Monday, 30 November 2009

What I are not lerning

The few of you who read my blog regularly might wonder where my college course updates have disappeared to. They haven't been written for a variety of reasons - one week was an assesment week where we re-organised our folders for submission (booooooring), one week was half term, and last week I missed because of some evil cold flu virus thing which currently is making me feel like someone has stuffed a whole packet of cotton wool in my ears before submerging my head in a goldfish bowl.

But the main reason I haven't posted about my course is that I'm really not feelin' the love for it. It is not what I thought it would be AT ALL. We do lots of sketchbook work. We have to look at architecture. We have to choose an artist to research. We have to do mood boards every bloomin' week. Which is great, if that's the sort of thing you want to learn about, but not so great if you still don't know how to do button holes. Or cuffs. Or place a sleeve. Or do a placket, whatever one of those is.

I'm not going to drop out, as I paid a lot of money to enrol (a lot for me, anyway), and so I want to see it through to the end. But there's really no point me writing any more updates on it because I don't feel there's anything useful to pass on to you peeps. I might post some photos of the jacket we're currently making (which involves no real technical skills - we're given the pattern to use, it's open fronted, so no fastenings, and it has no collar or cuffs). And our final project is turning a design of our own into a pattern, which I'm hoping I'll be able to develop and test and eventually maybe even *gasp* sell, so there will hopefully be a few updates on how that's going.

The one thing I have learnt is that I want to make my own patterns. By the end of my course I should have the basic skills to be able to do this, which is great. Although they'll have to be patterns for garments without fastenings, cuffs or collars of any sort :)

Monday, 23 November 2009

Elephant Impressions and Buttonhole Trauma

Back in March I won a pattern for a lovely asymmetrical jacket in a giveaway on Kitschy Coo's blog. It came in size 18m - 2T and 3T - 4T, and as at the time Munchkin was 8 months old, I thought I had plenty of time to do it. A couple of months ago I bought the fabric for it - some elephant print cotton and some brown denim, and mentally made a note to start it soon.

And then last week Munchkin was officially 18 months old! And I had not sewn a single seam :( So I started it the very next day, and it didn't take long to do - one child-free afternoon and a couple of evenings and it was complete apart from the button holes. I am frightened of buttonholes. They appear to require a level of sewing skill that is beyond me (and we STILL haven't done them at college). So grandma pickledweasel volunteered her fancy computerised shiny new sewing machine and its automatic buttonhole maker. This was the result:

For some reason it got stuck twice when it was sewing, and the thread bunched up. Which meant when it came to cutting the hole it was nigh on impossible to avoid cutting some thread as well, and it all came unravelled. And then to add insult to injury the hole wasn't big enough for the bloody button in the first place, despite me and grandma pickledweasel having taken measurements twice.

I nearly cried. I swore a lot. The whole experience up til then had been such a pleasure (I find 'home grown' patterns so much easier than commercially produced ones. They make sense!). Grandma pickledweasel suggested smaller buttons, but that still wouldn't solve the problem of the rapidly unravelling buttonhole. I eventually decided to stitch the buttonhole together and leave a small gap in the middle, push the shank of the button through the gap and sew it on the other side. So it looks like the coat has buttons and button holes. Then I sewed press studs on the other side so the coat will fasten.

It means the coat isn't reversible, which I am gutted about, but it does make it wearable. Massive lesson learnt - never ever ever make anything that requires button holes ever again ;) Munchkin likes the coat, and whenever 'elephant coat' is mentioned she does her elephant impression, which involves a sort of trumpety noise accompanied by a flailing arm, which is meant to be a trunk. The arm action is very similar to that of her washing machine impression. I may put her in for Britain's Got Talent next year. Obviously she will wear the coat to her audition :D

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Knitting and Stitching Show Part One

I am not feeling well - you know when you get that cotton wool head feeling just before a cold / flu? I was going to write up a report of my visit to the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate yesterday, but I'm tired and my legs feel like they're going to fall off and it wouldn't make much sense, so you'll have to make do with pretty pictures of all the things I bought instead...

Too many magazines and patterns :)

This for my sister-in-law for Christmas - she loved the Bimble I made for Juliet, and said she might use the idea with her GCSE textiles students, so I thought she might like the book.

Two vintage knitting / stitching magazines, one for the fantastic 'evening jumper' pattern, and one for a lovely 'Noah's Ark Workbox' which apparently is perfect to 'hold all the nursery mending things' :)

One fat quarter and a little bundle of scraps, which included some Beatrix Potter bits. And a little pack of vintage bits and bobs that made me think of the forties - I might try and do a collage with it.

And I went to a workshop where I made this jazzy hand print applique bag and got a load of gubbins free! The jewel bits aren't stuck to the bag, they were part of the goodies. Although I might stick down one of the big cabachons so it looks like a ring.

Hopefully when I'm feeling a bit better I'll post about the wonderful textile art I saw, which was amaaaaazing. Til then, back to bed...

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Crafting with Munchkins - Wallpaper Flowers tutorial

I'm making these pretty wallpaper flowers for my storytime craft at work in a couple of weeks. We're a bit short on cash due to some budget cuts, so I'm having to scrabble around in the craft cupboard to try and use existing resources, and scrounge materials where ever I can. I contacted a local independent painting and decorating shop to see if they had any old wallpaper sample books they no longer needed, and a very friendly shopkeeper was only too happy to offload 5 huuuuge books, and had lots more in the back office but I couldn't carry them all :)

Wallpaper has endless possibilities for crafting - it's durable, has cool patterns and textures, and can withstand copious amounts of glue. I thought I'd be better off asking a little local shop for old sample books rather than a big DIY chain, but I guess there's no harm in ringing up your local B&Q and seeing if they can help.

You will need:
  • Wallpaper with a flowery pattern, or failing that, coloured / textured wallpaper you can cut into flower shapes.
  • Sturdy cardboard, preferably corrugated (I used a cat food box, the sort that has those foil pouches in)
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Straws (If they're bendy, cut the bendy bit off)
  • Tape

Start by cutting out your flowers. If your munchkin is too small to manage scissors, get them to choose the flowers and you can do the cutting. I tried to get a photo of Munchkin choosing a flower, but she was in a major strop this morning. But this is the flower she chose, honest!

Now cut some discs of sturdy cardboard to mount your flowers on.

Stick your flowers to your discs.

Stick your straws to your flowers with tape.

You're done! And now find the best way to display them. I used a jam jar and filled it with those little glass nuggets, and then pushed the straws in. I cut the straws to different lengths so you could see all of the flowers. If you haven't got glass nuggets you could always use that pile of pebbles that your munchkin collected from your last visit to the seaside that's gathering dust in the bathroom :)

Now I just need some stories about flowers to go with my craft activity for storytime. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Crafting with munchkins - some inspiration

Kitschy Coo recently had a very interesting discussion on her blog about crafting with kids, and the perils that lie therein. She kind of stole my thunder *shakey fist*, because I had been all set to write a hilarious post about the joys of gluey fingers and marker pen on the coffee table, but she did it a lot better than I ever could :) For my views on the subject, scroll down the post and have a look at the comments.

So instead I'll try and give you so many amaaaazing websites about crafting with little ones that you'll run out RIGHT NOW and buy some stickers and glue and glitter and poster paint. Go on, there's bound to be a 24 hour Tescos not too far away :)

The Crafty Crow

The Crafty Crow is a brilliant source of craft ideas, and is very conveniently organised by age group, from 18 months up to 12 years. The halloween section this year was fantastic, and gave me loads of simple stuff to do with my storytime group. The blog doesn't feature the tutorials in full, but has an image of the end product with a link to the site it came from. Saves you trawling through Google looking for 'Homemade Bathtub Paint' :)

Bloesem Kids: Bookhou Crafts is the kids crafts section of Irene Hoofs' pretty blog. It's so beautifully designed and calming to look at, you might even forget the glue on the sofa :) There are four contributors (all with fantastic blogs of their own), each taking it in turns to post a project. The photography is lovely, the projects are delightful, and there's not a glitter encrusted child in sight. As well as crafts for children, there are crafts for you too, like new ways to display the endless streams of paintings from nursery, and a brilliant book of textures for little sticky hands to explore.

This next one's in French, but the photographs for each project are so simple and self explanatory, that it doesn't matter if the only French you know is, 'Ou est la gare s'il vous plait?'. Julie Adore Dimanche is the crafting adventures of Julie and her cute-enough-to-eat 2 year old daughter. I am loving Monsieur Enlacet, who can help a child learn how to tie shoes, and the Mer Salee is very pretty.

Finally, Kids Craft Weekly is a fab little newsletter sent by email, full of stuff for you and your munchkins to get stuck in to. You can sign up here, or view back issues here. Each newsletter has a theme, which you could easily tie in with other stuff you do that week - so for example along with making some rockets and aliens from the space themed newsletter, you could also visit a science museum, find some books about space in the library (Aliens Love Underpants is one of my favourites), and watch Wall E on dvd.

So what are you waiting for? Clear the furniture, make sure the cat's in a safe place, and have the industrial strength cleaner and bottle of gin on hand for later. My best tip for a stress free session is oilcloth. The biggest piece you can afford. You can spread it out on the floor or drape it over your table, it's waterproof, wipe clean, and if you buy the heavy duty stuff it should last for a long time. Happy crafting!

P.s. The artwork in this post, 'Quality Street Wrapper on Fire', 'Aggression with Crayons' and 'Glitter Glue versus Biro' are originals from the new autumn exhibition by Munchkin, and have been reproduced with the artist's permission.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Christmas Making: Tea towel apron tutorial

Here's a quick and easy tutorial for a quick and easy apron that would make a lovely gift. You just need two pretty tea towels and some twill tape or ribbon, and a spare hour (probably less if you're a better crafter than me :). I wanted to make an apron for my mother-in-law (she cut the ties off the last one she had in order to tie up a Christmas tree. Don't ask), and I'd bought some cheap oilcloth but wasn't happy with it. I was thinking about making the tea towel apron from Amy Karol's Bend-the-Rules Sewing, but wanted a bib bit at the top. So I played around with my tea towels, and hey presto! As I was putting this tutorial together I thought I might be re-inventing the wheel, and a quick Google showed that Martha Stewart beat me to it, but my version has a gathered top to save on sewing time. Plus it makes it look nicer!

You will need:

Two tea towels. Mine were from Home Bargains as part of a set of three, and were £1.49.

Twill tape or ribbon. I used tape that was half an inch wide because that was what I had in my stash, but I think 1" wide would be better.

Matching thread - you might need 2 different colours if your tea towels are different colours.

A sewing machine (optional, you could do all of the sewing by hand if you don't have a machine).

A ready-made apron to help with your measurements.

Start by laying out your ready-made apron, using it as a guide, and placing your tea towels on top. You need to take into account how long you want your apron to be, and how deep you want your pockets to be. The top of your vertical tea towel will be folded over to make a casing for your neck strap, so leave enough space for this (about an inch or two).

When you're happy with your layout, pin your tea towels together, and stitch along the lines in the diagram below.

WARNING: You'll need to take into account the wonkiness of your tea towels. They're not known for their straight edges, especially cheap ones, so be careful as you're sewing the two together. I didn't take account of wonkiness, and you can see the wonky results below :) It shouldn't matter too much if you're using a thread that's well matched to the colour of your tea towel.

Next you'll sew a line down the middle of your bottom tea towel to make the pockets. Fold your apron in half to make sure you centre the line.

You're halfway there! Next you need to make the casing for your neck tie. Fold the top of your apron over, using your tape / ribbon as a guide. You need to make sure it will fit through comfortably and won't get twisted. Now sew your casing. As the edge of your tea towel is already hemmed you don't have to faff about turning it under to neaten it :)

Attach a safety pin to the end of your tape and thread it through your casing. You'll need enough tape to fit comfortably round your neck - I cut a piece about 40" to start with, and adjusted it to the right length later.

Runkle up your casing until you're happy with the gathers, and then pin your tape either side. Make sure you have an even amount of tape either side of the apron top.

Now sew the ends of your casing in place where you've pinned it.

Next you have two options. You can leave the ends of the tape free, which will mean you will have to tie the apron at the neck and the waist when you put it on. I recommend you do this if you're making the apron as a present for someone, unless you know their exact height / shoulder width / neck girth etc. :)

Or you can join the two ends together, making a loop that you pull over your head when you put the apron on. If the apron is for you then this is the best option. Put the apron on and put the tape around the back of your neck. Make sure you have enough tape to be able to pull the apron on and off over your head, and pin the tape together.

Cut the excess tape off, and join the two ends together. I folded each one over and then sewed them on top of one another, if that makes sense.

Next you need to add the ties for the back of the apron. Take your tape / ribbon and measure out enough to go all the way around your waist and tie comfortably at the front. I used about 55". Cut your tape in half, and attach each piece to the sides of your apron, where the two uppermost corners of the bottom tea towel are. Make sure you sew the tape on well.

Now neaten the ends of your tape by folding over twice and sewing. If you're in a rush (or are fed up with sewing fiddly little bits of tape) you could tie a big knot in the end instead.

Finished! Sit back and admire your handywork :)

No, I haven't suddenly got a lovely new big kitchen, the photoshoot took place at grandma pickledweasel's, with munchkin as assistant (she sat in an armchair eating raisins and shouting encouraging things).

Monday, 2 November 2009

Guilty as charged

If there's one thing I'm good at, it's guilt. I feel guilty 80% of the time. And the other 20% I'm asleep. Is it a female thing? I asked mr pickledweasel whether he feels guilty about things and he just looked at me strangely and asked if I'd been on a major fabric buying spree and was trying to confess :)

I feel guilty for crafting. Because the living room is messy / the bathroom needs cleaning / there's a huge pile of ironing / I haven't read any grown-up books for ages / I don't watch the news any more. I feel guilty for doing housework because it's time not spent with Munchkin. I feel guilty for spending time with Munchkin because I never do any housework.

I feel guilty for taking my college course, because it costs £150 and I don't have much money. I feel guilty for not doing my college course homework because the course cost £150.

I feel guilty for not buying Munchkin annoying electronic 'educational' toys when I see how much she enjoys playing with them in hospital waiting rooms. I feel guilty for going out and buying Munchkin an annoying electronic 'educational' toy because it is plastic and uses batteries. I buy a second hand one from a charity shop and it eases the guilt somewhat :)

I feel guilty for blogging. Because it takes up time. Because I'll often sack off doing other (more important?) things and write a blog post instead. Because deep down I know I only do it for attention. I like it when people comment. When they 'follow' me. I want people to say, 'Ooooh, look what you made / said aren't you clever / funny!' And that makes me feel guilty, because I think that maybe I shouldn't need to seek validation from random strangers on the interweb.

So I'm making a few changes. I won't blog every day. I'll try and focus on quality rather than quantity - two posts a week at most. That way I can do a few tutorials, book reviews, give you hints and tips from my college course, rather than just post pictures of Munchkin and wait for the compliments to flood in. I was getting bogged down by trying to blog frequently, and not thinking about whether my posts offered any value to my 'readership' (*waves* hello readership!).

Hopefully you'll notice an improvement in my photography skills as well - I'm trying to take well lit photographs so that my blog looks 'proper' (although a lot of things I need to do this are on my Christmas list, so it might be January before you notice an improvement :). If I'm going to blog (and still feel guilty about it) then I'd better do it well :D

All this thinking and changing and trying not to feel so guilty has been brought about by a fabulous online course I signed up to about blogging, run by the amazingly wonderful Sister Diane, she of CraftyPod fame. It's really made me think about what my blog is for, and changed my perspectives a lot.

In the meantime I'm sure I'll find something else to feel guilty about in the place of blogging. Biscuits, not replying to emails straight away, forgetting birthdays, buying new moisturiser before I've finished the old one, wanting shoes, not exercising.... the list is endless :)