New Year’s Resolutions

Yeah I know, they’re a bit tragic but I’m doing it anyway.

  1. Read at least 34 books this year.  Easy peasy, I’m on Goodreads so I’ve set myself a reading challenge.  Click here to see how I’m doing.  Right now I’m doing fantastically well, I have read no books yet this year and I’m apparently bang on target.
  2. Lose 20kgs.  Thought I’d chuck in the traditional fat bum challenge.  Though my bum isn’t actually that fat I have spotted a bit of thigh bulge today that has to be got rid of immediately if not sooner.  Then once I’ve lost 20kgs I’ll still want to lose another 10.  Then perhaps another 5.  We’ll see. I work for a law firm and the cakeage is immense and I loathe exercising so this one is a bit challenging. I also hate exercise clothes and seriously object to any heel lower than a kitten heel.  Keep thinking about taking up running but I also very much dislike outdoorsiness. And running.
  3. Do more embroidery.  I very rarely sew. Its the one thing I absolutely love doing and yet I hardly ever do it because I used to hand sew for a living and now I don’t and it may sound pathetic but its quite emotional for me and I’m a bit frightened I’ve lost all my skills. So much as I’ve amassed a huge quantity of yarn and patterns and stuff I’m going to scale back the knitting and crochet (except for snoods and Gin Poodles of course) and get back into embroidery.  I had a small test piece framed a few years ago and the framers asked me if I’d like to make more for them to sell.  So I might not be a complete ham-fisted duffer.
  4. Stop buying mass-produced junk.  You know that ‘make it, don’t buy it’ idea floating around at Christmas? Well I’m going to stop buying things from major chains and only buy handmade wherever possible.  I’ve had my last clothes shopping spree in 2016 so from now on I’m going to make my own clothes, at least they’ll fit properly and I won’t bump into anyone else wearing the same thing. I can try out embroidery on my own cuffs and that too can’t I? I’ve got a sewing machine up in the loft and I expect that is where it will stay because I don’t really like sewing machines.  Hand made clothes last longer because they’re better and every stitch is beautiful. I’m not expecting anyone else to agree or even see the simple beauty of a white cotton tacking stitch or go into ecstasy over a button hole, but your loss and all that.
  5. New Etsy shop. Once I’ve got my fingers back to being able to pick up with a needle a single thread in any fabric without looking I’ll be able to produce work worth selling. These are not going to sit well with super kitsch knitted poodle bottle cosies or even lovely vintage style hair accessories so they’ll need their own space.

Five resolutions are enough.

6. Oh but hang on. Food. Must stop eating things that make me ill, like fried things, fatty things, dairy, and eggs.  A doctor told me years ago that the odd sensation of my throat going all thick and gagging for hours after eating isn’t really normal and should be avoided. Spose he might have a point.

7. Bugger it I’ve thought of another.  I have a half brother somewhere.  Not even sure what his name is but I should find him in case he’s the head of membership of a major ballet company or something and can get me a hefty discount.

 

Today I’m Making… Embroidered roses with beads

You might remember the lovely workshop I did a while back where I made the scissor dangle thing? Well, I really liked making the bullion knot roses so when I finished that my head was full of ideas of images I could embroider filling in with hundreds of bullion knot roses and french knots.

Finally I have made something. I had to come up with a birthday present for someone I don’t know brilliantly well but I didn’t want to just buy a scented candle like I usually would, I wanted to make something. Fingers crossed she’ll appreciate it took up most of my weekend making it and I’m not just being cheap.  I found the picture frame in TK Maxx, they always have gorgeous frames in there and the prices are very good.  This one I think is supposed to look like a vintage plate that has been made into a frame.

I had intended to use the gorgeous De Havilland silks I bought at Ally Pally but in the first place I could only find one hank in the wrong colour and then it didn’t work for making the roses, it all just tangled up hideously and I had to cut it out.

In the end I went for ordinary DMC in three colours – red, maroon and hot pink. I think another time I’d go for a variegated thread because it gives a better result than a block colour for flowers, but I did use a variegated coral for the french knots and that worked out really well.

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I started off by couching a double row of metallic blue thread, then I sewed the line of beads on individually, I did think about stringing them on to a thread and couching those on too but I prefer to sew them on one by one. After that I couched on another double row of metallic blue.  If I were to make another one of these I think I’d do this outside edge last because I was worried I’d catch the blue thread and ruin it as I made the roses.

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The fabric I was sewing on to is white with a white floral print which was handy to use as a random template to fill with the roses, rose buds and leaves. Making something look random is really hard, I think I have a roughly even colour distribution of roses and buds but I hope it doesn’t look too much like it is.

Here it is, the finished thing all mounted up. The mounting is the part that causes me the most stress but it seems to have worked out OK and I haven’t smashed any of the glass beads under the glass.

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I wanted this to have a vintage look, as if it had been upcycled from a 50’s boudoir set. I think that has worked out quite well personally. Though now that I’ve made this I realise my ideas about embroidering shapes filled in with bullion knot roses was a bit ambitious, I don’t think I could bear it, but it has reminded me how much I like doing french knots so I’ll be doing a lot more of those.

 

Today I’m Making – Scissor Keeper dangle thing

I know I must have said it half a dozen times already but I do love a workshop.  They’re the main reason I go to craft shows.  Last October at the Knitting and Stitching Show, Ally Pally I signed up for Kathleen Laurel Sage’s workshop to learn to embroider bullion knot roses. What attracted me was their lovely vintage look, they make me think of boudoir sets, they also look fiercely difficult and I think there was even something in the blurb about them being intimidating so that was me in. Here is the front page of the kit so you know what we were aiming for. wpid-20140526_115342.jpg

 

I am getting back into hand sewing rather than just knitting and crocheting, its the think I love most and I’ve been avoiding it because it makes me too upset to think I’m not doing it for a living any more, but then again not doing it is probably making me miserable so this is one of my attempts to recover my old skills.  So there we all were, a nice mixed bunch as usual at these things. Really good kits all ready and waiting, the strong colours were all snapped up pretty fast which left me with the creamy peachy tone that I wanted anyway. Result.  The kit was really good, plenty of everything so you can do more practice or start something else off when you’ve finished this one or even unpick and start again if you make a horrible pig’s ear of it.

Kathleen Laurel Sage is easily one of the best workshop tutors I’ve come across, she got us all whipping them out with barely any fuss at all. I fell in love with what looks like a tricky technique straight away, she also was full of ideas for other uses and brought fantastic examples of things she’d made that were embellished with bullion knot roses.  She had this gorgeous little box that I’m sure all of us wanted to ask her to sell to us.

Turns out they’re not too hard to do. So here’s mine. I love it. Really do love it and my head is full of things I want to embroider using bullion knots and French knots now.

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Its a bit wonkily off centre but its my first go.

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I’ve already attached it to my scissors but I think it will get on my wick so if anyone can suggest another use for it I’d be glad to hear it.

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I think I chose the wrong shade of green for the leaves, mine are a bit on the dark side but then rose leaves are glossily dark aren’t they? I’m not an outdoorsy person so I could be wrong…

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The kit suggests a beaded loop or ribbon, I prefer ribbon I think the beaded loops look a bit scruffy.

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I sewed a button on the back to hid the ends of the ribbon and to give it a bit of weight on the back so it hangs nicely.

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The kit version has beads on the front too but I love French knots so I just went a bit mad with those instead.

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Kathleen has a website but she doesn’t seem to be selling these kits but maybe if you emailed her she could rustle one up for you. http://www.kathleenlaurelsage.com/misc.html

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Discipline in crafting

What do all us crafters have in common? I suspect most of us are doing this anyway, I have literally 54 projects on the go, I’ve counted them and it was a bit of a shocker, its why I never get anything done.

I’ve decided a bit of discipline is needed so I’ve been finishing things one project at a time.  No really, I have. Instead of doing whatever takes my fancy I’ve actually seen things through to the end, including sewing up and pressing.  The only bit I’ve failed at is photographing and listing the finished items.

So just in the last fortnight I’ve finished making a baby cardigan, a 50’s style knitted hat, I’ve crocheted a collar and today finished beading a bracelet.  I’m really impressed with my self-control.  While I’m blowing my own trumpet I’m going to throw in the fact that I’ve completely cleared all the ironing. It was hours and hours of work but I got it in before the energy company price hikes at least.

I made a list of all the projects I’ve yet to finish and as I finish the ones I enjoy the rejoin the list again at the bottom. Some things are just getting crossed off – like Dorset buttons.  I made a few but decided I didn’t like them so I’m giving up on Dorset buttons.

Next on the list is ‘drawing’ this isn’t really something you can complete though is it?  I put it on the list because I have lots of embroidery plans but its no good having ideas in your head, you have to get them on paper before you can get them on linen and I have limited skills with a pencil.  Its something you need to practice regularly isn’t it, like flexing a muscle.  I’m not going to be able to make a start on my embroidery ambitions until I can brush up my drawing skills.

My poor handbag now has another item to lug around and goodness knows there’s enough stuff being carted around in there every day as it is but I think I probably need to draw or at least doodle something every day to get on track. So to add to the notebook I carry in case I have a good idea about something now I have a little sketch pad. I really want to pick up a needle and all those gorgeous de Havilland embroidery threads I bought at last year’s Knitting and Stitching Show and get going, but I want to create something special, a high quality individual piece and if I don’t do the ground work I won’t achieve that will I?

Workshops – a quiet addiction

I think I could become a bit addicted to one-day workshops, it’s a manageable addiction as long as you don’t go for the super expensive ones.  It started off years ago when I did a one day workshop on making a small quilt in an adult learning centre in dear old Walthamstow.  Oh now that was a lovely workshop. I made the most gorgeous quilt (in my mind) and gave it away without taking pictures because of course I was going to make hundreds of them.  Never made another.  Still mean to.

Then I joined a regular one-day beading workshop at Fleet Library, only £20 for a whole day! What a bargain, but then factor in the need to provide all your own materials and that somehow the next project always needs you to buy more, more, more and before you know it you’ve spent another £10 and you go home with another unfinished project to add to the guilt-pile.

I signed up for a one-day goldwork course at Pandora’s in Guildford.  That’s a nice venue for a workshop but a bit more expensive at £55 for the day but then again all materials thrown in.  The teacher was Sophie Long who is without a doubt a well-qualified expert and is very good at passing on skills.  You get what you pay for.  My attempt was beautifully framed at Fleet Frames (on Kings Road) who I would certainly recommend, if its worth framing its worth framing properly.  I think it cost me nearly £50 but it was worth every penny they spent quite a long time with me to make sure we got the combination of frame style and mount colours correct.

At Unravel I did the Knitting with Beads workshop by the wonderful Fiona Morris.  I think adding beads to knitted lace could be something I could really get into.  Please do have a look at her website when you have time http://www.distanceknitting.com/events.php Fiona’s a great teacher and she teaches in a variety of locations. I bought a few patterns from her too.

Just the other weekend I did a mini-workshop at the Make-It Show in Farnborough where I made that lovely felt needlecase you might have seen my other post about. I wish craft and haberdashery shops would do mini informal drop in workshops like that, I’d love to be able to have a little go at something in my lunchbreak.

Now my friend has introduced me to The Bead Base in Basingstoke who also do beading workshops, I’m very tempted.

Also on my radar are the Japanese Embroidery group that meet in Yately twice a month, now that is something I would like to get into. Its just too beautiful. I have to join them.

My problem is I think I’m running out of time to do everything. There just aren’t enough weekends. Maybe I should ditch the beading…

Make It Show at Five, Farnborough

This was my third visit to the Make it Show, I’m not sure how long its been running in total.  The first year it was virtually all card making and that’s not my thing so I found it quite boring.  The second year it had a better mixture with some beading and knitting stalls too, this year it’s improved again. There was a much better mixture of crafts, its still very heavy on the card making but it’s a popular craft so I can’t complain too much.

What was really nice was that alongside the official workshops that had been organised (again heavy on the paper crafts) a few of the stalls ran their own mini-workshops.  If I say so myself I made the nicest cutest needle case you ever did see. I’ll take a photo of it and add it to my blog later on if I get a chance. I did that with the Embroiderers Guild who are hoping to start a new group in Farnborough, there will be an exploratory meeting on 18th April in the evening.  I would love to join but evenings are a pain in the jacksy.  I’ve been meaning to buy a needle case for ages and haven’t seen one I liked so far so for £5 with materials thrown in this made my day.  I’m delighted with it.

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The biggest let-down of the show again was the awful refreshments, you could basically have chips, more chips, cheesy chips, a hog roast, super-greasy noodles or a cheese and tomato sandwich all at eyewatering prices.  I had a hot chocolate and a really ropey muffin for £5! I kicked myself for not bringing my own. I think it was the same people that catered last year and they haven’t improved their customer service either. Rough!

I saw Marilyn, who runs the beading workshop I go to once a month on a card stall so I had a bit of a chat with her for a while. She’d bought some lovely vintage buttons.

The other big treat of the day was the Japanese Embroidery people, see the link below for the most beautiful work.  The Japanese Embroidery people are at every single craft show, their work is exquisite and its something I’d love to have a go at doing.  They use silks and beading to create beautiful art.  Honestly it makes me go swoony.  The problem is they’re a prickly bunch.  I’ve never managed to get close to one, they’re usually all set up stitiching away but they concentrate hard on not making eye contact and if you try to start a conversation you get short shrift indeed.  Not with the Yateley Group.  You couldn’t hope to meet nicer women, the tutor was there with one of her (must be) star pupils and they couldn’t have been more willing to indulge me and my cooing. I loved them. Count me in! Even better they’re only in Yately and they do workshops twice a month for a whole day on SATURDAYS!! Finally something that’s available to people that work full time.  They even lend you the frame, awl and some other doings for the first three months. You have to buy the instruction book yourself and the threads etc but its not that expensive.  I am going to be a very happy woman indeed if I can join that happy band.

http://www.japaneseembroidery.com/class/all_phases_class.html#phasedesigns

I still couldn’t find anyone selling knitting needle cases or or nice row counters.  That’ll be something to look for when I go off to Olympia in a couple of weeks time with Trumans Coaches.  My first coach trip – I cannot wait.

Goldwork – Framed at last

I think it might have been nearly a year ago that I did a goldwork one-day workshop in Pandora in Guildford. Below is a pic of what I came home with and the final framed result.

It then took me months on end to finish the last of the embroidery and just as long again to actually take to the framers and get it on the wall.

It was a lovely day, I must say I’m not overly keen on Pandora, I find the staff very hit and miss, mostly miss, but the person running the course was a outsider and was absolutely great. Its a huge shame that they don’t seem to be using her again this year because I was looking forward to doing another.

I don’t think goldwork is something I would do regularly, I’m really not a goldy person but the techniques were interesting and it did remind me that embroidery and surface embellishment are my first love and that I should really try to keep my hand in.

Have I though? Have I chuff.

Here’s a picture – the framing was done by Fleet Frames, who did an excellent job of it (not the double mount to keep the glass from squishing the embroidery, and were really lovely when I went it to place the order and to collect the finished item. Really, if you live near me and need something framed they would be the only people I’d recommend. They sell some gorgeous ready made frames too.