Lace – But Not As You Know It

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Yes, I know. the photograph above shows lace as you do know it, but I’m not talking about that sort of lace.

I’m talking about this sort of lace:

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What do you mean, “it’s not lace”? Of course it is. It’s Botany Lace, an Araucania yarn. See, I told you it wasn’t what you were expecting!

I recently went to Somerset for a short break, staying with Little Sis. It almost goes without saying that I took some crafty stuff with me. However, once I had finished knitting the couple of scarves I had planned, I didn’t particularly fancy doing the hand embroidery I had also taken along. Neither did I feel like carrying on with the socks I was in the process of knitting. Cue Little Sis in her Sunday-best rescue gear, carrying some beautiful, soft, scrummy, mauve Manos yarn for me to use. OK, OK, mauve isn’t blue so it’s not the ball of yarn in the photo above! I checked the label to see what size needles or crochet hook to use and the yardage I had available, then trawled through Ravelry. After entering all of my search criteria (I love that there are so many ways to narrow the search on Ravelry, including “yardage”) I chose my project from the selection on screen and set about making it. Unfortunately, my yarn was being eaten up by the pattern far too quickly and it soon became obvious that I wouldn’t have anywhere near enough to complete it.

Back to the drawing board. Little Sis immediately disappeared and I could hear her donning her rescue gear again. In she flew, like Superwoman, bearing more yarn: this time, about 300gm of the Araucania Botany Lace in the gorgeous shaded blue shown above. I headed in the direction of Ravelry once more and entered lots of criteria for another search, clicked the button and up came this top-down raglan cardigan design. The cardigan was designed by Carole Barenys and, in case you haven’t signed up to Ravelry but would like to knit it, is available on Knitting on the Net. I enjoy knitting top-down patterns – probably because they do away with the dreaded sewing up!

I began knitting immediately, using some of Little Sis’s circular needles. It was my friend, Elizabeth, who shared the pleasure of knitting on circular pins with me, and I do find that I enjoy using them. Little Sis, on the other hand, did a quick impression of Little Miss Grumpy when handing the needles to me, saying that she doesn’t like using them!

I didn’t manage to finish the cardigan until a few days after I had returned from Somerset but here it is, below, in all its lacy glory.

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What I’ve Learned About Machine Embroidery In-the-hoop

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If you read yesterday’s post, you will know that I recently completed my first in-the-hoop machine embroidery project. Now, I was really apprehensive about trying an in-the-hoop (ith) project. I couldn’t get my head around how the process worked, particularly as I had seen a zipped pouch that was made ith – and that really messed with my head! Maybe I was just being dense, or perhaps it was a lack of imagination, but there was no way I could bring up any images in my mind about how it would work.

Eventually, I bit the bullet and had a go at stitching the design I had bought to make as gifts. The whole experience, including knowing of others who are a little nervous of trying ith, made me think that it might be useful to write a post on here of hints and tips that came to mind whilst I was working on the project. This brings me to the first thing I learned:

1. Read the instructions before you do anything else.

I’m a real whatsit for not bothering to read instructions. For this project, I skimmed through the instructions, then set them to one side and tried to work from memory. Oops. Not a good idea. My first attempt was, sort of, OK but it certainly wasn’t right, which leads me on to my second thing:

2. Take a break if your first attempt is disappointing.

My character is such that if what I am doing goes wrong, it tends to make me downhearted to such a extent that I am likely to make even more of a hash of things if I continue at that time. For me, it is usually far better to walk away from the project and take a break. If I continue to work, I am likely to get frustrated and bad tempered – not a good combination!

When working on the scissor fobs I stopped after the first attempt and waited until the next morning to try again. Oh, and I did read the instructions before I began again. And so, on to number:

3.   Gather everything you need before you begin stitching.

I know this one sounds obvious, but it’s easy to overlook something vital. It can throw you into a bit of a panic when the machine is beeping at you to do the next step and you can’t because you don’t have what you need immediately to hand. I think this one is likely to become far easier when you are more experienced at working ith – similarly, number:

4.   Plan your workspace according to the steps that have to be worked through.

It’s all very well having everything to hand to make your project, but if it is simply strewn around your workspace it won’t be much help. This is particularly so if you will be making several of a single design. For the fob design, two pieces of vinyl are required, plus tape to affix the second piece and several different coloured threads (although I decided to use just one colour on each fob). I found it much easier to work with my materials in a logical sequence. Alongside this point comes number:

5.   Prepare fabrics and threads before you begin to sew.

I found, when stitching several of the fobs in one sitting, that it was easier to roughly cut all of the pieces of vinyl into shape before I began to stitch. I also precut the pieces of tape needed to affix the second piece of vinyl to the project. This preparation helped me to feel that I was still “in the flow” of making the fobs as I didn’t have to stop for too long between each stage. Another tip if you are making several of the same item and, like me, like to make the most effective and efficient use of all your materials:

6.   Work out the positioning of each item on the stabiliser.

With a design such as these scissor fobs, it is possible to stitch them quite close together on the stabiliser to reduce wastage. I found that I could “top and tail” them and keep waste to an absolute minimum. Although I don’t make items to sell, I’m sure that this planning could make quite a difference to the amount of profit made on each item. By cutting the stabiliser to a certain size, using the 4″x4″ hoop and “topping and tailing” the design, I was able to make four fobs using very little stabiliser and and discarding even less. And, finally:

7.   Have fun and don’t panic!

 

Being Brave…

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About fifteen months ago I needed to replace my Brother Super Ace II,

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which Little Sis had generously swapped with me for her beloved foldaway Elna Lotus,that she had given me some years earlier, at the time she bought the Brother.

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I really liked the Super Ace II but it had needed a couple of repairs since I’d had it and I had reached the point if having to make that “repair or replace?” decision. “Replace” won and I bought Brother 1250D combined sewing and embroidery machine. I’m not particularly fond of machine embroidery but felt that it would be useful for individualising items that I give to charity. (I am passionately keen on making each item unique in the hope that it helps the recipient to feel special.)

For various reasons, I had seldom used the embroidery side of the machine. Apart from lack of time, one of the other main reasons for my reluctance to use it was fear. I think that fear comes from my habit of having a go at things without reading instructions properly and, consequently, making a mess of what I’m doing! You’d think I would have learned my lesson by now, wouldn’t you? No chance! I have stitched a few small embroideries on the machine, but they have been few and far between. What I had never attempted was an in-the-hoop design. I’d heard of them but couldn’t even imagine how the process might work – and I think my puzzlement was what deterred me from having a go. However, an online friend mentioned a machine embroidery Facebook group to me (in connection with something else), so I thought I would take a peep. Whilst looking, I happened to see snap-on fobs for labelling scissors and I immediately thought what a good idea they were. I bought the pattern straight away as I had decided the fobs would make lovely little gifts for crafting friends.

The design sat in a folder on our laptop, staring accusingly at me whenever I used the Macbook. Life then decided that using my lovely Brother was not a priority, so the design sat a while longer.

As Christmas approached and life became less fraught, I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to make the fobs in time to give at Christmas. Instead, I decided that I would tackle them during the Christmas period – I was particularly aiming to start working on them on Christmas Day itself as I knew we would be having a very quiet day. I have to say that I was very pleased with myself that I did begin making them on 25 December albeit that the one I made didn’t turn out terribly well! I wasn’t downhearted: I simply tried again on Boxing Day morning. Success!

The instructions for the fobs suggest using vinyl to stitch on. As you can see, all of those in the above photo are vinyl: these are the ones I have given as gifts. I have also made two fobs for myself using felt. I prefer those made with felt as they are gentler to touch when using the scissors. The original design also uses different colours for various parts but I didn’t think that was important – you may have a different view.

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I am pleased to report that the fobs were well received by the members of the craft group. 🙂

I Can’t Quite Believe It!

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Completed – at last!

Ooh, it’s been a long time coming. It seems like such a long time since I had a completed make to show you on here. Well, it is a long time. Unfortunately, my creativity has been pretty much squashed out of my life these past four or five months because of “stuff” that has been happening. Usually, if I’m sitting down, I’m doing some craft or another. In fact, Peter has often commented on it. However, lately I have had to make do with scrapping around with odds and ends of knitting and crochet occasionally.

In the summer, I kept myself busy sewing lots of scrappy patchwork blocks which I planned to make into a couple of quilts for Siblings Together. I was making excellent progress (and using up loads of my fabric scraps), when B-O-O-M! Life upped and jumped in the way. Consequently, Cherry (my Brother 1250D sewing/embroidery machine) had to be mothballed. Little did I realise how long she would lie rejected and alone…

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More detail of some blocks

At around the same time, I was given a bag of yarn that had been unsuccessfully knitted. The donor hoped that I would be able to use the yarn to make something that could be donated to Syria Relief. As I knew I would be unlikely to be able to concentrate fully on whatever project I worked on, I decided to crochet a blanket. I would normally try to use darker colours for a blanket as conditions for Syrians, both those inside Syria and refugees, mean that access to water for laundry can be difficult. However, the yarn I was given was in pastel shades which dictated my palette.

In addition to the donated yarn, I used lots of odds and ends of yarn from my stash (I’m sure those odds and ends breed as soon as I close the door of the room where I store them!), plus three or four balls that I bought from the ‘Reduced’ basket at my local yarn shop.

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The border consists of two rows of half trebles

I began making squares by crocheting rows of treble crochet into 6″ squares. When I was well in to the project, I decided to make some traditional granny squares to add a little variety. To finish the blanket, I crocheted two rows of half trebles around all four sides of the stitched-together squares.

I am quite pleased with the completed blanket, especially as it was cobbled together from all sorts of odds and ends. And, my goodness, I am so pleased to have finished something, after such a long time. 🙂

Yoohoo! I’m here!

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He-ll-ooooo! It’s me! I’m here, waving madly.

Yes, I’m still around and about but “stuff” has been getting in the way of creativity. All I’ve been able to manage for a while has been projects that I could just pick up and work on for however long I could spare. Consequently the only things I have done have been ‘run of the mill’ knitting, crocheting and a little hand sewing. I haven’t even gotten around to taking any photos – mind you, they would be pretty boring, anyway!

I think it will be a while before I can let go and enjoy myself, creatively. However, I just wanted to let you know that my needles are still clicking, occasionally.

I hope you are all having a happy and creative time!

See you soon – I hope!

I’ve Left It As Long As I Dare

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the trees are undressing and the “C” word is beginning to be talked about. Obviously, if you are planning on creating a handmade Christmas, you need to allow plenty of time to complete all those projects. In view of that, I thought I would share my tutorial for the Folded Fabric Christmas Tree, which has proved so popular since I first published it.

The fabrics I used for this Christmas tree were provided by Abakhan online fabric store.

Enjoy making your trees! I hope you will share pictures of them with me!

Tutorial for Folded Fabric Christmas Tree

Materials required:

  • Two different designs of Christmas fabric (I have used a red design and a green design and will refer to these throughout.)
  • Cotton thread in complementary colour(s)
  • Scraps of brown felt and red felt
  • Beads for embellishment (if desired)
  • Rotary cutter
  • Quilter’s ruler
  • 60° triangle template
  • Pins
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Beading needle
  • Fabric glue

 

 Trim the ends of each piece of Christmas design fabric to ensure they are straight.

 Cut a strip of fabric measuring 33” x 6” from the green fabric and from the red fabric.

** If your strip measures 6″ your triangles will be larger than 6″ along each side. The main thing is to ensure that all angles of your triangles are 60 degrees and all sides are of equal length.**

 Using your 60° triangle template or, alternatively, the 60° line on your quilting ruler, cut ten triangles measuring 6” on all three sides from each strip.

 

 You will now have 10 red 60° triangles and 10 green 60° triangles, all with sides measuring 6”. This photograph shows ten pairs as I cut double thickness.

 Place one red triangle and one green triangle right sides together. Pin them together as shown by the red triangle in the picture below.

 Stitch the triangles together, leaving a gap along one side of approx 2.5”, for turning

 

 Snip off each of the points being careful not to cut your stitching.

 Turn the triangle so that the right sides are on the outside.

 

 Press the triangle, making sure that the opening is neat and level.

 Neatly hand stitch the gap closed.

 Repeat these steps for all the triangles. You will have 10 double-sided triangles.

Take one of the triangles and fold it in half so that you have a right-angled triangle with points 1 and 2 together.

Finger press the fold.
Fold in half into a right-angled triangle again so that points 2 and 3 are together.
Finger press the fold to find the centre of the triangle.

 Fold one of the points so that it touches the centre of the triangle, where you have made your creases. Stitch in place.

 Likewise, fold and stitch the second and third points in place at the centre. This will create a hexagon shape.

 

 Turn the hexagon over. Find the centre of one of the edges of the original triangle (rather than a new folded edge) and fold it in to the centre of the hexagon. Stitch in place.

 Repeat the previous step with the other two original edges.

 

 You will now have a piece as shown in these two photographs below.

Front
Reverse

 Make each of your triangles into this shape, making sure that you fold the fabric the in the same way each time so that all finished triangles have the same colourway on the front.

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**Each of the two shapes below have been folded with a different side showing.**
Now begin to construct your tree as follows:

Take two of your triangle shapes and place them side by side with one red fold on each lined up as shown in the picture below.


 Place the triangles with right sides facing and stitch the red fold line firmly together.

Repeat this step to stitch all the triangles together to create the tree shape below.


 

Take your scraps of felt and pinking shears.

Cut a bucket shape from the dark brown felt, a tree trunk from the light brown felt and two decorative strips from the red felt, using the pinking shears.

Stick the red decorations and the trunk onto the bucket

 

 

 To create the hanging loop, cut a strip of dark brown felt measuring 4” x 0.75”.

 Fold it in half along its length then form a loop, as shown above.

Front view
Rear view
Stitch in place at the top of the tree

 When the glue has dried on the bucket, sew two lines of running stitch on each red stripe. (Sorry, the stitching does not show up very well.)

Attach the trunk and bucket to the tree by stitching on the reverse.

 The tree is now complete but you may wish to embellish it further.

 I decorated my tree by threading four beads together and hanging them in each gap, as shown.

 

 

Breeding Season Is Over

What was that word, again?

What was that word, again?

This is a very special rabbit. Not because she enjoys reading dictionaries – although, as you can see, she has plenty to choose from! No, she is special because she is the last in a long line of bunnies. The rabbits I have been producing for children in Syria have stopped breeding and my little pink princess is the last one – at least, for the time being.

I have crocheted the last of the yarns that I had set aside for the making of bunnies. The yarn was a bit like the never-ending porridge pot: whenever it looked as though I had almost used it all, more appeared, courtesy of Elizabeth. At times, I could have been tempted to call the regular donations of yarn a poisoned chalice! Occasionally it felt as though I was chasing my tail, trying to finish off all the odds and ends. However, despite all my complaining, I really appreciate Elizabeth’s generosity. It has meant that I have been able to crochet probably more than fifty toys, which I hope will bring a little comfort to some children in Syria. Those poor little mites are suffering in so many ways from the ongoing conflict in their homeland: I wish I could help them all. Thank goodness for charities like Syria Relief and Hand In Hand For Syria.

I haven’t quite decided what I shall knit or crochet next. I have some rather nice aran yarn which I think I shall have a play with.

Now, where’s that lovely pattern I saw the other day that called for aran yarn…?

What Colour Is It?

Yellows. Or are they?

Yellows. Or are they?

Do you remember the dress that caused such a stir in the media a few months back? It looked a fairly innocuous dress until you realised that people were seeing it differently – or, more specifically, saw it as different colours.

I mention that dress because it shows how thorny the matter of colour can be. Finding colours that work well together seems easy to some people, whereas others (myself included) really struggle to put colour schemes together. So, you can imagine how pleased I was when Stephie of Dawn Chorus Studio said that she was going to do a series on her blog entitled “How to Design a Great Colour Scheme Without Colour Theory”. She published the first part last Thursday and, within that post, set out a challenge for her readers. We had to use a paint chip card – those free strips of paint colours that you can pick up in DIY stores – and pull out fabrics or scraps from our stash to reflect the colours on the card.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, I didn’t find it so. The first thing I discovered was that the colours of the fabrics changed when I pulled them out of their respective drawers. What looked like a perfect match when it was in the drawer, was an awful clash as soon as I put it anywhere near the paint chip. Very frustrating.

My first selection of fabrics

My first selection of fabrics

My fabrics are partly organised according to colour. By that, I mean that within each storage place, the fabrics are in colour order. However, I have several places containing fabric so looking for a colour can take a while!

The same paint chip card, different fabrics

The same paint chip card, different fabrics

I began fairly well, finding two or three fabrics that looked like a fairly good match for the different shades on the card. I found the darker colours easier to work with than the pale colours – perhaps that was because it was more difficult to actually see the ‘colour’ part of the colour, the lighter the shade. [I hope that makes sense because I can’t figure out how else to express it.]

The same fabrics with the paint chip

The first selection of fabrics with the paint chip

Once I had chosen my selection of fabrics I decided to photograph them. That’s when the second problem cropped up: the colours looked completely different when photographed. I knew this was likely to happen and, sort of understood why. Unfortunately I haven’t downloaded a photo editing programme onto our laptop so I wasn’t able to do much about altering the colours in the photos. I used the limited editing options in our photo programme but was surprised that all three photographs of the above selection of fabrics looked different from the other two.

The second selection of fabrics with the same paint chip

The second selection of fabrics with the same paint chip

This photograph, immediately above, is the best likeness of the colours on the paint chip that I could achieve with the second selection of fabrics. [The photo at the head of this post is the overall best representation of the paint chip colours.] You will see that the two fabrics on the far right have a pink hue: that is because, when I moved the chip away from my desk, the two palest colours took on this pinkness.

Compare the difference in colour with the photograph immediately above.

Compare the difference in colour with the photograph immediately above.

On my laptop, the last two photographs above this paragraph look completely different. I hope that shows in this post, otherwise what I am saying will sounds like nonsense!

In the past, when I have searched for colours to go together, I have really struggled. Using the paint chip card made selecting fabrics much easier as I had the different colours in front of me. If I can manage to “find” enough paint chip cards to make a complete collection then I think it would make sense for me to use them during the selection process.

This one exercise has already increased my confidence for working with colour. I can’t wait to read the rest of Stephie’s series!

**The paint chip card I used was Dulux WY4, Sundrenched Saffron numbers 1 to 6 inclusive.

Another Quick Sewing Tip

Herringbone stitch

Herringbone stitch

When I wrote my earlier post today I knew there was another tip I had heard today but I simply couldn’t think of it! However, I have remembered it now!

I was watching Phillipa Turnbull of The Crewel Work Company on Create & Craft earlier today. She shared a tip which sounded rather strange.

To keep crewel work or other hand embroidery clean whilst stitching:

When doing crewel work or other hand embroidery in a hoop, place the outer ring of the hoop on a flat surface, tear a strip of cling film large enough to hang over the edge of the hoop, all the way round. Place the cling film on the outer ring of the hoop, then place your piece of work with the right side facing down on the cling film, making sure that the area you want to work on is within the circle of the hoop. Push the inner hoop down onto the fabric and secure it in place. Turn the hoop over so that the right side of your work is uppermost. With scissors, carefully score the cling film, encircling the area you are about to stitch. Remove the piece of cling film and begin stitching. The cling film protects the area of fabric that is not being worked upon.

A Few Quick Sewing Tips

“What have wooden coffee stirrers to do with sewing?” I hear you ask. Well, today on The Craft Channel the guest demonstrator for The Crafty Kit Company, unfortunately I didn’t catch her name, showed how useful wooden coffee stirrers are for turning fabric the right way out when you have stitched two pieces together! I haven’t tried it yet, as I don’t have any of the wooden stirrers, but I shall be collecting some as soon as I can and giving it a go.

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An easy way to peel the paper off fusible web after it has been attached to fabric.

Janet Clare, on Create and Craft today, mentioned a good tip for removing the paper from fusible web after it has been ironed on to fabric. If you try to peel the paper from the edge of the fusible web it may well cause fraying on the edge of your fabric. Instead, you should fold the area of paper across your finger and carefully score the paoer with scissors. You should then be able to remove the paoer from the fusible web easily.

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How to keep your pins sharp in handmade pincushions

If you are making a pincushion for yourself or as a gift, use a steel wool scourer, or some steel wool from a DIY shop, as some or all of the stuffing. It will help to keep your pins sharp when you push them into the pincushion.

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