Monday, 27 June 2011

All dressed up

Well let’s start with the good news, I am currently temping at a legal media agency, so am no longer a burden on the state... now if only I could get a full time job, life would be perfect!

One of the lovely things about working in the West End was being able to nip into John Lewis to get some bargains in the sale and better still I was able to buy them with gift vouchers.  And this is what I bought a metre of each of the fabrics below, which will be transformed into little outfits for girls together with some matching cottons
Here is one of the little dresses which I finished over the weekend.  I love it because it brings together two of my favourite crafts, sewing and knitting.  The bodice is knitted in cotton, using a moss stitch background and a cable stitch, delicately finished off with a picot edging and the dress is worked in cotton.  These dresses are for 6 - 9 month olds but can be made up to fit a three year old.
And here is another dress which I will put together tonight... I love the grape colour of the cotton.  So now that you have seen these, how about taking a look at Wendy’s Handmade Monday and see what everyone else has been up to?

I am going to pop them up on my Etsy shop, do hope that people like them.

And finally, I delivered the rag wreaths at the weekend and Sarah is thrilled with them, which is a big relief.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Felt Up? A felt beads tutorial

Can you see how snow white my hands are?  That's because I took it into my head that what I needed more than anything else was a bit of colour in my life so I hit my bag of Merino tops to make a wet felt bead bracelet.

A selection of complementary Merino Tops
Soap or washing up liquid
Hand warm water
Hand cream
Mattress needle
Shirring Elastic Thread
OK, hands up who is wondering what exactly Merino tops are?  Well this is what they look like,  you will remember that Merino is a variety of sheep that comes originally from Australia by way of the US and has very soft wool.  The top is the washed, dyed and carded (carding the process by which the wool fibres are teased apart and made ready for spinning) wool which is sold from a number of places.  A quick google will bring up a number of suppliers like the Handweavers Gallery and Studio or Wingham Wool who can supply you with these.
So select the colour of beads that you want to work with and open up the tops.
Tease the top into two and gently pull off about 4" of fibre.
Now there are various methods of rolling a ball, you can tease the fibres in half again vertically.  Roll one strip up like a Swiss roll, take the other strip and do the same again over your existing Swiss but rolling over so that you cover the open ends.  However, I am a simple soul and so I simply start to roll up the fibre into a ball.  Remember you will lose at least 25% of the size in shrinkage.
Now take a smidge of soap in your hands and some warm water and start to roll your felt ball.  It will feel like a soggy cotton wool ball and you will think that the ball will not come together but keep on rolling it between your palms as it becomes harder and denser and occasionally pass your hands under a hand hot stream of water.  

Once you have a passably sized bead, you can add some further fibres to make a bead that looks like mosaic, you could choose fibres from the other tops or add silk fibres too.  Remember that the new fibres will only hold if you matte them into the existing felt bead.
You will feel that the ball has become really solid, you need to shock the felt, firstly by using hot water and then follow this up with cold water and continue to rinse the bead until all the soap has dissipated.  You now need to let the bead dry out... I leave mine to dry on a sunny window sill.

When you have finished making the number of beads that you need, get out your hand cream, you will certainly have clean hands so use the hand cream to keep them soft too!
Once the beads have dried out, you need to string them up.
Use a mattress needle, which is a wicked looking implement originally used for sewing mattress buttons to the top and the bottom of mattresses.  The needle is strong enough to pierce through the dense fibre of your bead.  

Set out your beads in the pattern that works best.  I have used shirring elastic doubled up to string the beads together so I do not have to use findings to fasten the bracelet.  
When you tie the two ends together, push the knot into the bead to hide it and make the bracelet look neat.
And here is the finished item all ready for Handmade Monday, so please go over to Wendy's Blog to see what everyone else has been up to over the past week.  

However, if you also want to see a blog with some amazing wet felting work, take a look at Rosie Pink's blog, the work that they do is fantastic.

And now for the really shrivelled hands as I make the accompanying necklace... pass me the hand cream!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Gingham Hearts

I had been asked to make three different sized rag wreaths for a local cafe but I have really struggled with the brief.  Sarah wanted them to be bright but using red, yellow and orange.  The cafe has a very homely feel and lots of plaques, greenery and, hearts and gingham were a big theme.
I have to admit that I did every form of displacement activity not to make them as whenever I started, the yellows and oranges just overpowered everything.  So this afternoon I stared the heart forms squarely in the face and started by putting on just the red strips and then added in the oranges, yellows and used a purple gingham to break it up.
So, it is off to the Tea Garden on Sunday to hand them over.  
Just hope that Sarah likes them and the other great thing is she says I can leave my card with them... yippee!  So hopefully some other peeps will order them, fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Leigh Art Trail 2011

If you are walking round the streets of Leigh this week, you cannot help but notice that it is Leigh Art Trail week.  You find art where you least expect it, in local churches, schools, garden sheds, kitchen fitting shops, coffee bars, wool shops... everything from painting, photography, ceramics, sculpture and even maze building

So here are a few of the artists whose work particularly appealed to me.
Howard on the left, chatting with an American visitor
Firstly there is Howard Robinson at Gallery 3A.  Howard started as a draughtsman which really shows in his small sketches but where he really excels is in his wonderful views across the estuary, Two Tree Island and Hadleigh Castle.

A selection of cards, mugs and small pics from Howard
Finding the water colour for the living room back home in Washington DC
The American visitors in the Gallery were both artists and got to take a look at Howard's studio and discuss the mixed mediums in which Howard works.  I have seen his work using sand, bubble wrap and even the local  newspaper, but what amazes me is that his work always looks right.

I then popped over the road to see Jonathan Trim, who has a fabulous exhibition at Moylans.  I actually stood on the other side of the road looking at his big canvases and wondered if he had moved into photography as the pics had such a filmic quality but on crossing the road was amazed by the delicate quality of his brushwork.
And here is Jonathan at work, that river looked so real, I expected to see ducks landing and to hear the wind whistling through the trees.  What really fascinated me was the different interpretations of the views across the Estuary between  Howard and Jonathan... I could certainly live happily with works of art from either of them.

Finally it was Andrew Haines, a fabulous photographer, who spends part of his year in Denmark and the rest in Leigh.
I think that he is the luckiest as he had the most wonderful venue... technically this is Elaine & John's garden shed!  Originally it was a classroom for two music teachers and is the most amazing space with stripped wooden floors, high ceilings and working fires... go on admit you want one too.

Each exhibition that Andrew constructs has a theme within the exhibition, there are certain subjects which people will always expect of him.  He has a fantastic eye for water, both inland and the open sea, as you can see in the triptych behind him which is printed on aluminium and has the most amazingly crisp finish.
Anyway his sub theme running through the exhibition was unusual groupings of usual objects, my favourites were a gorgeous selection of brightly coloured leather gloves, a collection of ski boots taken from above which I recognised after a good stare.  Also how can someone make used beer cans about to be recycled into a work of art or cigarette cartons, I don't know how he does it but it made me want to go out looking for a group to photograph... so I dashed into the kitchen and took this... a study of Howard's mugs.
So there you have it, a show which is well worth a visit and may well inspire you to try something new yourself... you have until Saturday 18 June to get down here to see it.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Showing Off - Or How to Prep for a Craft Show

Right, you have made the decision to do your very first craft show... it's such a long way away... and really once you've made your choice what else is there to do?  Well here is my tip list for how to make it as successful as possible.

Before you start (stay with me, my parents were Irish) you need to know what you are getting into, don't just rush in and sign up to the first craft show that you see.
  • Go and check out other shows run by the organisers, see how busy it is and what people are buying, which stalls are busiest, do they do refreshments?
  • Now don your industrial spy outfit, you are going to check out the opposition.  Firstly, do you have any competitors or are you the only producing the chandelier earrings for St Bernards with attitude?  How good is the quality of their stock, how do your prices compare, do they have a wide variety of items and how do they entice you into their selling kingdom?  
  • Next is more homework, check out the fair on the internet... can you find it?  If there is no sign of it, then how do they encourage people to attend?  Take a look on facebook, twitter, local newpapapers, do they have a website?
Well you are happy with what you have found out and you are ready for the next steps.  Give yourself plenty of time to get your stock ready... no matter how much you make, you will still think that you do not have enough... the only people who run out of stock at a craft show are the cupcake makers!  You should also take out public liability insurance... sounds melodramatic but it is there for your protection.

About a month before, decide how you  are going to package your stock when people take it away.  You will need bags, are you going to recycle Sainsbugs and Tesco's or are you going to buy your own to brand your goods?  I have two sizes of carrier bags, tissue paper and boxes together with ribbon to tie up the goods. For my next show, I am also going to add tags to the bags to add further branding.  I also have a guillotine and laminator which are brilliant for knocking up price lists, business cards, washing instructions and showing pics of my work.  So why do this so early, because you do not want to be sitting up the night before laminating your lists... it takes forever, believe me, I was that woman!
A few weeks before, be your own Sales and Marketing Director, mention it on your blog, tweet it on Twitter, pop it onto Facebook, send the details through to your local radio for a mention.

A few days before, clear your dining room table and practice how your table will look, think of it like a garden border, you would not put all the bushes at the front and the small plants at the back.  Start low at the front so that people can see... less is more (I never take this piece of advice but maybe one day I might listen), this also works from side to side, make the side closest to the door the lowest side and the side furthest away higher.  You may well change your plans on the day but at least you now have a plan!

Two days before - start to gather all you will need, here is my list, not exhaustive but it covers most things:
  • A flat sheet  - will cover your table and hide all the tat you put under it!
  • Money box or tin, plus a float - I usually take £20 x £1 coins, £10 x 50p, £5 x 20p and £5 x 10p
  • Sellotape, Blue Tack, Map Pins, Scissor, Hammer and Screwdrivers
  • Pen & Notebook, for requests and orders!
  • Your packaging
  • Booking Forms, confirmation notes and insurance details
  • Stock and props
  • Business cards and price lists
    On the morning - I tend to take a flask, sweeties, sarnies and fruit, just in case I cannot get away from the stand or there is no food available.  Also remember your camera, it is good to take pics of how your stand looks and how all your hard work turns out.  Finally take a project with you... so much the better if it is something slightly quirky that will catch the customers attention.  At my last show, I was using really funky wool, although socks on four needles mesmerise children and embroidery also draws in the crowds.

    On the day itself, have a good breakfast, get to the site at least 15 mins before they say they will open. Accept all the help that your chums will give you and make sure you get to walk around and see what everyone else is selling.  When you are sat behind the stall, don't sit there with a book ignoring the crowds, talk to them as they want to know what you do, how you do it and why.  They may not buy on the day but they will go and look at your website and blog, so make sure your cards are on the table.

    And here are a couple of bits I made this week, a black and white scarf for Pierina, a polka dot hair flower, a pair of teeny tiny socks and I received a commission for three rag wreaths for a local cafe, they wanted bright reds, oranges and yellows... I think I might just have covered the brief... and yes, I am working up my winter stock, really!
    So now go and take a look at Handmade Monday, cannot believe that Wendy and the crafters have made it to 20 Mondays... go take a look, you will be impressed!

    And finally, just to show you that the tide is not always in...

    Sunday, 5 June 2011

    Armed and Dangerous?

    Do you ever have a week when you wonder what you actually did?  The days have gone past in a blur but you really don't think you have achieved anything... and then the day when you thought you would be allowed to slob about and chill is the busiest in the week.

    Well, I was getting really disheartened with the job search as I did not get a contract role which I wanted but they are keen on me for two perm jobs which are available.  And it is possible that I may have a temp job to tide me over in between so hopefully things are getting better.

    Anyway, Friday was my birthday and I thought, yippee, I will have a lie-in, but the fates conspired against me.  My friend Deborah needed a house sitter to wait for the BT man, so I was sitting in her lovely living room watching the tide come in whilst removing the sleeves from a dress.  Said dress was needed by my neighbour's daughter for a trip to Spain... little did I realise that I would have to get through three separate sets of seams to remove them but the dress did make it to suitcase in time for the trip.

    Then Sally (who had the cushion last week) asked me to create Summer rag wreath for a chum with a local cafe, so I had to sort out a bunch of gingham and floral FQs to grace the walls of the Tea Garden... and this is what I managed:
    I also found some smaller hearts and I am thinking of making some really jazzy rag wreaths to hang from door handles.
    I also took charge of a new toy during the week, I am now officially armed and dangerous... stand well back I have a glue gun and after a little bit of practice, I am not afraid to use it!   Now if I can just work out how to stop it dribbling like a new baby, I will be chuffed to bits, but I have to admit to taking a perverse pleasure in picking off the excess.
    To get some practice in I made a couple of Kanzashi Flower brooches, using the square technique rather than the circles and I have managed to make a 1.5" flower with a modicum of swearing but I think if I try the one inch flower the air will be blue.
    I had a look through my stash and found some lovely silk that I bought from the Silk Route, which I think will make some even lovelier brooches, what do you think?
    So on reflection, maybe just maybe, I did do more than I thought last week.  And if you want to see what the rest of the gang have been up to, take a look at Wendy's Handmade Monday, but be warned it is very addictive seeing what everyone has been up to!