Friday, 30 January 2009

Fickle Friday

In contrast to yesterday's post, this post will have few words and a lovely image. I treated myself to some felt and buttons today - 20 sinful minutes of giddiness perusing the shelves of my local habedashers. I want to make: finger puppets, a flower corsage and a needle book. I have no idea what I'll start first, maybe all of them. I wonder whether I'll ever get the duvet cover finished? So many projects, so little time...


Thursday, 29 January 2009


This will be quite a dull post, as I have no photographs as I am mid-project. However, I am hoping this is something existing crafters will identify with: others, please don't think I have lost my marbles! Yesterday I managed to slip off and spend a WHOLE day painting pottery with the lovely Claire at Langlands Garden Centre in Shiptonthorpe, near York ( Unique Ceramics is a fab little place that inhabits the corner of a garden centre, outside. Poor Claire is such a hardened crafter that I think she deserves a medal. She even sits and waits for customers when her painting water is frozen! Luckily, it was a quiet day and we got the chance to sit, paint together and natter in the warmth of the cafe, which specialises in home made food. It was fabulous. I painted three egg cups for Easter presents for the children of our friends and family. One was cream, with light and dark brown and pretty pink spots. The other was pastel blue with yellow, pink and various shades of blue. The final one was baby pink, and I painted three layers of hearts next to one another around the top, in increasingly darker shades. I'm not quite sure how this will come out when it's painted, but I hope it will be lovely, translucent and layered. I hope to make sequined felt egg cosies to go with them - am just waiting excitedly for the postman to arrive. I also made myself a fab cappucino cup and saucer. It was like a much larger version of my cream egg cup. The inside of the cup was baby pink, and the outside cream. It had large brown dots, with a darker layer inside (they ended up looking a bit like Maltesers!) I also painted pink and pale brown dots too. The saucer was pink with the two tones of brown dots. I am really excited about seeing it, as it took well over 3 hours to complete - I loved every second. Just think my little babies are baking away at 1,000 degress as we speak. I came home and this fantastic book had arrived: [caption id="attachment_46" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="I am really enjoying this"][/caption]

I am really enjoying this


I spent a good hour sipping tea and reading through this book. I love it, because it gives the stories behind the crafters, as well as some lovely ideas and patterns. I was surprised how young most of these crafters are! I think that has been my problem in the past - I have crafted for as long as I can remember, certainly since I have been old enough to buy my own supplies. However, most of the patterns available have been very old fashioned, so I have either made my own, knitted for babies (and then never used the stuff) or given up for a while, uninspired. I was especially thrilled to see Amy Karol featured - I am very into her at the moment, because I am reading her 'bend the rules' book pretty much on a daily basis. I just love the photography.


I was inspired to see each crafter's work area - so much so that I tidied my office (*shock* *horror*)I hope to combine my business stuff with my crafting stuff, and have made a good start tidying out my cupboards, as quite a lot of stuff has hidden in their untouched for over a year. Who needs a gazillion copies of outdated rate cards, anyway?


I spent a couple of hours in the evening stitching Charlie's duvet cover - it's nearly done now. I reckon another 3 or 4 hours and it'll be ready. I hope he likes it, and I REALLY hope it doesn't fray too much in the washing machine. I am going to machine stitch the next one rather than hand stitch, then see how they both wash before starting on ours. I have bought fat quarters (why is it called that?!) in lovely patterns, all shades in our pictures above the bed. The rest of the bedroom is completely neutral, natural wood or chrome, so I am hoping it'll look really eye catching without being over-coordinated. I have to confess that I am not enjoying the big projects as much as the quick ones though.

Feeling on top of the world, I couldn't sleep last night, I woke several times thinking of new ideas and projects, ways I could combine the fabric I already have into things new and exciting. So much so that I got up at 6am to start again. Something tells me that this lust is not going to go away easily...

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Project Two - Grey and Tartan Handbag


I love this bag. I wanted something to match my new red coat (and since that, new red glasses) and cheer me up on a cold winter's day when I was at work. I also wanted a bag with a phone pocket big enough for my Blackberry. The answer was this cheeky tartan handbag. I love the way the red pokes out of the formal suit material, it's irreverant and it makes me smile.

Cost to make: - £5

Fabric from old suit - free 1m tartan fabric - £3.50

Fleece lining - remnant - £1.50

Black cotton thread

Piece of semi-disposable chopping board as facing (!)

Free Sequins for embellishment - left over from past project

Time to make - hard to estimate as I did it in bits and pieces. About 20 hours over 2 weeks, I think.

Instructions - I'm not sure I can give instructions on this, as I made it from a fabby book I was given for Christmas. I love it and it really fuels my crafting lust. Yes, I am sad. Many hours have been spent pouring over this, as well as Cath Kidston's 'Make':

Fabbity book, much pored over
Fabbity book, much pored over
I did make a few changes - the original is beige linen with a yellow patterned fabric. I also made the straps longer so it has become a shoulder bag, rather than a handbag - and I made the lining the contrasting fabric (tartan) rather than the original fabric. It looks great though.


If I repeated the project  I would add an additional 1cm to the strap seam allowances as I found it impossible to sew them as Amy Karol had described in the book. This may have been due to the fact that wool based fabrics don't iron anywhere near as easily as linen and cotton, so I was unable to press the seams in the way described. It looks good though, and I am pleased with the result.


I have a small seam on one of the straps and I spent a long time worrying over it. However, it looks great and really adds to the character of the bag. I actually like it to be reasonably obvious that the fabric is recycled, and may try to emphasise this in future projects. No point in trying to make things look too clever when the whole charm is that they're reused, remade pieces of fabric.


I'd love to hear what you think!


I am already onto my next project, a new duvet cover for Charlie using applique. I thought it would be quick and easy - oh, famous last words ..... 

Project One - Knitted bag with crocheted flowers

I started project one in the immediate days after Christmas, snuggled up on the sofa, watching crap Christmas TV. It was a delight. The embellishing was done in front of Life On Mars, which was wonderful - getting to craft and perve over Philip Glennister at once, I was in heaven :) Anyway, here is the finished product:

 [caption id="attachment_29" align="alignleft" width="460" caption="Project 1: brown knitted bag"]brown knitted bag[/caption]                    

Total cost -

  • 1 ball brown eyelash wool, on sale in Boyes - 99p
  • scraps of wool for crocheting (donated by Aunty Pauline, my craft inspiration)
  • beads and buttons for embellishment (left over from past project)
  • old floral shirt for lining - was given to me by my sister in law, after being giving to her by her mother in law. At some point my own mother in law wore it, so it's been well loved! I reckon it's now 5th hand, at least.
  • piece of fleece, pinched from a redundant cot blanket I made for Charlie, which was originally made from a piece from Ikea (£3 for double bed size, if I remember correctly)
  • black cotton thread (from past project)

So, not counting items donated / given / recycled this bag has cost 99p. If you'd like to make something similar, the instructions are very simple:

  1. Knit a piece  25cm x 40cm ish. I used knit and purl rows randomly for texture, but you can hardly see it because of the eyelash. Garter stitch in plain wool would look stunning.
  2. Knit a strip of wool 5cm x 1m (approx - measure around yourself to make sure it's the right length. It will stretch when you have things in the bag.
  3. Cut a piece of fleece or cotton flannel to give the bag substance, slightly smaller than the knitted rectangle. Pin to wrong side of fabric.
  4. Cut lining fabric same size as knitted rectangle and hem (I use the width of the sewing machine foot as a guide)
  5. Place fleece onto wrong side of knitted rectangle, then place lining on top, right way up. Pin and sew. You should now have one piece of fabric that is knitted on one side, lined on the other and has the fleece or cotton flannel in between to give structure, but it not visible. Treat as one piece of fabric.
  6. Fold the fabric into 3, to give a bag covered by a flap. Sew sides on wrong side. I used blanket stitch with wool.
  7. Sew the ends of the strap together to make a large loop. pin and sew to bag, just under flap. Ensure you try it on to make sure it hangs properly - my first attempt ended up by my knees!
  8. Crochet some flowers - there are good tutorials on You Tube. I cheated and asked Aunty Pauline to crochet mine, but she will teach me how to do it myself later in the year.
  9. Sew a button to the centre of each flower, and embellish with sequins, beads and embroidery.
  10. Hand stitch flowers to bag.


Have fun. I really hope you'll have a go at making something like this - it's easy and fun to combine crafting techniques. You may wish to avoid brown, since some kind heart soul (who shall remain nameless) said it looked like pubes. Cheers! [lol]

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Mission, and some background.

Hi, I'm Claire. I am Mum to Jonathan, who's 11 and Charlie, who's 3. I am happily married to Dominic. I run my own business, a local parenting magazine, and I have a part time job within the Local Education Authority co-ordinating a new qualification across a partnership of secondary schools. I live in Yorkshire in a beautiful cottage in a rural village.
The last couple of years have been madly busy, but my creative pursuits have kept me sane. This blog is dedicated to wonderful creativity: my resolution for 2009 is to be more creative, learn new techniques and grow.

5 years ago I was hit by the broody bat. Well, not so much hit as mugged by a bunch of broody hoodies. Conceiving and delivering a baby became an obsession. Charlie arrived on the 30th June 2005. However, ironically, I slipped into a deep post-natal depression that left me frightened, lonely, frustrated and bitter. How could what I wanted so much be so dreadful? Poor Charlie had colic and an undiagnosed lactose intolerance, so he would regularly cry for 8 hours solid. However, the depression felt almost unrelated to him: I was too tired, too tested and too overwhelmed. One of those overwhelming feelings was love for the person who had changed my life so profoundly. It was a confusing time. What helped me, strange as it sounds, was cooking. I have always been an enthusiastic cook (I spent many a teenage school holiday cooking recipes from my Mum's books whilst she was at work) and I thought I could cook well. But I needed a diversion and cooking gave that to me: I could complete the tasks on a list and feel a sense of completion that isn't possible with a small, 24 hour baby. I may even have gone over the top: by the time Charlie was 6 months old I had made 150 jars of jams and chutneys! However, the wonderful process of creativity gave me solitude when I needed it, emptied my brain when it craved quiet, gave me something to think about and plan, and gave me a product that proved I had achieved something.

A year later we moved from London to Yorkshire. I was in a much better place mentally, and felt the need to reflect on my experience and help others who may be feeling the same things. It was a convoluted set of circumstances, but it led to me starting the magazine. I have learned such a lot from running my own business that, whatever happens, I can take away knowledge, experience and growth. However, one notable opportunity it brought was the opportunity to write. I always loved writing, I had planned to be a journalist when I grew up.  I especially loved creative writing. Here I was, suddenly, with a chance to write for a proper audience. It was amazing, it encouraged me to read more widely, to analyse the writing style of everything I read and to reflect on my own work. I'd hate to mislead you: I am no Jeanette Winterson. However, it was another, fun creative opportunity that changed my focus and allowed me to grow.
This year, prosaic and unrelenting tiredness has taken hold. The sheer emotional scale of the post natal depression and the uphill battle of establishing a business whilst managing a young family has finally hit me.

My plan for this year is to find balance and this is the intention of this blog. I love creating, I love making. I hand-made most of my Christmas presents this year and it felt like a blessing. It felt like the twinkle had returned to my brain. Let me be perfectly straight, from the very beginning, that I make no promises about the quality of my endeavours - there will undoubtedly be as many failures as successes. That is why I am going to have a "lessons learned" page. I am no expert in this field at all. However, as an enthusiastic amateur, I am in it for the adventure - I want to just see what I can do, if I put my mind to it.
Unwittingly, I realised today, I have also set myself a new challenge. Photography. I need to photograph the things I make, and so I guess that is something I will challenge myself to improve too.
So, here goes.... It might not be pretty, but it sure as hell will be fun!