Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Happy Birthday Little Blog!

I cannot believe that I started to witter online a year ago but boy have I enjoyed it!

So, as it stands at the moment, I have had 20,603 hits, for 83 posts and just over 600 comments.  I have had visitors from all over the world, including a group of ladies in Brazil, some cross stitchers in Israel and looking at today's stats, Brits, Irish, Aussies, Kiwis, Serbs, Canadians, Americans, Indonesians and Greeks.  It just amazes me how people find the blog.

During this time I have learnt to write regularly, post up pictures and to improve my tutorial writing... well, I should have got better as we have 18 tutorials on line and counting.  I have even set myself a challenge of writing a tutorial every week until Christmas and I promised to do this stone cold sober!

And what will Year 2 bring?  Well, I am going to begin regular book reviews, more tutorials - let me know if there is something you would like me to tackle - and better pictures *note to self, practice more and find a use for the jar of marbles*

Finally thank you to all of you who take the time to read the blog and leave comments.  I still get such a frisson of excitement when I look at the daily stats and see how many have looked, where they have come from and what they think of the blog - thank you all very much and don't be a stranger xxx

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Buttons & bows - Christmas Tutorial no 5

The Button Jar

Since I was a child I loved my mother’s button jars, they were so exciting and in our house they were colour coded.  There was the white jar which contained the shirt buttons, snipped from exhausted shirts worn to within an inch of their lives with turned collars and cuffs and strung together for re-use and then my favourites, the dainty Mother of Pearl buttons, that caught the light and sparkled.  Then there was the bigger jar with huge coat and jacket buttons, in forbidding hues of navy, black and brown with horn buttons thrown in for light relief. And finally, my favourite the oddities, they were the bright shiny buttons, or the small delicate jobs shaped like flowers and I even seem to remember a few stray RAF buttons removed from my father’s Greatcoat.

Before my mother died she joked, “I’m not worried about making a will as I know that you two have got the contents of the house divvied up down to the button jars!”

So I thought we would make a practical and personal gift this week – a button jar with handmade buttons.  You will need:
A Leifheit Jar ( be impressed now, this is the official name for jar where the lid comes in two pieces, a metal disc and screw band)
Kapok stuffing
A heavy drill cotton scrap – eg, Ticking
Glue gun (well now I have one I should practice with it!)
6 Self covering buttons
Contrasting fabric scrap
Iron on fabric paints – or
Embroidery threads
Pencil or fabric marking pen
The embroidery hoop you can see belonged to my mum and is over 70 years old
Access to your kitchen for round items to draw around... or if you still have that set from Geometry or a Mason in the family, a pair of compasses
Embroidery hoop
Needle and scissors

Suggested contents to add to the jar
Small sharp pointy scissors
Set of sewing needles
White, Black Navy and Brown cotton
Hooks and Eyes

Take the jar apart and find in your kitchen a saucer, pint glass or large mug which is approximately 1" wider in radius than your metal disc lid.  Use this as a template to draw out a circle on your ticking fabric and then use the metal disc to cut out a circle of cardboard and cut out another piece of fabric about half an in wider in circumference.
Now using a double thread, tie a knot in the end and starting from the back of the fabric, make small running stitches about 1/4" from the edge.  Bundle up your stuffing and place it on top of the metal disc and capture the with your fabric... don't pull the fabric  tight until you are happy with amount of your stuffing, ie will it be able to hold needles and pins but not too full that you cannot get the screw band over it.  Now pull your thread tightly and sew off with a very firm couple of stitches.
Using the other circle, repeat the gathering process and place the cardboard circle in the centre, gather up the fabric around it and fasten off securely.  Now you can either glue the cardboard circle to the lid or whipstitch the two together - whipstitch is a simple over sewing stitch to join two seams together.
Now the jar is ready to be filled... so let's make some buttons to go inside.

Let's say that your button is an inch wide, then draw a circle that is 1.5" in radius, draw six circles like this  quite closely to each other and don't cut them out as we are going to stretch them over an embroidery hoop... I said DON'T cut them out, *tuts*
Now you have two choices, if you don't enjoy embroidery use your paints to creat a simple design on the fabric... I am the least artistic person you can meet so I will have go with needle and thread.  Let you imagination run riot... flowers, animals, shapes, letters, just go for it.
Carefully cut out your finished circles and with your doubled up thread sew a 1/4" from the edge, place the button in the centre and draw the fabric up.  
Now this is the fiddly bit, gently place the back cover over the button shank and push home firmly, you are allowed to swear quietly if the back cover pings off, this will happen about 50% of the time, it's the law!
Cut out a square of cardboard and using a large sharp needle, sew a couple of stitches to attach the button to the card.  If you have a compliant printer, print up some suitable wording to put on the card

So there you have it a day to day button jar with everything you need for a button emergency... and something for your children to fight over when you go!

And now for the really good stuff, pop over to Wendy's Homemade Monday and don't forget to leave a comment.  Have a great week :)

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Fighting Newton on the way to the Office

My alter-ego this morning!
A word of warning, if you wear hold ups they do not always live up to their name and they do obey the laws of gravity!  Yes, I admit it, this morning I was walking along Fenchurch Street in London when it happened.  My stocking went rogue...

It slithered down my leg, fortunately I was wearing my long, calf length dress but even so I knew that the lace and elastic were about to make a final break for freedom.

Do you know how few doorways there are in the City where you can hoick up your stockings?  As to a toilet, well just forget it...  I had to make do with the desperate, unsbutle clutching of my leg, while approximating a close impersonation of John Cleese with my very own silly walk, frankly more of a limp with a touch of a hunchback thrown in.

I managed to make it to an M&S and pick up a new pair and as I like to live dangerously, no I did not buy tights!

Finally next week I will have been blogging for a year, I would like to get 20,000 hits and am well on course, so thank you for clicking on here today.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Snuggly Reversible Cable Scarf - Christmas Tutorial No 4

Right, who is already running screaming for the door at the thought that not only are you going to cable but your knitting is going to be the same on each side?  I promise you it will be really easy, think about it there are three stitches that look the same on both sides: garter, rib and moss or seed stitch and we will be using rib and moss stitch, and to help you further there is a YouTube demo of cabling pasted at the end of the pattern.

The scarf is made with Sirdar Big Softie and measures 6' 6" and the great thing is it will knit up really quickly... I made mine in two days on the train (45 min train journeys) and the great thing is with size 10 needles few are brave enough to sit next to you!  The good news is this scarf is butch enough for chaps and, soft and snuggly enough  for girls.

The Pattern

4.5 balls of SirdarBig Softie Yarn
1 pair of size 10 needles
1 cable needle (the chunky variety)

K - Knit
P - Purl
C6 fwd - Cable 6 stitches forward (slip  stitches onto your cable needle and bring them to the front of your work, k1, P1 the next 6 stitches from the left hand needle, k1, p1 3 times from the cable needle

Cast on 24 stitches
Row 1 - K1 P1 to the end of the row
Row 2 - P1 K1 3times, K1 P1 6 times, P1 K1 3 times
Repeat the first two rows 3 times
Row 9 - K1 P1 3 times, C6 fwd, K1 P1 3 times
Row 10 - P1 K1 3times, K1 P1 6 times, P1 K1 3 times

These 10 rows are the pattern, repeat 19 times and cast off.

Knitting Tip - When you are coming to the end of the ball, start your new ball at the beginning of a row as this means you will be able to sew in your ends neatly and they will not show up like they might if you have do this in the middle of a row.

Now stand with your nose pressed to the window watching for the cold weather to come so you or your recipient can swank out in your impressive scarf.
And now it's time to go over to take a look at Wendy's Handmade Monday, she's been on her hols so you just know that she will have come back inspired.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

More Squares and a Funky Flower

I was off to the Post Office early this morning to post off a few more squares for the Mumsnet blankets today, all knitted in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino.  
Lambs' Tails, Sisal, Hearts and Squares  (clockwise from top left)
I particularly like the pink Lambs' Tails square which was designed by Nicky Epstein.
I then spent the morning at the Wool Shop and discovered another book by Nicky on Crocheted Flowers... and I just happened to have a hook with me... and so I made this little flower for my friend Deborah who is hosting a dinner party for the girls tonight... and it always a great evening there :)
Can you guess what is in the middle... well I have to find some way of using up my jar of marbles, dont' I?

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Lady Elgin's necklace for Christmas - tutorial 3

On Friday night I was tossing and turning about what I could make next... I thought about devising a pattern for a simple cable scarf, you would all have plenty of time to get that done by Christmas - but as a friend asked me out for a drink, I decided that I would have to make something that was a tad quicker, after all a G&T was calling.   So then it came to me, something quick, easy and attractive, a girlie Xmas gift - the fabric covered necklace.  
Lady Elgin's Necklace
Option A - Small boy with marble collection with about a dozen or so spare marbles
Option B - Marbles from the Pound shop or a defunct large bead necklace
A piece of fabric 44" long by 4.5" wide - just check that your fabric will wrap around your largest bead
A 60cm of narrow velvet ribbon
and as we are working with fabric, your iron and ironing board
Needle and cotton
If taking option A, explain to small boy that your need for marbles is greater than his, I did try this with my Godson but failed spectacularly so I bought a jar of Marbles from the local Pound shop!
Lay out your marbles in the order that you will want your fabric wrapped beads to lie... I chose three large marbles and eight small marbles.
Press the raw edge of the long side of the fabric under, about 1/4" should do it.  Now fold it in half so that you can find your centre point.  
Place your centre bead there, we will be using this as our marker as everything will fan out from there.
Twist the fabric as tightly as you can and tie a knot into the fabric or you might want to use some jewellery spacer beads/cuffs.  Now keeping the fabric wrapped around your marble, twist tightly again and tie another knot or place in your spacer.
Working alternately on the right, then left of the centre marble continue until all your marbles are wrapped up
Fold over the end of your fabric neatly and over stitch this in place.
Now cut your velvet ribbon into two equal pieces, remembering that velvet ribbon has an affinity with 100m runners, flame the ends to seal the ribbon.
Stitch the ribbon in place at both ends.
Tie your necklace in place with a bow... await compliments and requests for the shop address!

Now don't you think it is time to high tail it over to Wendy's Handmade Monday BTW, Wendy's plaques got an honourable mention in the Telegraph as a kitchen must have, and do you know they are are quite right!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

9/11 - 10 years on

Tomorrow, we will remember the many people who died in the US and also remember those who died in the actions which followed on from those heinous acts.
Can I make a request, after you have spent your minute remembering the dead, will you honour them by getting on with your day?  Getting on and living your life to the fullest is a wonderful way to show that acts of terror will not make a difference, talking and listening,  considering compromising and giving way, and making acts of kindness to others will help us to make a better world of which we can all be proud to be a part.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries!

Some of my favourite memories are evoked by cherries, I can vividly remember getting off the bus on my way to school and buying half a pound of cherries from Smith's Greengrocers in Hamlet Court Road and with the help of my friends finishing them before we got to the school gate.  And thinking that my friends the Fridays were posh and rich because they had dessert everyday not just on Sundays... the first time I had lunch with them we had cherries and did "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Sailor..."  am not sure how many I had because I cannot remember which number correlates with Spinster of this Parish!

Now many of you will know that I really like Making Magazine 
But I wonder how many of you ever go and look on magazine websites, you really should try because sometimes you find little gems on there, sometimes it is something which has featured in the magazine and which you missed.  Anyway I spotted these lovely little crocheted cherries and with half an hour to spare, they were made up into a brooch and ready to wear before you could sing Neil Diamond's Cherry, Cherry!

Monday, 5 September 2011

A Zip-free Christmas Ribbon Cushion Tutorial

I love ribbons, for this I blame my mother and her putting my hair in plaits when I was a child.
This cushion is actually rather easy but looks very impressive
You will need for a 12" square cushion:
10 mtrs of  1" ribbons... if you change the width of your ribbon then the amount of ribbon you will need will vary
A separate 1.3m of 1" ribbon
1 piece of medium to heavy iron on interfacing 14" square
1/2 metre of fabric to complement your ribbon colours
A cork board which is bigger than 14"
Map pins or sewing pins with coloured tops
Cushion pad
Wait for it... iron and ironing board, with a pressing cloth
Box of matches
Chop stick
12 x 12" cushion pad - Merrick and Day are great suppliers

Place your interfacing onto the corkboard with the iron on side uppermost, secure each corner with a map pin.

Next cut your ribbons in to 13.5" lengths (this gives you a 5/8" seam allowance when you sew up your cushion) - use pinking shears to cut your ribbons, as ribbon when cut can rival Usain Bolt when he runs the 100m!

Now you have to decide how you will weave your cushion, for our first venture we will just use simple weaving.
Pin 14 strips of ribbon to the top of your interfacing, ensuring that each ribbon is side by side.  These vertical ribbon are your warp threads.  Now take your first ribbon to go across, pin it down on the left hand side and begin to weave it under then over each of the warp threads.  When you get to the right hand side, pin it down, you have now completed your weft row - there is a really easy rhyme to remember which direction weaves go in - weft goes right to left.
When you begin your next row, butt your ribbon right up against your first row and then  you do the opposite with your weaving, so when on the last row you went under, this time you go over and so on until you reach the end.  Pin it in.  Continue this until all of the 14 ribbons have been used up.

You will notice that despite being the world'sbest weaver some of your ribbons have shifted a little.  Work along all of the warp ribbons (the verticals) and secure them with the map pins, repeat this with your weft ribbons.
Turn on your iron to a cool setting but sufficiently hot to fuse the interfacing to the ribbon, take the cork board to your ironing board - pop your pressing cloth on top of the weaving (if you do not have one, use a clean cotton tea towel - now gently iron the square of weaving until the interweaving has fused to the ribbons.  Now remove one side of pins, press this down, and repeat for the other three sides.

Cut out a 14" square, pin and sew it to the reverse side of your weaving using a seam allowing of 5/8", this will give your cushion front more body. Trim the excess fabric away and you should have a square of 13.5".
Cut two pieces of fabric 13.5 x 10".  Turn over and 1/4 in seam.  Take one piece of fabric, and fold back 3 1/4", then with right sides facing pin it to your cushion front, now take your other front and pin it to the other half of your cushion, it will overlap the piece that you have just sewed but don't worry.  Now sew all around with a 5/8" seam allowance.
At each corner, snip off the dog ear triangles (so that there is no bulk when you turn it out), turn the cushion inside out and use the chop stick inserted into the corners to give you a nice crisp corner.
Taking your left over ribbon, cut it into four equal pieces, measure along your opening and divide it by 3, mark (as your cushion is 12" this should be 4") and place a pin at 4" and 8". Take you ribbon and fold it in half widthwise, cut it into a point (of less than an inch) and seal along the edge with a match to stop it fraying at the other end cut out a triangle and repeat your trick with a match or if your prefer not be arrested for arson use your pinking shears.  Fold the pointy end under and pin to the cushion as shown in the picture, and sew to the cushion, repeat on the other side of the opening.
Now you have not only a ribbon woven cushion but an original and easily closer too!
This cushion is great on beds... but history tells me they are useless in cat households...
Yes, I know the window box has died - please send flowers :)
And now pop over to see what everyone else has been up to on Handmade Monday - it has to be one of the best craft linky parties around!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

No better way to start the weekend

Really, there is only one way to start a Saturday and this is it
As made by my chums at The Coffee Bean Company, a quirky little coffee shop just round the corner, yes I think any shop that acts as an official shelter to the Blue Lady pics from the 1960s deserves the accolade and they also make the best coffee this side of the Thames.

I am then off to collect a PE bag to do some emergency back-to-school embroidery... odd, isn't it, I never thought to see emergency and embroidery in the same sentence.