Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Craft #7: Picnic Bag

I suppose this bag could be used for about a million different things - but given the recent appearance of spring flowers, and the longer warmer days we are experiencing, I've decided it's going to be called a 'picnic bag'.

I've wanted to apply my patchworking skills to different products, and after coming across these beautiful heavy cotton and linen fabrics I purchased at The Makery Emporium in Bath I was inspired to create a patchwork picnic bag.

The project represents a few crafts on my 'to-do' list.

1. trying out a kaleidoscope quilt block - (I'm amazed at the patterns you can create with different use of colours)
2. I wanted to adapt this 'how to draft a pattern' tutorial for a small zippered purse into a larger project

Using graph paper, I drafted a pattern for a bag made up for 4" kaleidoscope blocks... the faces of the bag are made up of a 12 blocks in a 4 by 3 rectangle, the bottom covered in plain cotton canvas, and the sides made up of more 4" blocks.

I basically just enlarged the pattern using straight edges instead of angled sides, and followed the tutorial leaving out the zipper attaching some straps into the seam between the exterior and the lining. Oh yeah, and rather than piece all my blocks together as a whole, I quilted them onto a layer of wadding to give the bag more strength and stability.

I'm pretty happy with the results... what do you think? If there is sufficient interest from my readers, I'll post again this week with a more straightforward tutorial.

The bag will be going up for auction as a part of my 52 weeks: 52 craft challenge, and 100% of the sale price will go to Macmillan Cancer Support.

If you think this would be great for your picnic plans, or you can give it a home as a knitting bag, a shopping bag, a beach bag, etc why not bid for it and support a great cause? The auction details will appear below once it's listed.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

labour of loss

I've just finished a knitting project that I've been working on (and off) now for a few years, and finishing it has served as a gentle reminder of how much things have changed for me as well as the reasons why I started the 52 Weeks: 52 Crafts fundraising project.

In November 2009, I got an unexpected phone-call with news of a turn in my father's health which resulted in me dropping everything and flying home to be with my family. My father had been living with cancer for a few years, going through a range of treatments as well as having a major operation which really took a toll on his overall health. He was a fighter who continued to do the things he loved to and made a near-complete recovery from his operation which allowed him to spend the last year of his life spending time with his family, working hard, and taking advantage of his second chance to do all the things he had nearly lost.

Despite his very positive outlook and many signs pointing that he was on the mend, his health took a sudden turn which brought our family to his side in the hospital. When I arrived home to Toronto I joined my family in a very intense waiting game, where we watched my father carry on with the help of life support and waited for test results and signs of improvements.

When I don't know what to do, I craft. When there is nothing I can do to assist with a situation, I often try to keep my hands busy so that I at least feel like I am doing something. It is no wonder that arts and crafts are often employed as an occupational therapy, because it really feels good to make and create something at times where there is not much else to ease the passing time.

So in all those hours of waiting and watching, I started to knit.

The pattern was a simple entrelac knit scarf pattern I knew could be adapted to make a blanket. The pattern did not require any counting or real focus of my attention, so I bought some wool, picked up my needles and continued stitching until the very last minutes where we said goodbye to my father.

Over the next few weeks, the knitting was a comfort at times where there was a lot to cope with. I knit my stress away and kept myself busy, but as time progressed I put the project away as it became a sort of reminder of an experience I felt I had put behind me. When I returned to life in the U.K. six weeks later, I tucked the project away and stopped knitting. In fact, I didn't do much crafting at all; most of my creative activities slowed to a halt. I stopped playing music and guitar, I stopped knitting, I stopped making all together.

It took me a long time to notice the creative void I'd made in my life. It took even longer for me to realise that I wasn't just avoiding the knitting project because it reminded me of my father, but that I was avoiding any creative time or moments where I afforded myself time to relax and let my mind wander. I had been keeping myself distracted from my experience, and activities like playing guitar, drawing, knitting, and writing had become unstructured moments which were discomforting and overwhelming.

Avoiding these moments was easy in the short term, but ultimately only made my burden worse. I had taken away my main outlet for stress relief, and the longer I avoided it the harder it was to return to it.

But eventually... slowly but surely... I made room for this time in my life. In short focused moments, I got back to crafting and found time to check in with myself, let myself relax, and let myself think about the experience of losing my father. It was also very fortunate that I found a network of support where I was studying and met with other students and staff who had experienced loss.

I even made time to continue working on the blanket. Instead of a burden of unfinished work which I needed to put behind me, it became a symbol of something I was working through. At times when my I received news of my friends and family coping with their own struggles with cancer and illness - I knit. When I was missing out of important family events because I was overseas - I knit.

Over the course of two years, I always had the project by my side; sometimes picking it up when I needed a distraction, and sometimes picking it up when I needed to focus and remember. Instead of allowing my experience to hang heavy over me like a burden, I worked to accept it and carry it with me, understanding it for the strengths and weaknesses it brought to my life.

I thought that when I finished my blanket, I might look at it differently. I was worried that it might serve as a reminder of all the bad things and turn into a kind of physical manifestation of all the grief and stress I knit into it - but now that it's finished I love it more than ever. It represents my journey and serves as a reminder of how and why crafting is an important part of my life.

In 2012 I decided I'd try and put my crafting skills to good use, and turn the outlet that helped me into something that can help others - which is why I started my project to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. It is my hope that by continuing to make in my spare time, I'll be able to raise funds for people living with cancer and contribute to the support offered by Macmillan.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Craft #6: Star Cushion by Debbie Greenaway

The lovely and talented Debbie Greenaway has certainly delivered this week as the 52 Weeks: 52 Crafts project's first guest maker. Debbie's contribution to the project features one of her illustrations that she has screen-printed onto a gorgeous patchwork cushion.

Debbie shares where she gets inspiration for her illustrations;

"I try to carry a sketchbook with me at all times and/or a camera as you never know what or who you are going to see or what you may do on your travels. When I lived in Manchester, I used to take my sketchbook and draw on the streets as there would be plenty of inspiration about. Everyday people walking, flamboyant people, street musicians or artists, people with pet rabbits, buildings, shop signs, street events etc. I like to try and have a go at drawing most things that I find interesting, animals and people mainly but I am having a go at buildings and scenery - and situations. Anything goes but I often end up drawing times several times over until i have a feel for the character. Most of my sketchbooks look a bit like a diary as I think it is easier to draw what you are doing or draw things that you like but then again - a challenge is always welcome."

2012 is the start of a big year for Debbie, as she has left her day job to have a second go at self-employment as an illustrator and designer. In 2012 she is hoping to take part in more exhibitions and create at least one illustrated book of sorts! She has set up her own home screen-printing studio and would like to collaborate more with others on screen-prints or any illustrations projects. So do get in touch with Debbie if you have ideas for collaboration.

As her contribution to the project Debbie has generously donated a star cushion measuring approx. 40cm by 40cm (inner is a 16" square cushion). The cushion is made from new and up-cycled materials, and is screen-printed with her star design.
The main panel has been hand stitched together using printed and plain fabrics to create a hexagon pattern. The back of the cushion is the same colour as the side panels with a hidden zip across the middle. The front of cushion is lined inside.

Please click on the image above to see the auction page, and find out more details about the cushion.

This cushion is just one piece from Debbie's huge collection of work which you can browse in her Etsy shop including a number of other cushions and accessories that can brighten up your home.

Friday, February 17, 2012

get melting!

Just a quick update to say that due to mixed feedback, I've decided to post TWO body butter auctions.

One with a batch of 18 little body butter melts in a chocolate box, and another melting kit which gives you everything you need to make your own.

Check out my little beauties for auction below, and please don't forget to spread the word and big generously this week!

quick note: Sorry to say that in order to avoid complications with shipping organic products - these auctions are only available to ship within the U.K. - this will only be for this week, usually items will ship must further afield.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sneak Peak: Guest Maker Debbie Greenaway

While I'm not quite ready to reveal this week's craft - I'm happy to give you a sneak peak at the guest maker who is lending a hand to my craft challenge despite being in the midst of moving house!

Presenting our first guest maker - the lovely and talented, Debbie Greenaway

Debbie is an illustrator and printmaker, who is currently making a move from her hometown to the shiny bright lights of Coventry. From constant doodling to story sentence writing, Debbie likes developing characters from various things she may have seen or heard.

"I often take my camera and sketchbook out and about with me and draw from outside observation, overheard conversations or from my imagination. Screen-printing is my favourite way of working and often print on paper or fabric to create an assortment of items including limited edition prints, purses, stitched illustrations, badges, cards and bags. At the moment I am working on drawing people, characters with musical instruments, in the hope of creating a fictional band, some colourful images of a narrative nature and a illustrated book of sorts."

How long have you been making/crafting?
Often find this a difficult question to answer. Easy answer would be to say for a long long time! I spent my early years living with my grandparents (my mum's parents) and they often gave me things to sit and draw, paint or sew with. Grandad would spend a lot of time showing me how to draw Mickey Mouse and the Mr Men, while Grandma bought my pots of paint and plasticine. When the weather was nice I used to draw outside, on the walls and pavements with a brush and a large bucket of water. When I was older, spare time was often sat with friends drawing or making if we had supplies/materials/facilities to do so and it just seemed like a natural choice to make when it came to deciding what to do. But I have spent a few years working in between my studies and afterwards. Even now, I am toying with returning to some kind of employment as I miss having a more stable routine.

What made you decide to participate as a guest maker in the 52-week challenge?
I decided to take part in the challenge as I think it is fantastic to create work to help others. I also saw it as a way to keep to my 2012 goals of using up my existing box of materials as there are many bits of old, new and recycled bits in my boxes that I have forgotten about.

There will be lots more information coming about Debbie, as well as the unveiling of her contribution to the project over the weekend... but in the meantime why not check out her blog or find her on twitter.

While Debbie has been making this week's craft - I've been hard at work on a two-week doozy of a project that will be coming out in two weeks time. If you are low on patience why not browse the main project page which lists a number of auctions ending this evening to help pass the time!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Craft #5: Body Butters

Part of what I do as 'Lazy Crafternoons' is teaching people how to save a few pennies and make their own bath and body products. The things we pay for on the high on street can often be replicated easily at home and better yet, you can tailor them to suit your own tastes. Its easier than you think to make your own bathbombs, face masks, and body scrubs, but one of the simplest and most versatile products I make are these homemade body butters.

Making these body butters are simple:

All you need is a metal bowl, a pot full of water, some chocolate moulds or silicone ice cube trays and equal amounts of these three ingredients;
- Beeswax
- Cocoa Butter
- Coconut Oil

By melting these ingredients in equal amounts in a double boiler (set your metal bowl over a pot with a small amount of boiling water in it), you get a body butter that holds its shape and melts perfectly at body temperature. This means you can make your body butter in a range of shapes and sizes and use them in a range of ways: they are great on patches of dry skin, they work fantastic as a lip balm, use them on your cuticles, or warm them up in your hands and use them as a massage butter.

Simply melt all the ingredients together until they are just melted (be careful: if you heat too high, you'll burn out the lovely natural smells of the cocoa butter, beeswax and coconut oil - and if you let them heat too long you can risk burning and igniting them - remember: these are waxes and oils!).

Once fully melted simply pour the mixture into your choice of chocolate moulds, silicone ice cube trays, etc - use empty soft cheese containers for a soap-bar type shape, or pour into a small tin or container for keeping in your bag or at your desk at work.

Let them cool for a short while, and then turn them out and wrap them up any way you like!

You can play with the proportions of ingredients to get something softer and suitable for melting in the bath or something tougher if you want something more protective. You can also add essential oils to spice up the scent of the melts, or add elements like aduki beans to give nice texture for massaging.

I'm going to be listing a chocolate box full of these little goodies on e-bay this week, as well as putting together a melt-at-home kit including bowl, moulds and ingredients so you can make your own batch at home. Keep an eye on the blog as they will be listed soon!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Coffee on the brain...

So now that I've re-listed a number of items and reviewed my first four weeks of my 52 week challenge, I've come to realise that there is a recurring theme running over the past few weeks.

I guess the cold weather has got me subconsciously focused on staying in and keeping warm, as the last three crafts are all coffee/tea related!
Please have a look at the listings below as there are lots of coasters, coffee sleeves, and mug rugs ready to bid on! (listings will appear throughout the day today)

Don't worry, I have something entirely new and different on its way for this week (spoiler alert: I'll be giving away my recipe for homemade body butters) - and I'm also preparing to feature my first guest maker who will be appearing in two weeks time!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Craft #4: Tile Coasters

There is lots to report for 52 Weeks: 52 Crafts this week, but I of course have to start with this week's craft.

During Sew Mama Sew's Handmade Holidays this year, I came across this tutorial for tile coasters and I've had them marked on my to-do list ever since.

When it came time to make my own, I decided I'd try it out with some glass-tile coasters in various colours that I bought on sale at B&Q. Rather than follow the tutorial perfectly, I decided to make three sets - two with paper as suggested and one using an aztec-style patterned cotton fabric that happened to match the tile perfectly.

Here are my results:

Each colour coaster above represents one from a set of four, all of which have black felt bottoms so they sit nicely on your coffee table.

I've had mixed success with listing my auctions to end on a Sunday, so I'm going to try a mid-week listing which will appear tomorrow - with auctions ending next Wednesday February 15th.

After this week, any items which don't sell are going to be saved up and set aside for the project's first live event - which will be a table at Magpies and I Vintage and Craft Market, coming up on March 25th at the Mshed.

Please stay tuned for a post tomorrow featuring auctions and more information on this upcoming event.

...and now for a post-craft cup of tea!

Friday, February 3, 2012

something (a little) different...

... Oh I'm just working away on next week's craft and I'm so pleased with it that I had to give a little sneak preview.

I'm adapting an online tutorial for turning tiles into coasters, by using some glass coasters, paper and fabric - and so far I've got three sets of coasters that I just love.

I thought it was time for something a little different - but then I couldn't help but use the same aztec inspired turquoise and black fabric that I used in one of my coffee cup cozies

Just a few coats of krylon and some felt bottoms and these babies will be ready to go!