Wednesday, 30 October 2013

make a ghostie tree

It's not too late to make Halloween decorations! With or without help from the kids, this cute ghostie tree is an easy little craft project to get you in the Halloween spirit (haha).

Here's everything you need, except a needle and some card for a template (but ghosties are easy to draw - you could cut them freehand!) To make each one just cut two pieces of white felt, glue on some black eyes (I like them slightly different shapes) and stitch round the edge with white thread using blanket stitch, popping in some toy stuffing towards the end. To make them hang, I just threaded through some black embroidery thread and tied a knot.

My three year-old helped by drawing round the templates (a skill he learnt at nursery that he was proud to show me) and glueing on the eyes. Older kids could easily do the whole thing. Of course my little one was also given the special mission of finding the perfect branch on a trip to the park.

To save even more time, use only one layer of felt (no need for sewing) or use cardstock instead. I do like the ghosties to be a bit fat and fuzzy, however! We're having a mini Halloween party tomorrow night for the kiddos and will be swapping our eco-bulbs for blacklights, meaning the little ghouls should glow in the dark - even more fun. What Halloween things have you been making this year?

Monday, 28 October 2013

hundreds and thousands magazine

I've been looking forward to writing about Hundreds and Thousands, a new Australian magazine celebrating all things handmade. While I have yet to hold a copy in my hands - because the very first ever issue is about to be released! - I'm pretty sure I'm going to love it.

And it's not just because I am a contributor, honest! Although I am very honoured to be a part of this starter issue with my tutorial for a patchwork ball (filled with rattling things for little ones or lavender for grown-ups - or vice versa if you so choose), it's the quirky, pretty, thrifty, musical, vintage-loving, op-shopping (down under version of charity shopping) ethos of its two editor founders, Mezz and Taz, that gives me more than an inkling it's my cup of tea.

Make sure you visit and 'like' their facebook page to be among the first to know when it goes on sale in the next few days! Then you can be the proud owner of the first edition of what (well, who knows?) may go on to be quite a phenomenon... It will certainly be a thing of loveliness and a venture worth supporting. I will be writing more about it once I receive my copy (can't wait!)

This is also the first time my crafting has been featured in a magazine so I am feeling more than a little flush of pride right now and am looking forward to seeing the tutorial in print!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

sprocket pillow

As mentioned in my review of Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine, this was the first project I made from Issue 1, and it was a lot of fun. My brother has had some disappointments lately, plus he's having to spend part of the week away from his family in a rather grim bedsit for work. I thought I'd make him something cheery and this seemed just the ticket.

It was fairly quick (a few short evenings) and easy, though perhaps not 'easy peasy' as the magazine claims! Stuffing it evenly was tricky, and there is some skill required in easing the fabric into a circle when you piece the whole cushion together. I haven't made anything cylindrical before so it was a challenge, and my circle is far from perfect. But I enjoyed trying something new.

I especially enjoyed choosing the fabrics. I knew I wanted brights - this was meant to be cheerful! - but wasn't quite sure how to stop the whole thing becoming too much of a riot. Enter an old favourite of mine: embroidered vintage linen. One handkerchief (bought for 50p at an attic sale) was perfect for four of the 'sprockets', giving the cushion a sense of pattern. All the other fabrics were scraps of vintage material, except for the green paisley strip, the ladybirds and the polkadots, all of which I fell for at the John Lewis craft department till, where they keep remnants in a tempting little pile...

This is the first time I've made a fabric-covered button too. It was a little tricky to get the backing to snap down over the embroidered fabric, but with some careful snipping it came right in the end, and I love the fact that the button is unique, and the colours are perfect.

For the backing I used a piece of a vintage sheet that I'm loving sewing with at the moment and using for everything from lavender hearts to baby bibs. It was very gratifying that, the morning after I finished it my three year-old grabbed it and said, "wow, a new cushion! Did you make this, mummy, is it for me?!" I've promised him his very own one in due course.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Love Patchwork & Quilting review

Has anyone else noticed there have been quite a lot of new craft magazines over the past few years? It might seem surprising in our digital age, but clearly there are a lot of crafty folk out there who, like me, enjoy curling up with a real, page-flipping mag (and craft magazines are full of great paper for art and collage afterwards too!) I was excited about this new patchwork and quilting magazine and immediately signed up for the trial subscription. And guess what? I think I have a new favourite!

Love Patchwork and Quilting is full of projects that just make you want to run to the sewing machine (or fabric shop - but I'll come to that later). I love their emphasis on 'modern' quilting. Not that I don't also enjoy traditional quilts but projects like the plus-sign quilt, pictured above, have an appealing freshness and a simplicity that means they can be adapted to pretty much any taste.

Although it's a specialist magazine of sorts, they have cleverly included projects to draw in pretty much anyone who has basic sewing skills, like these fun scrappy patchwork laces (almost tempting me to convert from zips and buckles - maybe once the baby is a bit older, haha!) There is great variety in the projects (totes, wall-hangins and plushies as well as quilts) and all are clearly explained in easy-to-follow illustrated steps.

The nature of patchwork (i.e. things made of small pieces) means that - yay! - there are lots of full size templates in the mag too. This is heaven for me as I don't have easy access to photocopiers and printers at the moment. For many projects, like the stunning triangle quilt shown above, I can just cut and go - brilliant. There are also lots of great tips and pages of information about quilting, just what I need to take my quilting to the next level. Equally if you've never made a quilt before, I'd definitely recommend this first edition of Love Patchwork and Quilting, as it makes a really good introduction to the art.

These fabulous sprocket pillows by Allison Harris caught my eye straight away. I've been wanting to make something for my brother who needs cheering up, and these seemed the perfect quick idea. I'll be writing more about the cushion I made in a separate post. Here's a little sneak preview...

Finally, while the merit of free gifts with craft magazines is debatable (see this post by Miss Beatrix for some interesting thoughts on the matter) I am pleasantly impressed by the first Christmas-themed gift. It's something I'd genuinely like to make and also provides a good idea for making similar baubles using strips of fabric or ribbon, so in that sense it's worth more than the sum of its parts.

If Issue 1 is anything to go by, Love Patchwork & Quilting has found a loyal subscriber in me. However I'd like to end this review on a slightly different note. Perhaps inevitably for a magazine of this genre, there is a strong strand of fabric fetishism running throughout. Don't get me wrong, their choices are gorgeous and I'm a serious fabric addict. But I try to be mindful of the environmental cost of new fabric. I'll be writing more about this in another post, but just to say that I'd like to see more use of vintage and repurposed fabrics in the magazine in future. That for me would be the cherry on the cake.

All images from the magazine in this post were kindly provided by Love Patchwork and Quilting. This review represents my personal opinion.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

infinity scarf

So, you know, just showing off the infinity scarf I made recently, i.e. a scarf that goes round in a loop. I saw a fellow handmade 365 participant wearing one and was inspired to make my own. So glad I did. I guessed it would have a really good effort/reward ratio and I was right. I used this tutorial from the Crafty Gemini, and had a look at some of the others available online - there are plenty to choose from.

It's fairly simple, but I must admit I still got confused at the sewing-up-of-the-loop bit, got it wrong and had to unpick. Even in spite of that it was quite quick to make! I used some lovely ditsy print floral fabric - from my mum's vintage fabric stash - and some brilliant tweedy fabric I picked up for 50p from a charity shop to make a wear-with-anything scarf that's perfect for Autumn and Spring.

I will be making more of these for Christmas presents... and I'd like to try a patchwork design too, something I've also spotted among the #handmade365 photos on Instagram. I haven't made a dress yet, but as you can see, thinking daily about wearing handmade and seeing what others have made is already inspiring creations - more coming soon!

Monday, 7 October 2013

handmade 365

When I heard about this year-long challenge, run by Rachelle of Tales of Ted and Agnes (one of the authors of the book Granny Chic no less!) I decided to give it a go, since I believe in the importance of celebrating and supporting the handmade in our world of mass-produced junk, and trying to avoid encouraging the exploitation of cheap sweatshop labour (when we think about handmade, we sometimes forget the 'hands' faraway, that have laboured over that Primark dress).

The thing is, I don't own many handmade clothes and despite becoming quite a sewing addict over the last few years, I've never made clothing for myself before. So I guess I'm hoping that this challenge will inspire me to give it a go. Maybe the first months of my handmade year will mostly be about jewellery, accessories and some handmade vintage clothes. But ultimately I hope to be following in the footsteps of some of the other creative participants and be posting Instagram photos of myself in handmade tops and dresses. Wish me luck!

And it's not too late to join in... click here for more details (we're on day 7 at the moment!)

(Find me on Instagram as @theowlclub, by the way).

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