Sunday, 30 December 2012

just for me

My last post about craftivism was all about being part of something, and using creativity for the good of others. This post is about remembering to treat yourself with your creations too.

I spent an enjoyable evening making a late Christmas gift for a friend's daughter we're seeing today. Then I remembered this pencil case, on my list of 34 things to make - something I've been longing to try out. "But who can I make it for?" I was asking myself, when it occurred to me I could just make one for myself!

I got out some gorgeous vintage fabric (purhcased from one of my fave Etsy shops for vintage fabric and wallpaper, Patternlike) and made myself a pretty little pouch for storing my fabric pens.

The tutorial (from the Sweet Verbena blog) is beautifully clear and the photos are great. There are some tweaks I'd make next time: the seams in the lining are exposed and I think at the very least they should be zigzag edged, but I rather fancy I'll bind them with fabric next time.

I think it's important to have one's own creations around: to wear them, display them, use them. It sounds obvious but with all the frantic making of Christmas gifts it's easy to slip into thinking that handmake is just for Christmas, when really, of course, it's for life.

Saturday, 29 December 2012


I've been aware of the term craftivism for a little while now, but it was only just before Christmas that I started to investigate it properly. Basically it is a gentle form of activism, focused on craft, creativity, community and contemplation in order to take action and raise awareness.

The UK-based Craftivist Collective seemed like a great way to get involved, and I decided to take part in their #imapiece project: a community-created giant jigsaw to support Save the Children's Race Against Hunger Campaign.

This is my first puzzle piece and craftivism participation. I wanted to use a strong slogan - 'injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere' - depicted in a soft, pretty way, hence the blue and pink and the heart motif. Now that it's finished I slightly regret writing so small (it was my first attempt at split stitch and I was clueless!) and not using a bolder pink. But this is one occasion where it really is the thought that counts.

For more information and to take part, see the Craftivist Collective website.

Monday, 24 December 2012

wrappings - toddler made

There are so many things that are joyous about having a 2 1/2 year-old in your life at Christmas: bascially you get to experience Christmas as a child all over again (well, I never really stopped, I confess!) Christmas crafts are one of them. This is the perfect age to make homemade wrapping paper.

It was as simple as stamping a pre-cut sponge shape onto brown packing paper. My son loved painting the sponge (something he'd spend far longer on than strictly necessary). I was on hand to fill in little gaps with my paintbrush too.

Then I simply let him press down the sponge wherever he wanted to on the rolled-out paper (and would help him to make sure all the edges printed - he got really upset if the whole shape didn't print properly!)
We didn't make huge amounts - there are limits to the lengths of time that can be spent on any one activity at this age. So I saved the pretty paper for extra-special gifts, and ones where I knew he could be there at the gift-giving moment, to take pride in his work.

Add a pretty ribbon (re-used, of course!) and a hand-stamped gift tag (toddlers are also great at stamping - same principle as sponge-printing!) and you have a beautifully-wrapped gift. I can't wait to give this one to my mother tomorrow!

In case I don't catch you in the next few days: happy Christmas!

Oh yes, and do check out this brilliant recipe video for the perfect festive drink that is also totally pregnancy-friendly! (Lauren's blog The Past on a Plate also happens to be one of my favourite blogs).

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

DIY heart handwarmer

Earlier this year, I shared this tutorial for a heart-shaped handwarmer at the vintage clothing blog Threadesque. I thought I'd put a version of it up here on The Owl Club blog as a last-minute DIY Christmas gift idea. I'm making at least one of these myself this year.
You know the saying, "cold hands, warm heart"? Well this is a sweet, easy project that takes the expression literally and makes a warming, scented heart to heat up those cold mitts. It makes a perfect present for chilly Winter fingers!
The handwarmer is made with pretty embroidered cotton and snuggly jersey. It is filled with dry rice and a sprinkling of lavender. You just pop it in the microwave for 2-3 minutes on medium and it will keep your hands snug for hours, as well as exuding a calming fragrance.
  • cotton fabric (you could use an old pillow case)
  • cotton jersey (you could use an old t-shirt)
  • embroidery hoop, thread and needle
  • sewing machine and thread (or you could do it by hand)
  • about 275g rice
  • a handful of dried lavender (optional)
  • lace trim or ribbon
  • water soluble pen or tailor's chalk
  • steam iron
  • chopstick

First you'll need to draw round your template (download mine here) on the wrong side of the cotton fabric using chalk or a water-soluble pen. You should be able to see the outline on the right side, to help place your embroidery. (n.b. I used a linen-look cotton here but you could use prints - anything goes)
In the centre of your heart shape, draw on your message (it could also just be "I love you" or a name). Stretch the fabric in an embroidery hoop and use a small back stitch (or any fancy stitch you like!) to create the lettering. I wanted a handwritten look with plenty of texture, so I used all 6 strands of my embroidery floss.
So then you'll have something like this! Make sure you wash off any traces of the original pen lettering at this stage.
Cut roughly round the heart shape and pin to 2 layers of cotton jersey before cutting out, leaving plenty of margin at the edges (because jersey can shift around a bit). Make sure the middle piece of jersey has its right side facing the right side of the cotton before you sew.
Then sew around the heart shape, using a small stitch width to go smoothly round the curves. Make sure your needle is down in the fabric when you turn the foot to go round the points. Also make sure you leave a small gap (about 2.5cm/1.5inch) for turning out. The picture above indicates a good place to start sewing so that you have a gap along the straight edge (easier for sewing up afterwards).
Trim off the edges neatly and notch around the curves so that it will turn out with as smooth a curve as possible.
Then turn it out, using a chopstick to get into the points (and the flat end of the chopstick is great for going round the curves!) Give it a good press with a steam iron to neaten it all up.
Put the rice in a container and mix through a handful of dried lavender buds. Mmm, smells good, bet you're feeling all calm now? Good, because this is the fiddly bit: using a spoon and funnel, or just a teaspoon, fill the heart until it is fairly full but still squidgy to the touch. Tip: place a bowl under the the heart as you fill it to catch any stray grains of rice!
Then sew up the opening using an invisible ladder stitch. To prettify, sew on a bow made with lace trim or ribbon. You could also make a little label with instructions on how to heat the handwarmer. I like a brown paper tag with a little matching lace and a button glued on.
And there you have it: a pretty heart-shaped handwarmer: have fun making them!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

patchwork bracelet tutorial

Here's a pretty gift idea and tutorial for you - one that's also great for using scraps of pretty fabric. I can also imagine making this for a guy - just use more masculine colours/fabrics and a wooden button. Sewing novices can make these!

You'll need:
- fabric scraps (at least 10cm x 11cm)
- thread/sewing machine/scissors (although you can make these by hand)
- iron
- button
- snap fastener

First cut out 3-4 rectangles of fabric, approx 10cm x 13.5cm for 3, or 10cm x 11 cm for 4 - but take into consideration the total length you want, so that it can wrap twice around the wrist of your recipient (plus seam allowances). These measurements are based on my rather narrow wrists.

Pin the first and second pieces of fabric right sides together, then sew along the right edge with 1/2cm seam allowance.

Pin the third piece to the second, right sides together and sew along the right-hand edge again. Repeat with the final piece (if using 4 pieces).

Press those seams flat with your iron.

Now you'll have a row of pretty fabrics sewn together, like this! Trim any uneven edges.

Fold the outer edges into the centre, like so, and press with the iron.

Now fold the band in half lengthways along that centre line, as in the image above. Sew neatly along the open edge with your machine (or using backstitch if making by hand).

At both ends, fold over the rough edge once, then twice with a very tiny, neat fold and press. You need to sew this small hem now - I found it too hard with the machine, so used hand stitches (ladder stitch along the fold and backstitch going through all the layers along the outer edges to keep everything as stable and flat as possible).

Sew on a snap fastener, one half on each end of the bracelet.

And finally add a pretty button to finish! You could add more buttons, beads or embellishments too. These would be adorable embroidered if you had time.

If you try this please let me know - I'd love to see what you made.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

vintage fabric tote

Last night I made my first ever tote bag! I don't know why it's taken me so long to try this - seems even stranger now I know how easy and satisfying it is. I'm banking on the fact that my brother doesn't read this blog, as this is his Christmas present from me. I used this lovely, simple tutorial from My Girl Thursday to guide me.

The greatest joy for me in making this was using vintage fabrics (with the challenge of making something masculine - there are a LOT of pretty ditsy flowers in my stash!) The tote is fully reversible, but because these gorgeous David and Dash 1960s upholstery fabrics are sturdier than the tweedy material inside, it makes sense for the latter to be the "lining".

My mum gave me the David and Dash fabrics. They were a kind of sample set and I think they come from the late 1960s. There wasn't enough of each colourway to have the same fabric on each side of the bag, but I think that mix adds to its charm. The lining was a great bargain from a charity shop - several yards of tweed patterned cotton mix fabric for a mere £1.00.

I had to rein myself in from adding buttons and embellishments, as I think my bro will prefer it simple, especially as there is a lot going on in the pattern already. It's meant to be a book bag, as my brother is, like me, a bookish type. I can't wait to make one for myself with lots of flowers, lace and bright colours - just as soon as all the Christmas making is done!

Have you tried making anything new this Christmas?
(P.s. this was on my list of 34 things to make...)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Christmas shop update

I finally added a few Christmas things to my Etsy shop today, like this cute snowman pinback badge, made from a vintage children's book called The Jolly Snowman.

My Christmassy red and white fabric 1-inch badges are also up - you can pick a set of 3. And a couple of the little red felt heart-shaped embroidered brooches are also available.

I had hoped to be listing lots of little Christmas ornaments - hearts, owls and gingerbread men - but unfortunately I sold out of them at the Christmas market last week and am still catching up with the orders placed then! Maybe next year ;)

Monday, 10 December 2012

wee island

Mini santa sack by Wee Island, available on Etsy
One of the lovely things about taking part in a mini Christmas craft market last week was meeting the other creative sellers. Next to my tiny stand was Vaila of Wee Island. I fell in love with her work! Her machine embroidery, quirky motifs and soft colours are just gorgeous.

This pretty cushion makes me think of white-painted houses by the seaside, walks on winter beaches and cosy evenings by the fire all at once. She also does commissioned pieces, like this one:

So delicate and pretty. Clearly dogs and houses are favourite motifs! And she makes Christmas stockings - I spotted some people ordering these at the Christmas market last Friday.

I'm making a Christmas stocking for my little boy - the style will be completely different (as regular readers will guess!), but hopefully it will turn out just as loveable. Anyway, do check out Vaila's Etsy shop and Facebook pages - definitely a good handmade gift shopping tip!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

millefiori magnets

It's been a while since I crossed anything off my list of 34 things to make, and suddenly I find myself crossing off two in one go! I made these millefiori magnets for the Christmas market and to give away.

Millefiori means 'a thousand flowers' in Italian. In my case it was more like 27 flowers, since I just used remnants of Fimo (polymer clay) that I happened to have in the cupboard at home.

Polymer canes by Sigalsart, available on Etsy
If you look around on the internet you can discover the most extraordinary things made from this technique (see the extraordinary skills of sigalsart, above). But in its essenece it is a very simple idea. I think can still be pretty when done in quite a basic way. I just made short, fat sausages of red, black and turquoise, wrapped them in a large flat piece of white and then rolled the whole thing to squidge it together. Then I cut circles, shaped nicely, baked them, gave them two coats of varnish and glued magnets onto the back.

I gave these sets to some friends yesterday as part of a little package of handmade goodies. I haven't made millefiori since I was a teenager and now I can't wait to try it again! I don't plan on making exquisitely complex flowers, but I might try something ever so slightly more detailed next time... And if you haven't done this before yourself - I recommend it!

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