Saturday, July 28, 2012

Week #27 - Finger Knittin' Good

note: please excuse my photos, I am without camera this week... feels like I'm missing a finger, which incidentally I am, as I also literally down the use of one finger!

Since the moment I was introduced to finger knitting I have absolutely adored the idea and the simplicity of it... but to be honest, I've never known what to do with the endless strands of chunky cables it produces! My lovely friend Nico over at Ophelia Button makes some gorgeous finger-knit scarves and accessories but I've never quite worked out how I can turn this:

into something worthwhile...

that is until a nice chat and crafty catch up with Sam of Ministry of Craft turned me on to this tutorial for a finger knit cushion.

"Ooooh! Ahhhhh!" you say? Well yes, the only downside is that I've made about a bajillon (real number) cushions this year, but the fact that I've somehow managed to avoid ANY knitting patterns trumped that and despite missing one of four crucial things needed for finger knittings (a finger) I bravely pushed forward using my wrong hand and created my finger knit cables.

But, of course... It wouldn't be a Lazy Crafternoons project if I didn't put my own little spin on it... so I thought to myself: If I can use finger knit cables to create a striped cushion, couldn't I also use finger knit cushions to create a woven cushion? and the answer was "yes!".

 I followed the tutorial exactly, only I attached just one colour of knitting in 12 stripes horizonally across the cushion, and then knit and secured 12 separate cables in my contrasting colours.  I had a bit of fun trialling different patterns... have a look and see what I ended up with.

All my strips laid out

checker board look

chevron styles

i'm not sure what to call this
After playing with a number of designs I settled on the above, and then sewed up either side of the cushion to secure the black cables before completing the tutorial in the same way.  I finished the project with an envelope back.

Later this week this item will go up for auction for Macmillan Cancer Support as I continue my fundraiser... please check back for auction details if you'd like to get your hands on this item!

We Came, We Saw, We Made Things...

For those cunning little followers who keep a close eye on my online activities you might know that I've been taking part in a little side project (and soon to be taking-over-the-world project) called Making Things Club here in Bristol.

Lori from Tenderfoot and I put heads together to create a new monthly night that brings you the best of music, crafts, drinks, food and good friends. You can bring your own projects or dive into our crafty stash all for just £5.00

If you like the looks of what these crafty folk are up to, then why not join us next month? You can find us on facebook and visit the event page by clicking the poster below.

Aside from nearly cutting my finger off and spending the wee hours of the next morning in A & E, Making Things Club was a big success and we are working ever so hard to make next months event even more successful. Please send us your suggestions for the next event here on the Making Things Club blog.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pattern Review - Sweet Greetings Portfolio

As a part of my 52 week : 52 craft challenge, I recently made Amy Butler's Sweet Greetings Portfolio set, and this week I've been blogging about my top tips for following patterns and promising a full tutorial review.

In the past I've followed a number of Amy Butler's patterns, both from her books and from her collection of free online patterns.  In general I find her patterns really easy to follow and I appreciate them for their clarity and thoroughness: for example, lots of diagrams, clear explanations, clear details of materials and also suggested options for alterations/customisation.

For my 'Sweet Greetings' Portfolios I chose to use some fabric from Amy's new collection Gypsy Caravan, and chose the fabric tie rather than ribbon tie option (instructions explained this option) and I couldn't for the life of me find any brads, so I bought some 'do it yourself' fabric buttons, trimmed down the back and just sewed them on for decoration.

I'd really recommend this pattern for a just-past-beginner sewer or higher... It's quite a simple and straightforward project, but with all the pockets, ties, and finishing stitches it will put a good range of skills to use and take just enough time that you'll feel like you've accomplished something significant.  Small project, fair amount of work, but big payoff at the end when it comes together.  Also, the skills you'll hone making both portfolios are enough that by the end of it you'll be left thinking about all sorts of ways you could adapt the project, make notebook covers, etc...

My only criticism (and partly this is my fault for not noticing this when I read through from the beginning following my own top tips for tutorials and patterns) is that the dimensions of the larger portfolio made the finishing steps a bit awkward on my machine.

Ie. The chipboard inserts measure 7" by 10.5" and after inserting them, you are instructed to do a finishing stitch using your zipper foot.  The only problem with this is that the arm of my sewing machine, only reaches across at maximum 6 1/4" inches, making it a tight squeeze for the finishing stitches.

With a bit of manuevering, I did find a solution by tilting the side of the portfolio up but it was quite an awkward solution and my needle was grazing the side of the chipboard as I sewed. Also doing it this way meant I didn't use the zipper foot in the intended way (with the chipboard next to the edge of the foot), but I still managed to find a way.

If you have a sewing machine with a longer arm you'll be fine or you can always hand sew it finished... but those who know me, know I'll do anything to avoid ANY bit of hand sewing.  I highly recommend this pattern, and the beauty is that you could really play with fabrics to get a different effect: I'm thinking of making a similar one with some gunshot grey suiting I have, and making a slightly smarter professional looking portfolio as well.

Of course, there is still a bit of time to enter the giveaway to win the set of portfolios... and week #23's 'Under the Sea' Mobile item has be relisted on ebay ending Sunday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Top Tips for Tutorials and Patterns

This week I completed one of Amy Butler's free patterns - the Sweet Greetings portfolio and I'm raffling them off to help gain more followers for my 52 Weeks : 52 Crafts project. All you have to do is share, follow, tweet and post to collect more entries into the competition.

In the meantime, while writing up my tutorial review I thought it might also be useful for me to share my 'Top 5 Tips' for following and making patterns.

1. Read through every step first!

I know this seems obvious, but its really easy to just skim over everything, diagrams, etc before buying your fabric and other supplies, but it really helps to read through every single step first, so that when you are buying, cutting, preparing, and sewing you understand what you are doing, and why you are doing things in the instructed order.  Pattern writers aren't perfect, and sometimes little steps or bits of knowledge you don't have, get left out and/or aren't included because they are pieces of assumed knowledge, so its really important to read so you can make sure everything make sense in your mind before you start. There is nothing worse than having to stop halfway through because you don't know how to do a particular stitch or seam.

Note: Reading ahead also means you have knowledge of the entire project from the start so you can identify places where you might want to adapt the pattern to suit your own style.

2. Print out a copy (on scrap paper)

Use some scrap paper and print out a copy of your pattern or if you are reading from a book, photocopy it so you can write on it. This isn't the most environmentally friendly choice, but what you might waste in paper you may save on fabric, time, and other resources. Cross out every sentence, step and substep as you complete them.  Sometimes steps include several tasks and sub-steps, and it really does help to tick or cross out every step as you go - this is so you keep track of exactly where you are and so you don't get ahead of yourself by accident. Sometimes steps aren't where you expect them to be, and this way you don't get ahead of yourself... or for example, if you choose to do all your pressing/preparing tasks at once, but they are all listed in various steps throughout the pattern you can mark them off where they appear, and still keep track of what you have and haven't done.

3. Be realistic

Accept your level of sewing skill and remember that sewing should be enjoyable. So don't start by making a zippered purse and then move on to designing and assembling your own wedding dress! Choose patterns carefully and slowly add skills to your portfolio: think - envelope back cushion, zippered cushion, cushion with piped edges, frilled edges, patchwork cushion, etc... build up your skills one by one, not all at once. Believe me the work will be much more fun if every step isn't a brand new skill you have to learn.

Remember that there is a difference between a tutorial and a pattern. Patterns usually assume more knowledge and don't necessarily take you through every minor step. Free online tutorials will help get you started and then you can move on to buying patterns and templates for more advanced projects.

4. Take your time.

I know this isn't always possible as we are all guilty of making last-minute gifts in a time crunch, but even if you have to rush - try to pace yourself.  I always tend to make mistakes when I'm in the homestretch; that part of the making process when I feel like I'm almost finished and I'm so excited to be finished that I make silly mistakes.  There are lots of statistics saying that most of our car accidents happen within 10 miles of home... I think its the same for sewing... most 'accidents' or mistakes happen within the last few steps of a project (or also the last 15 minutes before we go to bed, when we really should have stopped earlier but wait until we make a mistake to get frustrated and give up for the night!).

5. Keep track of your progress/make notes.

It may not be your cup of tea to keep a craft diary, but if you blog, keep pattern pieces, or have a notebook your keep your thoughts in, take a few minutes to debrief once you are finished showing off your project.  We often need to stop halfway through projects and don't get back to projects as quickly as we'd like (I currently have have one of a pair of cathedral window pillowcases finished, and its been so long I can't for the life of me remember how I made the first one!).

Don't just keep a note of your progress as you work, but keep a note of what you found tricky, what solutions you found, and write some notes that will jog your memory - this will save frustration and time as you won't have to re-learn as many of the steps the second time around.  This is especially important if you are making multiple items from the same pattern.

Do you have any tips to share? Please comment and share your tips, and check out the rafflecopter widget below... a comment on the blog post can earn you an entry into the raffle, so why not share your wisdom as well?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

for more information on the above giveaway, please see my last post

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Week #26 - Sweet Greetings Portfolio Giveaway

The Sweet Greetings portfolio prizes are all finished and stuff with crafty goodness for the lucky winners - one set will be given away on the blog, while another set will be raffled off at the Mshed 'Magpie's and I' market Sunday, July 22nd at Bristol's Harbour Festival.

These portfolios were designed by Amy Butler and made by Lazy Crafternoons using Amy's new Gypsy Caravan collection of fabric. Have a look at how they turned out...

The portfolios are stuffed full of ribbons, buttons, badges, paper scraps, cards and more... and as the week goes on I'll be adding extra exciting bits and pieces to the collection.

Here's all you need to know about the contest

1. Entry is open between 5:00 am BST Sunday July 15th to 5:00 am BST Monday July 23.
2. The more ways you participate below, the more chances you have to win - some options like tweeting about the giveaway you can do daily, to score extra entries.
3. I'll pay the shipping costs for the winner to anywhere and everywhere, so please don't be shy if you are an international reader!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In addition to participating in the raffle, why not also check out the 52 weeks : 52 crafts clearance items listed in my online shop at :  You can buy these items at a set price, and 100% of the sale will go to Macmillan Cancer Support.

"Share and Win" Competition

So it has been brought to my attention that the best way to raise more money for Macmillan Cancer UK is to take part in a little bit of shameless self promotion, and so I'd like to introduce you to the "Share and Win" competition where you can help spread the word, earn competition entries, and increase your chances of winning a fab set of portfolios designed by Amy Butler and made by Chris of Lazy Crafternoons.

Here's all you need to know about the contest

1. Entry is open between 5:00 am BST Sunday July 15th to 5:00 am BST Monday July 23.
2. The more ways you participate below, the more chances you have to win - some options like tweeting about the giveaway you can do daily, to score extra entries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I've already made a set of the small portfolios and will be updating with a photo of the large portfolio soon. I'm also PACKING these portfolios full of crafty goodness, one set will be raffled off on the blog and another in person at the MShed market at the Bristol Harbourside Festival on July 22nd.

I also mentioned in my last post that there would be more news coming on changes in the Lazy Crafternoons 52 weeks : 52 crafts projects... Since I've had some some trouble clearing my back log of extra made items and unsold crafts on ebay, I've now listed them in my online shop at

After items have been up for auction twice, they will now be listed at set prices in my online shop where I will still donate 100% of the sale to Macmillan Cancer Support... but once they are gone, they are gone... so if you see something you like shop quickly!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Week #25 a few little changes...

Now that week's #25 and #26 are upon us, and I'm reaching the halfway point of completed projects, I've decided its time to have a think, a ponder, an assessment, etc... and re-jig the 52 Weeks : 52 Crafts project just a little bit.

So far I couldn't be more pleased with how the project has gone, but I know that I need to be a little more active in the 'shameless self-promotion department' and so Week #25 and #26's projects are all about getting more followers, raising more money and spreading the make and do word.

A few weeks the very talented and inspirational Amy Butler (yes THAT Amy Butler) posted about my challenge on her facebook page, and I got to thinking about how, after plowing through her book 'In Stitches' making project after project, it had been a while since I'd taken on one of her projects...  After a few emails back and forth with her and her team, I had the idea to follow the free pattern for her 'Sweet Greetings Portfolios' and to do a multi-week pattern review, and prize giveaway of what I made.

So this week I'm making two of the small portfolios in some fabrics from her new Gypsy Caravan collection, and next week (we'll really this weekend!) I'll be making two of the large portfolios to go with them. I'll be blogging over the next few days with a review of the pattern and my personal 'top tips' for pattern following.

One set of portfolios will be auctioned off on the blog via. my new favourite widget Rafflecopter and the other set will be raffled off in person along with some other crafty wares, at the MShed 'Magpie's and I' market taking place as part of the Bristol Harbourside Festival on Sunday July 22nd.

The online raffle will run from 5:00 am, Sunday July 14th to 5:00 am Monday July 23rd (sorry for the odd times, rafflecopter chooses to use Eastern Standard Time) - and the copter will be available in a separate blog post popping up on Saturday.

This way you can support the project by spreading the word and help me get more followers even if you don't live in Bristol and can't come along to see me in person.

This morning I finished my two small portfolios, and I've got all the pieces ready for a perfect sunday afternoon make-a-thon where I'll make two of the large ones.

Small Portfolios made with Gypsy Caravan - Don't you just love the patterns?
Please don't forget that the lavender bag and under the sea mobile auctions are closing tonight and over the weekend, so please check them out and spread the word as well... and stay tuned for some more announcements about some other exciting new developments in the 52 weeks : 52 crafts project.

Monday, July 9, 2012

crafting and quilting and caring, oh my!

As many of my followers know, crafting is very close to my heart - it pretty much rules my entire life (and 95% of storage place in my home)... if I could make a venn diagram which plotted my crafty interests alongside my interests in crafting for people or for a good cause, then the project I'm about to tell you about would fall smack dab in the middle, in the perfect storm of patchwork, quilting, creativity, collaboration and caring.

I found out about this project through my lovely friend Kyla who I sadly do not know as well as I would like too... you see, we have sort of parallel life paths that only occasionally seem to meet up. For example, we both did the same internship at the same museum, but at different times... we've both lived in Bristol, but at different times, and we share a similar set of common friends... though occasionally the universe does allow me to spend some time with her... I mostly find out about her through our social media connections and all the updates I see about the amazingly creative things she is up to in her corner of the world.

I'm not sure I could do the story any more justice than the Edmonton Journal already has, but Kyla was among one of the many friends and loved ones of artist Darren Zenko who came together to create something beautiful and everlasting when he was moved into palliative care towards the end of his battle with cancer.

Please read more about it here  OR have a look at the gallery of patches here:

Just one of the many beautiful patches in the quilt created by Darren Zenko's loved ones.

Now I'm not so naive that I think that creative arts and crafts is going to solve all of the worlds problems or protect us from all pain and hardships, but the longer I carry on crafting, the more I realise that it plays a more important role in my life than being something that I do for just business or pleasure.

Without getting too philosophical, I think we really do put a little of ourselves into everything we make - whether it be a one-off unique gift for someone, a commissioned piece or even a long run of similar items we design and make for sale.  People use religion, philosophy, literature and science to help them understand the world and get through day to day life, and I'm not ashamed to say that I use crafting.

I craft out of happiness, I craft out of frustration, I craft out of sadness sometimes too.  Crafting provides me with the space to clear my mind, put things in perspective and pour a part of me into something physical. It's not always as meaningful as that, but I know it can be if I want it to be. Earlier this year I wrote about what motivated me to start my 52 Week : 52 Craft challenge, and how crafting filled my need to do something at a very difficult time... this project really touched me and really inspires me as I reach the halfway point in my fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support.

I don't expect all of our creations to be preserved in museums and galleries for eternity, but there is something a little comforting in making, and giving, and knowing that you are making something that carries with it some real posterity.

This project is really inspiring because I know that it must have not only meant so much to Darren himself, but it also helped bring people together and gave his loved ones a way to help in a very difficult time.  This new object, created by many hands, doesn't just tell the story of one person, but it preserves the story and experience of a connected web of people at a very significant moment when all their lives collided under sad circumstances.  I hope that in this very difficult time, they've found a bit of joy in what they did and what they were able to create together.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Week #24 - Laser Cut Mobile - Under The Sea

For this week's craft I wanted to do something a little bit different and so I approached my absolute favourite arts and craft haven Fred Aldous and asked them if they would donate an hour of time with their laser cutting machine to the project.

For those who don't know; Fred Aldous is an art supply paradise smack dab in the middle of Manchester's Northern Quarter... but you don't have to go to Manchester to visit them. Their website perfectly solves the dilemma many of us face when it comes to choosing between supporting independent retailers and finding great deals online: Fred Aldous started off in 1886 selling cane, willow and yeast, and they now offer more than 25,000 products!

I've used Fred's laser cutter hire service in the past, and always had lots of fun cutting out my various christmas decorations, badges and other projects... so with baby visits still on the brain, I thought I'd approach them with a plan to cut out an under-the-sea mobile for week #24's project.

The Laser Cutter at Fred Aldous

Paul and Elle were really accommodating and we organised an hour of laser-time in their studio, as well as access to enough free scraps to cover my project.

For details on how to hire the Laser Cutter at Fred's click above.

This time I was raring to go and prepared from my past experience... but upon my first visit a few years' back, I was quite a newbie and found the staff gave really helpful advice when it came to preparing my designs and making the most out of my hire-time. Within no time, the machine was cutting away my seahorses, jellyfish, whales, fish, and starfish.

Check out the laser in action:

Within the hour I had a nice stack of shapes cut, and was ready to go home, stain them, string them up and hang my mobile.  Because I didn't trust myself to guess how the pieces would hang, I did not use the laser to cut the hanging holes and instead did that at home myself with a drill... this also made sure I had some adaptability with how I planned on hanging the project.

The mobile is hung with strong brown linen thread, and all of the knots are both tied and fastened with crimped beads for safety.  Please have a look at how it turned out and don't be shy to share your thoughts and comments.

The silhouette of the mobile

Thanks to the generosity of Fred Aldous' donated laser-time and materials, this item will be up for auction with 100% of the sale going to Macmillan Cancer Support, starting tonight, Sunday, July 8th and ending in one week's time Sunday, July 15th at approximately 8:17 pm.  In the meantime, while you are waiting for the auction go live, please browse the two other items I have ending today!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Week #23 - Pram blanket continued...

Thanks for your patience as I solved the technology gap that was preventing me from posting.

I decided not to do a full step-by-step tutorial for this one, as a lot of the basic steps are covered in some of my other tutorials... but I'm going to go through a few of the steps to show you just how I did it.

Firstly, I assembled 6" by 2" strips into a lovely french braid pattern, before trimming it down to a clean 5.5" strip measuring the length of the blanket (31 inches with 1/2 seam allowances).

Then using a 1/4" seam I attached it to some linen pieces to complete the top, and sandwiched the top, back, and cotton wadding layers together basting with pins. (Laying the top and back pieces rights side facing, with the wadding behind it).

Then I sewed around the edges (pivoting at the corners) using a 1/2" seam leaving about a 6 inch gap for turning the project inside out.

Then I turned the project inside out, pressed, and basted about every 5 inches with safety pins. You can see in the above shot that the 1/2" seam folds into the project so that I when I sewed around the exterior with a scant 1/4 seam, the hole is closed up by my top stitching.

I Finished the project with a top stitch around the border, and then some wavy stitches to quilt the layers together... I tied off my ends, trimmed them, and voila!

This linen blanket, and the unsold lavender bag from last week are listed on ebay and will end this Sunday evening, so please bid and support Macmillan Cancer Support!

** please note the auctions above update only once an hour, so there may be less time to bid than you think! please click to follow the link.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Week #23 - Pram Blanket (better photos to come!)

This week I've been crafting in my home-away-from-crafty-home Manchester, while in town to teach a few workshops with Ministry of Craft.

Things have been a bit baby-centric in my life lately, as I've had my sister and 9-month old nephew visiting, so in the spirit of having survived a week with a baby in the house, and to fill the tiny void they left when they departed back to Canada, I decided to go for a baby-rrific craft this week!

Just a few kinks in my plans however: first off, all the lovely step-by-step shots I took for a mini tutorial are trapped on my camera (both my first-string battery and back up battery have somehow failed!!!) and also after neatly pressing my project this morning I folded it up into my bag, and it being linen it naturally creased beyond all recognition and so I'm struggling to take a good photo of it with only my iphone camera.

But I decided I'd persevere and update now anyway, with a plan to provide better photos and a rough step-by-step guide when the technological stars decide to finally align for me.

So this week's project is a simple pram/stroller/travel blanket made with a french braid patchwork strip and some lush natural italian linen I've had saved up for a nice project.  I wanted to do something light and summery, and I decided this was the right project to use it for.

I've been meaning to try this french braid patch for a while, and also picked up some lovely baby-ish fabric while I was away in France in June so I decided it was time to give it a go.  Normally I shy away from using baby or children's prints because I find it difficult to find ones that aren't too cutesy or overly childish, but this little print featuring turtles, teddys, houses, trees, and elephants was really sweet and I already had some fabrics I knew it would match with nicely.

Above is the close up of the french braid strip, and here is the finished product. Please forgive the poor quality photos, and clear lack of pressing!

The blanket itself is made from 100% linen (front and back), with the patchwork strip made from cotton prints, and a layer of natural soft cotton wadding sandwiched in the middle. It measures roughly 30" by 26" so its just the right size for a pram, to take in the car, or to take as a changing mat/play mat away from home.

I'll tell you a little more about how I made it in my next post, where you'll also be treated to photos that are not only colour-accurate but also in focus!

As I post there there are just 45 minutes left to bid on last week's Lavender Bag

... and this item will also soon be up for auction with 100% of the sale going to Macmillan Cancer Support. Please check back for auction details and my tutorial!