Sunday, 26 August 2012

Christmas Tutorials Start Here - Chris's Patchwork Decorations

OK, can you believe four months today Christmas Day will be over?  We started a Christmas countdown at this time last year, so throughout the year I have been collecting ideas (and discarding them, too!) ready for the fray.  In fact I have even prepared my very own Christmas list... more of which later, however Christmas is also about presents and to that end, I have two bow makers which I am going to give away to two lucky winners who post on this post by Friday 29 August 2012.
So no more shilly shallying, let's get cracking, you will need:
Paper, pencil, protractor (go on you know you can borrow it from your children's new school set... just to see if it works), a ruler and paper scissors
Christmas fabric scraps
Pins, needle, thread, dressmaking scissors, small sharp scissors
Fish knife
Ribbon or hairy string
Iron and ironing board
Wizard little bowmaker (I will be giving away two, Merry Christmas!)
Stuffing - kapok, polyester filling
Buttons for decoration (optional)
We are going to start with the star, this is a classic six point star used in quilting, yep, you are learning another technique by stealth...  If you want to make the big star which will be 7" wide then start by drawing a line 3" long, for the smaller star which is 5" wide draw a line 2" long.  Now we are going to use our protractor for good (not evil maths), line it up the line at the bottom of your protractor goes along the line you have drawn, at the left hand side mark it at 70' and the right hand side mark it at 110'.  Draw a line up to this point measuring 3" for the big star and 2" for the little star.  Draw a line along the top which will also measure 3" or 2" creating a rhombus, you have just created your pattern template.  You can either use just this one or cut out half a dozen.
Choose six scraps of fabric which sit well together and on which you will be able to cut out two of your templates, iron the fabric.  You need to lay the template so that the longest line through the centre of the template lies along the warp of the fabric (parallel to the selvedge). Pin the template to the material and cut out two diamonds in each fabric. Spend a couple of minutes working out how you want to arrange your star.
Take three of the diamonds, using a 1/4" seam allowance (if your machine does not have markings then use a permanent marker and draw a line a quarter of an inch from where the needle goes down and use this as your guideline).  
Start sewing from the outer edge into the centre but stop 1/4" from the end ... this is really important, otherwise you will not get a sharp pointy star.  I usually use my old and trusty hand Singer so that I have to work at a slower pace and allegedly I will make few mistakes - who is laughing at the back?
Now pin the other side to the middle diamond and sew it as above.  Press the seams open, yes I know this goes against your quilting and patch work principles but you have to have faith in me... just this once.
Do exactly the same for the other side.  When you look at it from the right side, you will see the centre point of the middle diamond 1/4" from the edge ... how clever are you?  Pin the two sides together, ensuring that the points meet in the middle, I do this by putting a pin through the point on one side and then through the point on the other side to make sure that they meet exactly.  If when you sew it together they do not sit correctly, undo it an start again, otherwise it will annoy you forever and it will only take a couple of minutes to correct it.  Iron open the seams down the centre.
Next we are going to create the back using the same technique, however don't lay it out with both sides laying face up as the arrangement will not work ... believe me, I did it ... twice!  What you need to do is lay the completed star right side down and place the matching diamonds on top, with right sides uppermost.

Repeat the steps we took to create the first star.
Take your ribbon, I visited my ribbon stash and found some festive red ribbon from Jane Means, fold it so that the loop of the ribbon reaches the mid-point of the star and make it about 8" for the large star and 6" for the small star (you may want to adjust this to suit your decorating scheme).
Take one side of the star, lay it face up, choose which point is going to be uppermost and fold the ribbon in two with the two ends lying over the point of the star, pin them in place.  Take the other star and place it on top, pin it in place but leave a gap on one of the sides as we will turn the star inside out through this aperture.  Sew the star together.

Trim the excess fabric from over each point and turn the star inside out, use the fishknife to poke up into the points to make them really sharp.  Start to fill the star with stuffing,  do this by using small amounts, I know it is tempting to ram it all in to save time but this will give you an uneven lumpy filling, so small and often is the way.
Pin the open sides together and slip stitch (this is a small diagonal stitch) them together with a matching thread.
To make your bows, put two dowels in the holes for the size of bow that you want.  Run the ribbon round the back of the dowels and take the left hand ribbon towards the right dowel.
Next take the right hand ribbon over the top of the left ribbon and round under the back ribbon and bring it back over the top to the front.  
Make a loop by bringing the the left hand ribbon over to the left hand side.  
Thread the right hand through the loop, pull both ends until you are happy.  Slip it off the dowels and gussy it up... now you have perfect bows every time.

I have two of these little gadgets to give away to two posters who leave feedback and I will announce the winners on Friday 29 August.
For some reason the smaller stars look better with a couple of buttons sewn through the middle, use two buttons so that the star will look good from each side when you see it on the tree.

You will have noticed that I also made a heart, yep we are doing a bogoff on techniques this week, we are going to do some crazy patchwork.  I bet that you have in your fabric stash, bits of fabric that are too small to do anything with yet, you cannot bear to throw away and that is what we are going to use.  After cutting out the diamonds we are left with odd shaped bits and we can make use of those.

Remember how we made a heart template earlier this year from a biscuit cutter, either use that or cut out a new template.
Find a small square of fabric and sew another piece to one of the side, repeat this with square shapes and triangles until you have sewn together enough to cover your heart template... once this is done you are officially the Dolly Parton's mum of patchwork with your very own fabric of many colours, just like her mother made!
Pin the heart template to your patchwork and cut out the heart. 
Repeat for the other side.
Now you can leave it like this but I remembered a fantastic crazy patchwork tea cosy that my mum had which was made of velvet and silk scraps which had herringbone embroidery joining them together, so I used the herringbone stitch on my machine using a contrasting thread to sew over all the seams.
Insert the ribbon loop in the same way that we did with the star, pin the heart together with right sides facing and leave a gap on one of the sides so that you can turn the heart inside out.  Once you have sewn it together, ease the curves by cutting little notches into the curves so that the fabric will not bunch and pucker.  
Turn the heart right side out, using the fish knife to get that lovely point at the base.  Stuff the heart with small amounts of stuffing until it is filled to your satisfaction and slip stitch the opening shut.  Add a bow to the bottom of the loop and now you have another Christmas decoration for your tree.
Don't forget to pop by on Friday to see if you are one of the winners.

And now is the time to go and look at Handmade Monday... and just think with it being a Bank Holiday weekend you will have plenty of time to kick back and enjoy it all

For those of you who are wondering why these are Chris's Christmas decorations, well they are for my brother who as a little boy always referred to decorations as decormorations... although I still feel his greatest skill was walking down our stairs head first on his hands, do you think 50+ is possibly too old to try this?

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Every Gold Medal Winner Started with One of These - The PE Bag Tutorial

I have to tell you that I am exhausted after a fortnight of the Olympics... my sofa is suffering and I know it could have been me... I just know I could have been there... if I had had the right equipment, dedication, physical strength, nerve, stamina, ability to fit into a leotard and of course, a decent bag to keep my gym kit in.  Actually I got so carried away, I even looked at what sports were available locally and watched a trailer for the mountain biking... these people are lunatics, they ride down rocks, at speed on their lycra!  So I have decided to become part of the Olympic legacy by making a PE bag for the next generation... so let's get to it, there is not a moment to waste before Rio!
You will need
A piece of cotton weight fabric 40" (long) x 18" (wide)
2 yards of ribbon
Scissors and/or rotary cutting wheel, mat or ruler
Iron and ironing board
Safety pins x 4
Experience as a Girl Guide or Brownie

Let's get started by ironing your fabric ready to cut out, cut one piece 40" long by 18" wide.
Fold under 1/4" at each end and sew it down
Take your ribbon and fold over the top of the fabric to cover it, do not be mean, make sure it doesn't barely cover it but gives you plenty of room for movement, then insert a pin.  Using a 5/8" seam allowance sew down each side, making sure that you have reverse stitched at the top to make sure that seam is strengthened.
Iron the seam open and fold over the fabric and iron into place, on the right side sew down the seam 1/4" away from the edge, when you reach the join sew a 1/4" beyond it, keeping your needle in the fabric, turn the work 90 degrees sew across to the other side, keeping the needle in the fabric, turn 90 degrees again and sew up to the top.  Now repeat this on the other side.  Use a pair of pinking shears or a pinking wheel to cut away the excess, to create a prettier seam.
As you know, I like making bags with flat bottoms, so the next step is optional. Press open the side seam and lay it over the fold line of the bottom of your bag, measure 2" from the point of the triangle you have created on each side and mark it with a pin, sew straight across to create the base of your triangle and trim away the excess and repeat this on the other side.  Now turn your bag right sides out.
Go to the top of your bag, fold over the top seam so it lies just below the opening, sew around the top of the bag to create the casement for your ribbon.  You should now have two openings at the top at the front and at the back.
Get your ribbon, I am using Jane Means 15mm stitched ribbon which is sturdy enough to take the weight of an Olympian pair of trainers, yet attractive enough for those publicity shots of an emerging athlete.  Cut a yard and seal both ends with a match, now put a safety pin in both ends. Pin one end to your fabric and feed the other end through the casement, keep the ribbon flat whilst you are doing this and feed it through the front and the back... if you get too vigorous you can find the other end flying through which is why you have been very clever and pinned it.  When the ribbon is all the way through, pin the other end down too.
Now, you need to feed the other yard of ribbon through from the other side, in exactly the same way.  If all the PE bags at school are the same colour and your children are not yet reading, using a coloured ribbon is a great way for little one to know which bag is theirs.

It is now time for you to revive you knotting skills, if you were a Brownie or a Girl Guide and I say reef knot to you, I know that you are reciting with me, "Right over Left and under, then Left over Right and under."  And that is how you knot your bag.

So if you are currently playing that game of nerve which is also known as, do I buy new school uniform now and hope they don't grow, or do I risk waiting and everything being sold out... you could crack on and make this now as I promise they will not outgrow it!

Well, now it is time to go over to Handmade Monday and see what else the Olympics have inspired amongst the crafts peoples posting there.

PS. I am watching a review of the Olympics before the Closing Ceremony and I keep crying...  I may have to keep a mega supply of hankies in my bag now!
And this was Charlie after he had barked Mo Farah home in the 5,000 metres... he ran all the way with him!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Harry Potter Hits the Garden - The Lavender Wand Tutorial

I like lavender, it thrives on neglect and just gets on with its life... I love the way that the bush is alive with bees when I leave the house and how if you just run your hands through it, it takes you back to Tuesday afternoon's when my mother used to polish the furniture  If you think that you can grow nothing then, give lavender a chance.
One of the most wonderful things about lavender is that  it retains its scent and therefore makes a wonderful smelly for sheets and towels and is said to keep moths away from your woollies.  So this week, we are going to use lavender from your garden (no, you cannot borrow it permanently from your local park)... it is best to make the wand when your plants have started to flower and to make them immediately you have cut them so that the stems are still malleable and do not become brittle and break.
You will need:
A lavender bush from which you cut 15 stems (it has to be an odd number)
Between 2 - 3 yards of narrow ribbon... I used 7mm skinny ribbon from my Jane Means stash and a small piece of contrasting ribbon
A pair of secateurs
2 sequin pins (these are very short pins which are so handy for jobs like this.
From your bush cut 15 long stems... it really must be an odd number to make the weaving work.
Find a sunny spot in the garden, with just a bit of a breeze and sit yourself down with a cup of coffee or a chilled glass of wine and trim off any excess leaves or flowers below the flower spur at the top.
Line up your stems and trim them up so that they are all of equal length.
Take your ribbon and tie it securely just below the flowers, now bend the stems over the flowers and tuck the loose end of your ribbon in with the flowers and start to weave under and over the stalks.
As you have an odd number of stalks when you start the next round of weaving you are automatically placed to go under the stalks that you went over... if this is not the case, then you have made a mistake, so you will need to unravel and start over from the point where the error occured.
Once you have covered the flowers, wind your ribbon very tightly around the stems until you have covered between 4 - 6".  Use your sequin pins to pin the end of the ribbon home, as  these pins as so short, they are ideal for this job.
Flame the end of the ribbon to seal it properly.  Although the wand looks fine, au naturel, I think a little ribbon tied just under the weaving just finishes it off nicely.
Now sit back, drink your tea or coffee and imagine how lovely your sheets and blankets will smell through the winter months as they infuse the lavender perfume. Cheers!

Right, if you need a break from our fantastic Olympics team, take a look at all the people who  take crafts to a new level every week, not just once every four years at Handmade Monday.

Go Team GB... and all you fellow Crafters!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Next weekend the Olympics are here!

OK, so I don't live in Stratford or overlook Houseguards Parade but next weekend we get an Olympic event down here, at Hadleigh Castle, it's the mountain biking event.  If you live in this corner of Essex you will see the cyclists out each Sunday and know at which cafes they eat their bacon sarnies or in the case of the Hadleigh Mountain Bike Club, part of the Olympic legacy which wine bar (Ten Green Bottles, since you ask) that they meet up at on a Monday evening... these chaps and chapesses are hardy souls who go out in pristine lycra and return muddied but with an amazing glow for their pints or cups of tea... it is really tempting to join them as they cycle around the castle which is on Hadleigh farm owned by the Salvation Army.
As you can see the castle has actually fallen down due a fault which runs along the coast here and is responsible for some of the subsidence along the coast but it is such a pretty spot looking across the Estuary, especially when the cows from the farm are grazing there.
The prep for the mountain biking has been gathering apace, first there was the logo of the cyclist on the floor of the ticket hall at the station, flags up the road appeared, each morning from the train the tented village and stands grew.  Next came the signage... yes, we all giggled when we saw them but we all seemed to walk a little taller when we spotted them.
Then the sculptures began to appear... firstly the one on the roundabout near the farm.
Next and possibly my favourite, the statue opposite the Salvation Army Citadel (who own the farm) which has bricks from the brick work they once ran and features a little girl on a tricycle... much like my red and blue Triang trike which I used to ride to terrorise the residents of Prince Avenue.
Then it was the wicker sculptures... the kayaker at the top of my walk up Belton Way from the station.  She was sporting a bonnet the other evening...
The amazing Paralympian Tennis player at the local swimming pool where Tom Daley and the England diving team have been training.
Finally more mountain bikers along Marine Parade heading home from the action at Hadleigh Farm.  All the willow statues were made by Agata Mantaj with willow taken from local parks.

And now it seems that the Olympics really are coming.

This post is dedicated to my mum, who thumped several bells out of our sofas over the years watching sports.  She rode her bicycle from 12 to age 83 and would have been thrilled to think that the sports were coming so close to her.  She loved sports in any guise, listening to boxing on the radio in the middle of the night, drawing curtains to reduce glare on the TV when she watched the tennis and my favourite memory of her watching her beloved athletics whilst ironing... and yes, that is why I iron for England.  Thanks Mum!