog like one of these from the talented Olga of Wassupbrothers! It is a long-running giveaway open worldwide until 1st March, and it's easy to enter. If you haven't come across Olga before, I'm delighted to introduce you to her work. She makes lovely fabric creatures who are truly works of art, including many owls. Now, go enter the giveaway and visit her Etsy shop too!

Monday, 4 February 2013

cashmere & vintage cat


For a while now (as you can see from my 'catspiration board' on Pinterest), I've been wanting to make a cuddly cat (also on my list of 34 things). I also have this little pile of old worn-out cashmere sweaters (which makes me sound very grand, but they were all bargains/second-hand, and I have sensitive skin for most woolens) and have also been meaning to start repurposing them into other things. This project achieved both aims!

It was a lovely thing to make in an evening (makes a change from the slow pace of knitting!) I took a very simple approach, simply drawing myself a pattern free-hand on a piece of newspaper, pinning it to my vintage fabric, then to the sweater, and cutting it out.

I then embroidered the cat's face (first drawing with an air-fading fabric pen) - I went bold and somewhat naive in style, partly because I was inspired by some 1970s craft books (yes, I promise I'll be sharing them soon!) and partly because this was my first attempt at embroidery without a hoop (and yes, I should have embroidered before cutting out, haha!)

For the front, I was originally going to use some very gorgeous tie-dye style fabric given to me by a friend but then I realised the colours weren't right, as this kitty has been made specially to go in my little boy's new room (currently under construction). I will be posting about that a lot more over the next few months, as I'm very excited about designing the perfect room for my son and the boy-to-be (you can see some inspiration on my 'kids room' board).

The plan is to create a modern-vintage feel, with bright, mainly primary colours against white walls and backgrounds - and I'm happy that the new cuddly cat looks great with this giant cushion I made from 1970s Marrimeko fabric. Looking forward to sharing more of the things I'm making for the new room soon!

Friday, 1 February 2013

chic vs cheerful

I love chic, and admire people with chic babies and chic nurseries and chic handmade baby things. You know, something like this...

...all muted, soft, carefully blended colours with a pretty palette and vintage feel. Very nice - gorgeous in fact. But I can't do that. I'm just incapable of making "chic". Why? Because I'm too in love with cheerful!

This is where my knitted baby blanket is going... I started off fairly chic in my intentions. The wool/yarn was part of my mum's Christmas present to me and we went to a sweet little shop where she lives to buy it. We bought three colours: purple, turquoise and yellow. OK that doesn't sound very chic but they did go quite well together and formed a limited palette. But I just couldn't stop there...

I'm up to 8 different colours now: red, turquoise, blue, yellow, mustard, beige, purple and green. Pretty much every colour of Sidar snuggly that exists (I love to exaggerate too, haha). Yep, here I am again, headed down the mis-matching, patchwork, slightly random, make-it-up-as-you-go-along aesthetic that seems to be my modus operandi. (Btw I'm think of sewing a wide, satin purple ribbon all round the edge when it's finished).

It's a little like the patchwork quilt I made for my first baby. I pretty much cut squares from every piece of fabric I owned at the time, then popped them all together with a mis-matching border and a vintage sheet for backing. I love it though and so does he - he sleeps under it every night (imagine my happy mum face right now as I type that!) So cheerful it is then, and I'm not sorry!

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