Monday, 26 December 2011

What RosMadeMe does next?

I have been sitting here this morning planning what to do with the blog  moving forward into 2012 and thinking about how much I have enjoyed writing the tutorials especially leading up to Christmas.
So I have decided to continue to do tutorials every week during the next year for all the major holidays and special occasions which happen in the UK, the US and Canada and all points East and West.  My plan is to start posting up these up from about a month before the big occasion in order that you get enough time to complete them.

I am going to fill the gaps between the big occasions with a back to basics series.  You will know by now that I was lucky enough to be taught how to knit, sew and embroider by my mum and my primary school but I realise that not everyone was that lucky so we will do a bit of a crash course to make sure that you will be able to make the things that I come up with for the tutorials.
I am hoping to cover embroidery, knitting, crochet, sewing, quilting, a touch of origami and other papercrafts... but despite the picture above we will not be tackling taxidermy this year!

If you have a topic or a project that you would like covered next year, pop it into comments and I will try to schedule it in.

Now back to your Christmas leftovers everyone :)

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I can only imagine how many of you are currently feeling like this... still with presents to wrap and the turkey to contend with... So I just wanted to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and hope that you all get even more than your hearts desire.

I also wanted to thank you all for reading the blog, I get so excited when I see that I have readers all over the world and hope that wherever you live you have a happy, safe and most of all a peaceful Christmas.

And here is one of the first carols I remember learning back in the time when I got to play second shepherd, sans tea towel and dressing gown way back in 1963... Emmylou Harris singing, Away in a Manger

Talk to you all again soon :)

Monday, 19 December 2011

Kamikaze Christmas Tree

I don't know about you but my Christmas decorations carry so many memories of my life and I love opening up the bags and boxes each year and remembering where I got them and why.
Now to be really honest, if I used more than 50% of my decs on the tree you would not be able to see a single branch, yet every year I buy one little something to put on there.  However this year I was not going to buy a tree as I still have not found a permanent job and I was going into mega economy mode.  So you can only imagine how thrilled I was when a friend asked me to stay in on Friday morning and arrived with a Christmas Tree in the back of her Mini.  However what she did not tell me was that the tree was suicidal, it leapt off the table twice before I realised that it did not have a root ball... Deborah came round with another stand... we set to work with secateurs and a bread knife... who needs a man, eh?  

I got it decorated again and it made another break for it, so I jammed it in with my embroidery thread tin... I am a resourceful woman... it is now held in there with a brick but I have had words with the tree and it knows that if it makes another break for it, it becomes another part of the Christmas tradition - The Yule Log!
I was going to make do with my little tree which I bought back in the 1980s when I had my flat in London... I still have all the decorations and even the angel with the bendy wings.  When I started to buy real trees, I used to bring this tree to work and share out the choc decorations after Christmas... except for the year of the IBM mice.  I got a phone call from the office to tell me that whilst we had been off over the hols, mice had hit the Exec Office at IBM and had climbed up the tree to nibble into the chocs... and no, they were the four legged rather than two legged variety!
This little group are rather special, the tree on the left came from an Italian cookery holiday in Limone on the Lakes and the tree on the left was a prezzie from sister when she took my aunt to Venice.  And I made the fairy in the middle the Christmas my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer, it is thanks to her that I knit and sew... not a bad legacy to inherit.
I always smile when I see these Russian Matryoshka dolls which were brought back from a Moscow market when my friend Lisa was helping to set up the KPMG offices in Moscow... not only did she do that but she also organised her wedding from there.  It was one of the best celebrations I have ever been to, best of all was her present to her husband Liam - it was a tandem - he always complained that he had to wait for her when they went cycling together... she thought this was the most elegant solution :)
These are my oldest decs, they are older than me and when I was little they meant that Christmas was really coming.
Now if you look down at the bottom of the fireplace, you might recognise my Christmas Salt Dough Sheep, which I made 15 years ago... who says salt dough doesn't last?
Finally, no crafter's tree is complete without the tools of her trade and here is a cotton reel angel, my needles and wool and sitting in the background is another ancient salt dough parcel.

Now off you go to look at Wendy's Handmade Monday and see what everyone else has been up to in the week before Christmas.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Not Tea Again, Surely - Christmas Tutorial no 16

I really cannot believe this but yes, this is another tutorial to do with tea!  This is something that you can get the children to do for grandparents and aunts and uncles... it is a real Blue Peter coverall!  And no it is not the infamous Advent Crown, complete with candles, coathangers and tinsel... the Fire Prevention Officer's nightmare.  We are going to paint up a Christmas morning tea set:

You will need:
Small plain teapot, milk jug, cup and saucer or mugs (I picked up mine at the local factory shop for £7.50)
China Paints - I use Pebeo as I have always been pleased with the results
Paint brushes, sponges (use non-scratch dish sponges) and stiff card
Old plate to act as your palette

Wash your china to ensure that all the sticky labels and grease are removed, dry them thoroughly.
Decide on your design - you can sketch it out on your crockery with Chinagraph pencil if you want to use it as an outline.  Some ideas that you might like to use are snowmen, angels, bells, candles....  I was going to use mittens, scarves and bobble hats so the set can be used throughout the Winter and not just at Christmas but frankly they looked like Rorschach blots when I painted them.  If you want to change the colour of your china, take a small amount of sponge, dip it into the paint and stipple it all over the china, give it five minutes to dry and then you can start to paint on your design.  If like me you cannot paint well enough to forge a Constable, then cheat... think Emma Bridgewater and use a stencil and sponge dipped in paint, you can hold it in place with small scraps of sellotape... stars, hearts and polka dots will work really well.  Another idea I had was to find black china and paint snowmen as even I can paint circles...
Paint on your design, the paints are usually tacky dry after a few minutes, if you make a mistake, wipe it off with a wet tissue and start over. Don't forget to get the children to sign it on the bottom, if only to help out the experts on the Antiques Roadshow of the future!

The china will need to fully dry for 24 hours. Your next step is to bake the china for 35 minutes at 150°C (300°F or Gas Mark 2) in your oven... now come on you have seen my baking sheets, did you really think I would show you the inside of my oven?  Dream on, readers.

The great thing is that your work is now dishwasher proof and going to be used very regularly by proud grandparents.

I want to say a very big thank you to Judy Balchin who nearly 15 years ago did a workshop on china painting and I have never forgotten what fun she made that day! 

Confession time - I had this tutorial written on Sunday... but it just wasn't up to snuff, you see I cannot paint or draw and my efforts looked simply awful and then it came to me to use a stencil and sponge to cover up for my deficiencies.  So if anyone wants a real challenge, teach me to paint or draw something that is recognisable next year... go on, I dare you!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Cheap, cheery and chic - Christmas Tutorial 15

Right, I am not going to tell you how tough life is at the moment, so let's look at some ways to save a little bit of money over the Christmas holiday, which means this week we will make gift bows, candle holders and place settings.
Firstly the gift bows, you will need:
An old map book (charity shops are brill for these) or magazines - or double sided paper
A stapler
Cut out 9 strips 3/4" wide and 11" long (about the length of a magazine page), then cut an inch off three of the strips and two inches off another three strips.
Fold the strips into a figure of eight and staple them together.
Lay the strips on top of each other and pop a tiny bit of glue in the centre of the strips.

Now repeat this for the next two groups of paper, leaving one of the small pieces aside.

With your left over small piece make a loop, trimming off the excess and glue it together holding it in place with a paper clip.
Pop the final loop into the centre with a dab of glue and there you have a cheap and cheerful bow, this looks brilliant if you wrap your gift in either newspaper or brown paper. If anyone challenges you either raise your eyes and mutter global warming or ask them if they do not understand irony and look disappointed!

Now, onto the candle holders, I first used these for my first Christmas dinner in my house and over 10 years later I still use them! You will need:
Empty jam jars
Shoe whitening
Stencils or pastry cutters and cardboard
Wash the jars, dry them and put the lids somewhere safe.

Use the shoe whitener pad to create decorations, just using it on its own without stencils and the circles will make a flower.   Or if you are getting small children to do this when they are on hols, just dobbing the foam top of the whitener over the glass will look like snow.  If you do not have any Christmassy stencils then use your pastry cutters to create some by tracing them onto the card and cutting them out.  Pop the stencil against the glass and dob the whitener onto the jam jars.
I put these all over my dining room to light it for Christmas Day, they look lovely with the tea light candle behind them and the great thing is that you can wash them after and use them for jam.  The other good thing is that the candles are really safe in the jars especially if you have ever suffered from a tea light flaring up, but do remember to always snuff out candles if you leave a room.

And finally, an idea that I had for place mats, which I will be making for myself later and will post pics... using mirror tiles (I found these at Wilkinsons for £4.95 for four) make sure that the edges are rounded/bevelled as I do not want to be sitting with you in Casualty on Christmas Day.  Cut out four small squares in felt and glue them onto the corners so that the tiles do not scratch your table.  Stencil or paint a decoration in acrylic/poster paints around the edge or in just one corner. Now as we are being very thrifty, you will be able to wipe the paintwork clean and recycle them for Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays and other special occasions.

Now off you go and take a look at Handmade Monday to see how all the other crafters are preparing for Christmas.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Small needs our support

At the beginning of the year I wrote a piece about using shops or losing them, so I was really sad today when I saw that our local toyshop was closing.  It took me back to saving up my pocket money to buy a tambourine from my local parade of shops, I have to be honest, it was something only a seven year old could love... On the face was a scene in a gypsy encampment with a wild haired girl dancing round the camp fire... but better still it had red and turquoise ribbons and frankly by the end of the day that I bought it, I could have joined the Sally Army such was my proficiency on the tambourine!  And yes I did wear my mum's headscarf...

So I am asking you all to buy at least one Christmas gift from a local shop or a small website and to tell us who they are.  Here are my local faves:
Cedar Tree - who are on the Broadway in Leigh, it is the best place to find the present you didn't know you needed
Natural Edge - also on the Broadway, it's where you go if you cannot find it in Cedar Tree
Goods and Chattels - on Rectory Grove, unusual gifts
Now on the web
1st Unique Gifts - Wendy does brilliant plaques and black boards, fantastic service
Red Needle Sewing - Caroline does fabulous free style embroidery and her items have a super finish
Claire Manwani - Pottery to die for!
Now let me know where else we should be shopping to support small businesses