Sunday, August 26, 2012

Week #31 - Cross Stitch with Purple Thread Designs

Amy from Purple Thread Designs was one of the first crafty people I met when I moved from Manchester to Bristol last year, and the monthly 'coffee and craft' meet up that she organises were one of my first introductions to the wonderfully crafty world of Bristol that I now all home; so of course her unique and lovely cross stitch kits were on the top of my 'to-do' list when it came time to plan out all the new skills I wanted to pick up throughout my 52 week challenge.

Although I try do be a 'jack of all trade's' in the craft world, cross stitch was an area of work I'd never quite broached for a number of reasons... Firstly, although I can be patient for some things, my patience levels are a bit unpredictable and I wasn't sure if the combination of patience and precision would suit me.  Secondly, I'd never really seen a cross stitch kit that caught my eye or interested me enough to want to try doing. I'd seen lots of small projects featuring cutesy scenes and characters... or large projects which I really liked but seemed too much to take on as a beginner, but never anything that suited my tastes or skill level.  That is until I found Amy's unique designs which seem to perfectly bring the art of cross stitch up to date, with a bit of a modern twist, while also preserving the classic and traditional look of the craft.

For those thinking about taking on cross stitch let me tell you a little bit about my learning journey and experience taking on my first project.

Phase 1. The Naive Stitcher (up to 15% of completion)

In this phase, I did my first few 'X's and immediately began telling people how easy, fun and quick I thought the project would be! I was elated and astounded to find out how simple cross stitching could be and felt that the project would be a breeze. The novelty of it all kept me speeding through and tracing the black outline of the chocolate bar in the pattern was skillfull enough and required enough counting that it kept me busily counting and stitching, seemingly covering lots of the pattern very quickly.

Phase 2. The 'What Did I Get Myself Into?' (15% to 30% of completion)

This phase isn't as bad as it sounds; but it hit me at the point that I was filling in the chocolate bar and I realised that the process of filling in the spaces between my outline would be a significantly slower process and perhaps not quite as fun... but because I didn't have to count (the pattern was there for me to fill in), it did go a little faster and I was able watch tv and chat with friends and do more while I was working.

Phase 3. The 'I can do this' (30% to 80%).

This was the phase in which my growing impatience became outweighed by my growing confidence. I was starting to realise that I was getting a bit faster, and that if I alternated between the filling in bits and more precise counting stitches bits I could mix up what I was doing. During this phase I also reached the point in which I began to truly believed that I would finish the project, because my work began to look more and more complete and I could see the piece coming together.

Phase 4. The homestretch (the last 20%)

This was really the most fun part of the cross stitching and made up for all my moments of impatience earlier in my work. I could really start to see the pattern coming together, and most importantly believed that I could finish it and knew I had enough patience left to last! I was also starting to look forward to showing it off and seeing how it looked in my frame, which was enough to keep my going.  Although as is my habit, when I come to the end of a project I tend to get over excited and rush a bit, making careless mistakes and getting tangled... but all in all, the pay off was great! Check out my results.

The moral of my story is: don't give up! Keep going, and you'll totally appreciate all the work you have put into the project... I must admit, that new cross stitch projects won't sit on the top of my to-do list but now that I know I can do it, I do have a few new ideas up my sleeve and am sure I'll be revisiting it again.

Amy's kits come with pre-cut lengths of embroidery floss, perfectly easy-to-follow instructions and patterns, and everything you need to get going and get stitching! Do give them a go, as they are lots of fun and suitable for both beginners and those with lots of experience.

My 'I need Chocolate' project will be for sale in this gorgeous frame starting this evening on e-bay and of course, 100% of the sale will go to Macmillan Cancer Support.

Special thanks to Amy for donating both the kit and her expertise to the challenge and for giving me that extra little push to discover the world of cross stitch!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Week #30 - Felted Matryoshka Tutorial

Just a quick little update on my promise to deliver a Felt Matryoshka Tute... I took some step by step photos which might help you if you are raring to go and make your own, but I'm not going to try to teach you to needle-felt from scratch because there are loads of videos you can watch, and better yet, workshops and courses you can take to get your head around the basics.

Start with two main pieces of felt for the body and head (scarf), and roll them into two three-inch rounds. These will form the top and bottom of the body. Shape them into rounds, leaving a little bit loose on the end that will be the head/scarf so that the ties of the scarf can be formed, and the two pieces can be felted together.

I started by felting the bottom into a round/slightly squashed aubergine shape. As I felted these shapes I turned them over making sure to keep them flat and pancake-like.

To felt the top, shape it into a round head at one end, but leave the bottom a bit loose.

Then split the bottom of the head, to create the ties of the Matryoshka's scarf.

As I felted, I kept the piece about 50% bigger than I wanted the finished product - see above for the comparison of sizes as I worked on the brooch.

See future Matryoshka and finished Matryoshka.
Once you have the main body, scarf, and ties secured together, felt the whole thing to about 25% larger than you want the finished product. At this point don't turn it over too much, felt over the top and around the sides with your needle, but do pick it up off the foam every now and then and smooth out the back a little.

Once you have the body nice and firm, but still soft enough to felt into, then start adding colours and shaping your doll's features.

Add some colour for the face.
Then the hair.
The eyes... 

Add aprons and decorations, and then once you have the complete look felt the entire thing a little more shrinking it, tightening the weave, and shaping it as you see fit.

Once you have the finished doll, you may choose to spray it lightly with a little soap and water. This isn't done by everyone, but I found it added a smoother more finished look to the item. 

Once you are happy, sew on a brooch back. And Voila! 

These badges and their little squirrel friend are all on sale on ebay this week to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support, so why not bid on one yourself or share the auction with someone who might be interested?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Week #30 - Felting in the Wilderness

Last weekend I disspeared for a few days into The Wilderness Festival, which was by and far my best festival experience to date... So much good food, music, workshops, swimming, sunshine, and even a little two hour spa session to revive us before the final night of parties!

It was gorgeous, have a little look at some of the photos I took.

While in the wilderness my friend and I were lucky enough to stumble upon Emma Fountain's gorgeous tent and workshop space, and we took a nice quiet hour or so to learn the basics of needle felting. In just a small tent and canopied area, Emma created an amazingly welcoming and creative space where we were able to browse some of her work, look through the wide range of materials and get some crafty ideas of our own.  She certainly runs an amazing one-woman show, teaching both wet and needle felting at the same time, and teaching festival goer after festival goer through the entire weekend!

We decided needle felting was for us, and before long we were pulling, prodding and pricking our felt to make some small little creatures. My festival pal made a little turtle brooch and I made a stand along little sausage dog.

It was so much fun that by the time I was at home in festival recovery, I was already plotting a change of plans so that I could continue felting through the week...  and I decided that for week #30, I'd whip up a few little felt brooches, inspired by my weekend in the Wilderness.

Check out these little Matryoshka brooches, and this little squirrel friend brooch.

These little brooches will be auctioned off on e-bay for Macmillan Cancer Support as always, and I'll also be posting a little step-by-step Matryoshka tutorial for those who want to create their own.

Please stay tuned to the blog for updates as the auctions go live! (and please check out current auctions below.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Week #29 - Whose is Whose Wine Glasses

This week's craft (well technically last week's craft) is real simple and straightforward... but despite it being so easy I didn't have quite enough time to finish it off and photograph it before I headed out for my weekend away at the Wilderness Festival. Now done, dusted, and near-recovered from all the fun and frolics, I'm ready to show you week #29's craft.

I'm definitely not able to take credit for this idea, I've seen it all over the internet including here, and here, and here...  There are tutorials in so many varieties across the internet that it would be impossible to attribute the idea to one person and/or pointless to write my own... but if I did it would basically go like this;

1. Tape
2. Spray
3. Let Dry
4. Remove Tape
5. Enjoy

These chalkboard wine glasses are a great idea for a summer party... not only does the matte finish of chalkboard spray paint look quite nice, but its also a very fun and practical idea for keeping drinklet mix ups.

From the images I hope you and see just how easy a craft this is!

And the end product is just oh so nice!

If you think this set of Six Glasses would be perfect at your upcoming end of summer party and you'd like to help add to my running total of funds I've raised for Macmillan Cancer Support, then you can bid on these lovely glasses which are up for a short auction ending this Sunday, August 19th.

Once the auction is up it will appear live below - but please keep an eyes as this little gadget below might lead you to believe there is more time than there is to bid! Please visit the auction itself and 'watch' it on ebay to make sure you don't miss you.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Week #28 - Cath Kidston Bag - London Theme

I'm going to publicly admit something, which I've learned to keep quiet in my crafting circles... they say that in polite conversation you shouldn't mention politics or religion in order to avoid controversy; but in the past, when I've let this little secret drop, I've found it much more explosive than any political or religious views.

My secret is: I totally do not get Cath Kidston.

Shock. Horror.

I'm sorry!

There are two things in this world that other people seem to think I should love, but I totally do not understand the appeal of: one is the 'Glee' phenomenon and the other is Cath Kidston.

I mean, I see some of the appeal: I understand that Cath Kidston produces great designs, lovely products, and is obviously successful and literally has millions of fans, it's just that Cath Kidston fabrics and designs have never appealed to me personally, (probably because I'm not big on florals)... I guess where I normally break a lot of gender barriers in my interests and tastes, there is a line on the socially constructed gendered-interest spectrum where Cath Kidston's beautiful products and fabrics sit and the extreme end of my interests begin. I suppose to add to my confusion, the fact that I don't totally understand the appeal of it means I'm not sure what to do with it and/or how to make use of it myself.

But just because you don't understand something, doesn't mean you can't engage with it or give it a try. That's why "conquer C.K." has been on my to-do list for so long, and why I have been meaning to put some C.K. to use in a 52 weeks : 52 craft project.

So amid the recent Cath Kidston Sale, I walked right into the shop determined to find something to work with, and to my own shock and surprise, I did! I bought some lovely sale fabric to make a bag for a friend, and also fell in love (imagine my surprise) with this London Scene fabric, which I think is a timely fabric to use given the Jubilee and Olympic fever that has swept the world.

I also recently purchased this showoff bag pattern by made by r.a.e. (and the corresponding Sellers Licence) so that I could make and sell this for my 52 weeks : 52 crafts fundraiser.

It was a very straightforward pattern to follow, and I'm really pleased with the results. I made the bag slightly smaller than the pattern, but kept the straps a nice long length because I hate tiny strapped bags, I also adapted the inside pocket, and added wadding to the top part of the bag to give it a little more firmness and a slightly padded look.

Have a look at my results:

I'm pleased with the contrast of the inner fabric. You can see the pocket I adapted in this shot.

Close up of the gorgeous London fabric.
This bag will go up for auction tonight with 100% of the sale going to Macmillan Cancer Support, the same goes for the finger knit cushion and laser cut mobile from previous weeks. When the auctions are live they'll appear below.

Friday, August 3, 2012

August Break 2.0

Oops, there I go again!!!! At least this is for a 52 weeks 52 crafts project!

Love this Karma Baby fabric!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

August Breakin'

Still on a post shopping high from my favourite fabric shop on earth, but heading to another one today which could lead to more overspending!

I'm taking part in the August Break and posting photos of what I'm doing through the month... and trying to take a photo every day...might be a bit of a challenge, as August is gonna be a hectic month, but why not take up another excuse to stop and savour what I'm doing amongst the busyness?