November 18th, 2014

I’m still trying to use up bags of cuttings and used some to piece together this little bit of pink patchwork with applique leaves. It’s very pretty but hasn’t yet got a purpose so will have a think about what to do with it. In the meantime, it’s just a study of pretty in pink.

And how about these two cushion covers? More offcuts pieced together  in a quilty pinwheel. The dinky button in the middle of each just sets them off nicely.

The background covers were from my granny; the pinwheels give them a modern twist (pun!).

After making the Christmas Tree wall hanging (pics in last post), I had some triangles left over. I stitched them up, added a loop of ribbon and a jingle bell. There – a couple of hand made tree decs for Christmas.

I found a simple tutorial on a Debbie Shore You Tube on how to make these melted roses – very simple and a swathe of these on a Christmas wreath with a pretty string of LED twinkling lights would make for a gorgeous decoration. And I had the organza-type material in my cupboard so still using up old stash.

I have a gorgeous willow heart to decorate. Will maybe go with these melted roses or will master the burlap shabby chic ones – they look fantastic. Lots of hot glue involved though and as we crafters know, hot glue is like bloody Napalm. I’m very attached to my skin and reluctant to shred it in withered strips to make a wall hanging…

But as fast as the stash gets busted, I’m creating whole new nests of wools… this is just one bunch of many. Crochet has really got me hooked (pun again). I’m absolutely loving snowflakes (see Attic24 for a really pretty free snowflake pattern), granny squares ( – especially check out her YouTubes), flowers, leaves, hearts… I have bagfulls now. Lick-my-lollipops rainbows of colours. I’m deadly serious that when I catch programmes like ‘Hoarders, buried alive’ it makes me think where will it all end! I can see me in a sea of entropic loops; I was going to say ‘soup’ but ‘loops’ is more apropos.

Trouble is, there are always more gorgeous things out there to try which for me is Jolly Hooky Sticks, Hoorah! My next project is to make a snowflake garland. I really must be going to heaven because they say the devil makes work for idle hands and mine never stay still! Talking of the devil, there were a couple in the town last week with a stall and a placard with the words ‘Do you believe in Santa’? I thought, ”How ridiculous! Adults wanting to debate or philosophise on the reality, or otherwise, of a mythical being – then realised it said ‘Satan’ and thought ”’How ridiculous! Adults…..’.

But all this talk of cushions and no kittens?  Can’t embarrass  folk with wild and dangerous opinions on returning to the gold standard. (Harry Enfield) Ladies, Know your limits! So, in the natural order of gender division, I present to you, me, being a dear, sweet, fragile little thing, my pretty kitten in furry pyjamas- little Gracie lolloped across a chair in total abandon!

She doesn’t like the cold or the wet and ‘Yows’ at me in a very admonishing kind of way if the weather is all wrong! We’re actually having a very warm and sunny November, on the whole. The days do start quite chilly and damp and the temperature really drops by early evening but we’re generally getting some very nice day in between times. Still, I open the curtains and she jumps up to look out and I can feel her enthusiasm in a ‘Look, there’s a whole new day out there’ kind of way.

I popped out the other morning and the hedges were glistening with dewy cobwebs like this one:

You wouldn’t think there’d be many flies around now but still getting occasional stupid bluebottles droning in erratic flight paths around the house. Banging into the windows and buzzing about annoyingly. The cats see them as fair game for catching and they get very excited and chase about batting and jumping around after them. And if they catch them? They eat them… yes – ew. Furry Renfields. We even had a wasp yesterday. Managed to hoosh him out the house and not kill him. I like to give them a chance.

Anyhoo, must go now so be good and play nicely.

Stitchy Fingers

November 2nd, 2014

November already! I went into Dublin yesterday to get some shopping done before the Christmas rush really gets going and bought some beautiful fabrics. This, at a time when I was determined to do some scrapbusting. The owls (the two outer ones) are newbies and made from scraps. Good girl.

These little houses are also made up from scraps – they’re ready to be stitched as an applique decoration for some needle cases I’m making… Very good. I’m doing well.

And this super little pincushion: here’s the pattern link.

Will make a few more of these for the Christmas Fair… Isn’t it sweet? And practical. And another good use of fabric bits and pieces. My halo is getting tight at this point…

And another lavender sachet made from scraps topped with two decorative buttons. Halo  positively trying to constrict the top off my head like decapitating a boiled egg. Much too holy…

Then good intentions flew out of the window.  I found this owl fabric… it had to be mine. I came, I coveted, I captured and have already made a crochet hook roll from it. I was up at 6.00 and just had to make one – all for me! There’s still plenty left and as I have ordered a beautiful  set of coloured aluminium hooks to give as a Christmas present will make a case especially for her from it.  The crochet rolls I made previously are going  towards my Craft Fair stash.


Notice the ribbon? It’s double-sided. I stitched the black spotty grosgrain onto the East of India chequered heart ribbon.

Was it painstaking and difficult? No, not really. I’ve been using my feet – quarter inch foot and the blind hemming foot – to help get good close stitching lately. These little darlings make precision stitching close to edges much easier than a standard foot. The stitching along the ribbon edges looks very tidy and professional.

Best foot foward! Look at them – little stars. And see the fabric? Another impulse buy but so Wow. Gorgeous red apples.

And this Beatrix Potter material – beautiful. I was listening to The Unbelievable Truth on Radio 4 and it came out that Beatrix Potter actually chloroformed and killed several animals for dissection and stuffing to provide her with models for her paintings. If you want to know more there’s a piece here about her: Beatrix Potter. Not quite the image I held of her  – Victorian illustrator to sadistic vivisectionist… I am pulling your leg and exaggerating! She was, apparently, a very accomplished naturalist and highly respected by the scientific establishment… just psychopathically able to kill her own pet rabbit for artistic purposes. Joking again. Probably not even slightly psychopathic. Good job she didn’t paint children though.

When I was expecting my youngest I made a cross-stitch alphabet tableau, each letter decorated with a Beatrix Potter character. Lots of shading. It took me the full 40 weeks to complete. Looked great and still does. I sewed a pretty backing fabric onto it and have kept it as something to pass on, a sort of heirloom, if you like. But, I’ve never touched cross-stitch since. And my son is a very big boy now. It became such a chore; so laborious and painstaking that it killed all pleasure in cross-stitch for me. I gave away all the embroidery floss – tons of it – that I had accumulated – to a friend who enjoys it like I once did. In moderation not a bloody mission.

Anyway, the Beatrix Potter material is quite lovely and the illustrations exquisitely sweet.

And these birdies! Oh Wow. They are so funky  – love them. So it was a day of unbridled fabric purchase frenzy. A pash for stash. I haven’t shown you the trimmings… it was like I’d been chasing rainbows and finally caught them.  All the fabrics are 100% cotton so not cheap but they will all be used (when is a different matter though).

But what of crochet? I’m still smitten. I have a crocheted bag on the go. It’s deadly dull to do – row after row of double crochet. Am looking forward to completing it then – yes, oh, yes – decorating it with lots of colourful crochet flowers and leaves. The bag is basically grey with a dark, flat blue edge round the handles so is fairly nondescript and dare I say, dull. But that was the intention – it’s a great backdrop for the explosion of flowers to come!

I have also learned that I cannot watch The Blacklist and crochet… I end up frogging every few rows because I can’t concentrate. I didn’t know what frogging was until recently. Apparently, knitters unravel and that’s called Tinking (knit backwards), Sewists Rip It when they undo and Crocheters Ribit, ribit like a frog. Or so I am told. Crochet was displaced for a little while yesterday as the new fabric had to be scrutinised, fingered and smelled (like smelling the inside of a new book) and for a little bit of Goggle Box watching. I am tremendously happy, though,  and feel like the dog’s bollocks (or should that be Frog’s Bollocks?).  Goggle Box fave at the moment is The Blacklist. James Spader is, as usual, brilliant in role. Love him and William Shatner in Boston Legal, another great show. Also, happy, happy, happy – we’re getting Sky installed this week. The service we’ve got at the moment is pants and just maybe there’ll be something worth watching for a change.

Still chasing the existing service provider for an acknowledgement that we’ve cancelled them. E-mail after e-mail. No response. We’re well over the initial 1 year contract and expect to pay a month’s overlap with Sky but no more. They’ve already had over a week to get back to us so hope they don’t try rolling the notice period over into two months because they won’t get it.

BTW, did you know that the ‘@’ sign we use in our e-mail addresses is sometimes called ‘A Cat’s Meow’ or a ‘Rollmop herring’ or even sometimes a ‘Cornflake’? Very cute. I’ve also adopted another lovely, but this time, inadvertent or unintentional word for a Needle. I was watching a tutorial on You Tube and had the auto-translate facility on. The translation came up with ‘Take your Niddle and Thread’. Niddle! Brilliant word and quite charming.

Now off to make soup. Chicken and winter vegetable with some dumplings or mumpsy duffins as we call them. Simple one-pot-stop. Chuck all the following in the pressure cooker: stock, chicken, veggies (carrots, swede, leeks, onions), pearl barley, chick peas with  mumpsy duffins. Bring to pressure and cook for about 15 minutes. Bring down the pressure, take the lid off and chuck in a nestie of Vermicelli. It’s so fine it cooks through in about 5 minutes with the heat of the soup. Add a platter of  granary bread wedgies to dunk and it’s a very filling, won’t-eat-for-a-week, kind of meal. But so tasty.

Loving Lavender Sachets

October 26th, 2014

This is my latest make, a simple lavender bag with an appliquéd rabbit and a tiny pom-pom tail. The smell of lavender is wafting everywhere! It’s a really pretty smell and has earned a reputation for having a relaxing effect so a lovely home fragrance to have.

These little bags make up quickly with a couple of squares of fabric. The rabbit was drawn in Illustrator, printed out and cut around to make a stencil. I fused some  Wonderweb onto the back of the spotty fabric and drew round the rabbit outline before cutting the rabbit out. The backing sheet was peeled off and the rabbit  ironed right-side-up on the gingham check. I like to stitch around the applique and used a single line of machine stitching to secure it in place and give the appliqué shape a little more definition.

The two squares of gingham were then pinned pretty sides together and the seams around the sides were stitched leaving an opening so that it could be turned the right way out and filled. I popped a loop of ribbon in one corner so it could be hung up. Once stitched, the corners were clipped to make them crisper and sharper when turned out.

I then turned it out, rolled the seams a little between my thumbs and forefingers and gave it a press with the iron. It was filled with cushion filling and a good dose of dried lavender. The  opening was closed using a ladder stitch to make the closure as neat and as invisible as possible. It’s finished off with a pom-pom tail using the smallest Clover pom-pom maker.

There. All done. I think this would be lovely in a little girl’s nursery. Have to make some blue ones for little baby boys now!

Make concentric spiral text paths in Illustrator

October 25th, 2014

Remember I said I’d write up the tutorial to create concentric spirals in Illustrator? Here it is. I have included another method of creating the spiral but the second way doesn’t (obviously, if at all – not sure) allow for conversion to a text path – BUT I could be wrong! It’s free to download so if you want to know how, grab my pdf. Am happy to deal with any questions if you have any.

Eclectic Knits

October 19th, 2014

Rather you than me if you’re out and about today. Weather is wet and windy. One of those days where you come in with a face wind-whipped red like a smacked bottom. It was even worse yesterday. Still, got a busy bee on me and surfed the net for those wonderful internet mavens that post tutorials and videos on all sorts of things. A very interesting and eclectic mix. And what brilliant people sharing their skills.

I get fed up with craft magazines that promise so much but deliver so little but bulge with advertisements. And the cellophane packaging to stop you even looking inside – why? To prevent you having a quick squiz and seeing how easy the projects are. In Ireland, we pay around €6.00 for craft type mags. And if you want more than one the cost quickly mounts up. I find there’s very little in them to justify the price and now go to Google for inspiration and help.

There is Pinterest, of course but I’m not keen on it, personally. Ultimately, I want to learn how to do things myself and Pinterest often has nothing but pins and repins ad infinitum. I use Google images to inspire me then follow the links to blogs, websites and videos for the How Tos. I have found that many of the links back to Pinterest become nothing more than circular references – not what I’m after.

Debbie Shore has a whole bunch of fabulous sewing videos – I made a pencil case based on her knitting case tutorial (not pictured). Boxed bottoms and a zip in no time at all.

And if you want brilliantly easy to follow tips, techniques and short cuts have a look at Collen G Lea’s fashion sewing blog . I struggled with mitred corners until I saw her You Tube video. Oh Wow. Simples!

What I love about both Debbie Shore and Colleen Lea is that they use conversational ‘grown up’ language. Neither use ‘super cute’ squeeeeee language or worse – that awful tone adopted by the patronising ‘me teacher, you the hard-of-thinking thickie’… ‘This is a crochet hook – see it has a hook at one end’ with seconds and seconds of video time focused on a crochet hook being twirled between a disembodied thumb and forefinger. Have you got it yet? This is what a crochet hook looks like. Need a little more time?  See it looks a little like a spoon? The hook acts a little like a spoon as it scoops up the yarn… Now get out your colouring books and draw the letter ‘C’ with a picture of a crochet hook.  Is that a curly C or a kicking K, please miss?

I do like to be given some credit for owning a functional brain. What a complex and wondrous world we must be living in if every simple implement needs the equivalent of a chapter in Grey’s anatomy before we can use them.

A quick aside… I used to volunteer for a charity shop. One lady always liked to do the till. When the till was cashed up, two people had to check the figures and the money. One day she asked me to check them. Looking at her figures I had to ask her what a couple of her hand-rendered squiggles were, eights or twos, before I could check the amounts. Her response surprised me.

She told me to remember that if the units column came to more than ten, I had to carry one over. If the number in the ten column came to more than 10, I had to carry one over… etc! I was deeply shocked that she considered me so poorly educated. So stupid. So inept. Dear-O-dear. I didn’t make a fuss as there was nothing to prove and I didn’t really care a flying fairy cake what level of ed she thought I did or didn’t have! But it showed me the power of personal perception and core beliefs and how it filters our view of others and therefore how we interact with them. Maybe the ladies in the videos have been plagued or attacked by dissatisfied viewers who wanted first principles for every tutorial. So, I must learn to be a little more tolerant and understanding but pedestrian is not my way so I leave them to those who want that type of delivery.

Moving on.

I found a tutorial for the wonderful crocheted rose in the picture above. It is very simple to do and if you search for ‘rose crochet pattern’ you will find Oogles!

And see the wooly heart? Found the link to the pattern on Attic 24‘s site. (The grey heart in the first shot  is made from the same pattern, btw). The round ‘concentric’ flower on the heart is a ‘No sew rosette’ another give away from the internet people. Google is your friend!

This idea wasn’t from the internet but something I saw at last year’s Christmas market in Manchester. Basically it’s made from 28 triangles, stitched together leaving an opening  to poke and push some stuffing into. Each one is closed up with a ladder stitch. They are stitched together with a bead in between (glass ones bought from a charity shop for a pinch). The base is a large triangle with its top chopped off. The bottom row is lightly tied at the joins around a thin length of dowelling that I bought at B & Q for €1.20.

It’s finished off with a few jingle bells and a short ribbon on the top triangle to hang it with. Now, if Mrs Trellis from North Wales inundates me with a comment asking for the templates for the triangles and the base I will post them. Otherwise, I will assume you can create these shapes using any drawing package or free hand.

And this little leafy beauty? A You Tube video from Sheruknittingcom (it is a crochet pattern) – she has posted lots of super video tutorials. This makes up very quickly. Not quite a mile a minute but pretty nippy. Remember, I am fairly new to crochet so my crochet may not be up to a ‘professional’ standard but I’m happy with the results.

If you would like a ‘paper’ copy, I have written up the instructions as a free PDF;

More Google magic. See the text in a spiral above? It was created in Illustrator. I used some text from ‘The Art of Looking Sidewards’ by Alan Fletcher – one of my favourite dippy-in books. The text is on a path (obviously) but notice the spiral? It’s not based on the spiral tool. I covered the basics of the spiral tool and a free poem on a spiral path a long while ago:

Life is a spiral

Tapering Spirals with the Width Tool  At the bottom of the post is a link to a free PDF Spiral tutorial – not the Width Tool.

This new spiral is based on concentric circles! The trouble with the Spiral Tool is that it’s based on some progressive decay algorithm. It is not great for creating text pathways. Text legibility is the first casualty and aesthetics a close second. So, unless you want to create text that shrinks rather like the words in The Mouse’s Tale from Alice in Wonderland you probably would prefer a spiral that maintains a reasonably concentric separation of lines as in the example above.

I am writing up the tutorial and have got a bunch of screen grabs prepared so will get the instructions posted by mid-week. If you want to find out how to do it, watch this space. I adore Illustrator but it has its limitations like any programme. This little work around the spiral tool is easy and you’ll love it.

And here’s kitten-cute Gracie May giving me the ‘Aren’t I adorable? You know you want to fuss me’. She trots around like a little pony and is  around 9 to 10 months now. The queenly (very imperious) Jess is getting over some of her issues. We have good days and not so good days but she’s much more relaxed and happier than she was. Her coat is looking so much glossier and healthy as well. We’re getting there. My lovely girls. I do take pictures of Jess but she tends to lurk in the shadows and being almost completely black, it’s hard to get a good shot of her. Gracie just loves being the centre of attention!

Have a great weekend, what’s left of it.

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