Sunday, 26 May 2013

Are you having a Giraffe? A Blogger's Moan

For those of my overseas readers who don't know what a giraffe is, in Cockney rhyming slang a giraffe is a laugh and that is what I think some of the crafting magazines are doing at the moment.  They are getting lazy and slapdash.
Last week one of my friends had a baby, a little girl who arrived on Thursday evening... I found out on Saturday morning and knew then that I had the perfect excuse to make a giraffe from a pattern I had kept from a magazine.  I leapt to the kitchen, found the greaseproof and started to trace... well, yes it did look small but then things always look bigger in magazine pictures, don't they?  And well, they seemed to have been a bit generous in the amount of fabric needed but no, I pushed on and then realised that one of the pattern pieces was missing but I can sew, I can draw (OK, that is a lie but I do have a pencil, ruler and rubber) and I can guesstimate the shape of the missing part. So I sewed it up, hmm the ears looked smallish but let's be honest there was no way I was going to be able to sew up the horns without blood being shed, much swearing and causing untold woe to my dentist as I gnashed my teeth.  The pattern was too should have been enlarged by 200%.

I went back to the drawing board photocopier, took six separate copies to ensure that I captured everything and then spent 15 minutes sellotaping it together and retracing the pattern.  So, as is my want, I then read the pattern, next pet hate no indication of the seam allowance, that is until we come to the ears and the horns, when I am told to cut 1/4" outside the line, err could they not have drawn the piece the right size like all the others?
Anyway as you can see I made them up... as one of my friends remarked, "Ooh that little one looks just like that Greek horse!"  Hmmm, well I suppose if a barge painter had got at him, there might have been a resemblence but I hope that David Attenborough might just recognise him...
Now here is my gripe, why are patterns not checked properly?  Seams and sizing are Sewing 101, it's absolute basics, does no-one at a magazine try making it before they publish?  Then we come to knitting patterns, there is one writer in particular, and yes, Debbie Bliss I am looking at you, whose books always seem to have addenda floating from them...  How difficult is it to check numbers and quantities?

Whilst I am on a roll, why am I seeing so many patterns pulled from published books?  Recently I spotted the same cushion in two magazines in the same month by the same maker, really frustrating when you have shelled out quite a bit of cash for something I already have on the bookshelf.  Lovely to have them occasionally but more than three in every issue is taking the proverbial... come on publishers there are lots of talented people out there... use them.

And talking of talented people don't forget to look at Handmade Monday to see what some of the really great original crafties have been up to.
Love to know if I am the only one who is driven up the wall by this... or if, as I suspect, I am just a grumpy old woman!

Monday, 20 May 2013

From Russia, via Leigh-on-sea with Love - the Matryoshka Skittle Tutorial

OK, dear reader you know that above everything I am totally honest with you... and today I publish one of six skittles to go with the Pentagon ball for tots.
So what inspired this... was it the lovely cotton Matryoshka fabric, the dolls from a Moscow market or the tweezers... you've worked it out, haven't you?
Yep, it is the tweezers.. this morning I lightly swept my hand over my chin and OMG... there was a hair, well step forward tweezers (which my OLDER, yes BIG sister stuck in my Christmas stocking) and, yes, it was my tweezers, in concert with my hairy chin that inspired this week's tute!
You will need - to make six skittles:
3/4 Yard of cotton fabric - I used Moda
Scraps of fabric (I used left over pieces from the ball
Felt - brown, cream and pink
Thread, pins, sewing needle, scissors (pinking shears would also be handy)
Ribbon - I am using Jane Means ribbon
Toy stuffing
Paper, ruler, compass and pencil
Liquer glass and champagne flute
Iron and ironing board... I use an ancient Morphy Richards and a huge John Lewis board!

We are going to start with creating the three pattern parts, draw a line 4" long at the bottom of your paper, then draw a perpendicular line 7.5" tall at the centre (at 2" in).  At 4" up the perpendicular, mark and 1.25" on either side, 6" mark a point 7/8" on either side... now join the dots up.  Place the champagne flute so that the rim sits on the top of the perpendicular line and draw around it to create the curved top.  To create the shawl, draw an horizontal line 3.5" from the top of this pattern piece, trace around it and you have your shawl piece

Next comes the base, you are going to need a combi oval / circle or indeed a circal with a 4.5" diameter widthwise and 4" height wise - to achieve this set your compass 2.25". Now draw a line 4.5" long, find the centre point and put the compass .25" above it and connect the ends of the line with a semi-circle, repeat this for the other side and thus you have your circal.

Iron your main fabric and pin the skittle sides onto it and cut four.
Now if you are cunning you will use a fabric which does not have a repeat, so you can save on the amount of fabric that you use.  Cut out one base.

Now, cut out four short tops... now this is where I made a mistake, but so you can see and also so I can demonstrate another thrifty technique I am going to share it with you.  Iron over a very small hem and sew it... you will notice that my shawls are joined together in one continuous line of sewing, this is call chain piecing and saves on the amount of thread you throw away.
Pin the shawl to the body.
Sew around as close the edge as you can... and then sew over hem you have created... bang goes my saving!  So in future just iron it rather than sewing an extra hem.
Pin two sides together and sew up to the top using a 1/4" seam allowance.
Around the curve, cut out small triangles to ease the fabric around the curves so that it will sit nicely.
Turn the body and shawl right sides out and press open the seam.  Place a small wine glass over the shawl, to ensure that it fits, now draw around it on your cream felt.  To make the hair, repeat this on the brown felt, chop it in half into two semi-circles and trim to give your doll the Anne Stallybrass hair style from the Onedin Line... Did I mention that like Helen Mirren, she also went to my school!

I satin stitched the brown felt fringe onto the face... don't sew the top of the head... I told you not to, now just do as you are told... sighs.  If you prefer, use a small blanket stitch like we used in the embroidery tutorial last year.
I used small blue buttons for the eyes but if you are risk averse, then large french knots will do the job.  For the cheeks, I tried a 5p but that was too big, so I found a smaller button to trace around for the cheeks
Sew the cheeks in place by sewing up through the centre, and down through 12 o'clock, back up through the middle and down to 6 o'clock, back up through 3 and then 9 o'clock, repeat this for the space between 12 and 3, 6 and 9, 3 and 6 and finally 9 and 12.  Finishing touch a line of back stitching to create her cheery, peasant smile.
Pin the face over the seam of the front of the doll and use cream cotton to zig zag around the face and brown to go over the hair.
 Pin the back and the front together, leave a 2" gap below the shawl and the sew down to the base, this will be our hole to turn it through and stuff it.
To cover the join between the shawl and the body use ribbon - I used about 18" and trimmed it to fit.  Start by leaving a long end just below her mouth and use a small running stitch to hold it in place and sew back round to the front.  Fasten off securely and tie a bow, trim the ends... this time I used pinking shears to trim off my Jane Means ribbons.  You have to hand sew this as the aperture is too small to fit and sew with your machine.
Get the iron out, turn the skittle inside out and press the seams open, the take the base and fold it in half lenghtwise and width wise and press those creases into the base.  Pin the crease against the seam on all four sides, the ease the fabric between the seams... you will find it easiest to have your pins horizontal than vertical as this will help with easing.  Remember easing is a battle between you and the fabric to make it fit into a curve, and you will win!

Sew the base to the skittle and then trim the excess fabric with your pinking shears, otherwise cut little triangles but do not cut through the seam... it is not unknown for this to happen, even with experienced seamstresses!

You are now on the home strait, pull the skittle through the gap in the side seam and gently fill it with your stuffing... little and often rather than big and brutal as this will give you a much softer finish.  Just like the ball last week, whip stitch the opening shut.
Now look at your amazing skittle... she is rather lovely don't you think?
If you want to just make it as an ornament, I would put some heavy interfacing on the base to stabilise it.  I had another thought that you could reduce the pattern size on a photo-copier and create a proper family of stacking dolls, how cute would that be?

Well, by the skin of my teeth, I have just made Handmade Monday... so click on through and see what this talented group have been up to during the last week.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Pentagon Balls Up? Or the Patchwork Ball Tutorial

Right everyone, it has been a little while since we made anything so I thought a little bit of hand sewing would be a gentle re-introduction, as well as learning a new technique - English piecing - it will make a super gift for a tiny tot and should not break too much if it is used indoors, unless the tot is growing up to be a fast bowler!
You are going to need:
  • Paper, protractor, pencil and ruler
  • Selection of cotton fabrics
  • Scissors or rotary cutter, ruler and cutting mat
  • Matching cotton and contrast cotton, pins and needle
  • Toy stuffing
  • Iron or applique iron and ironing board
We are going to make the ball using 12 pentagons, but first we are going to create our template.  Now there is an easy way to do this, which is just googling pentagon and printing it out but much more fun to put into practice all that geometry you learnt at school; grateful thanks to Miss O'Riordan my old Maths teacher, who would be marking this blog down already as I have failed to put today's date and underline, she was most definitely old school!

So draw a line 2" long, at the end of the line, mark it at 72' and draw another 2" and continue until you have the five points because I know that you have already worked out that 5 x 72 = 360 which is the number of degrees in a circle.  Cut out 12 paper pentagons.
Now you could repeat the process above and create a template which has sides of 2.5" which will give us a seam allowance of 1/4" or you can pin the inner template in place and cut around 1/4" bigger.  I have used six different fabrics and cut two of each to make my ball, so you all know what is coming next, you need to press the fabric before you reach for anything sharp... don't skimp the ironing, it will give you a much better result,
Place the inner paper template on top of the fabric, at this point you can either finger press or iron... and you know that I will have used my iron :)  Using the contrast cotton, make a large knot in it and tack through two layers of fabric and paper to make a sandwich, when you get to the corner, fold the fabric in the same direction, I did this so that the left hand side always sat on the top.  Make sure with this ball you start on the reverse side (usually with piecing the knot is on the top) this will make it easier when we have to remove them.
I tend to use a double thread when tacking, once you have sewn all the way around, don't neatly sew the end  in, leave it trailing so that we can whip it out when it is sewn together.
Get the first six ready, then move them about until you are happy with the arrangement.
Put two sides together and sew them with small stitches with a whip stitch, which is a diagonal stitch used to join the pieces together.  Go in straight across the two pieces from right to left and then come over on the diagonal, keep your stitches small and neat... the more you sew the neater and smaller they become.
I found it easiest to start with two side pieces and then sew these two to the base, then side followed by base.
Now you have half your ball ready to go, repeat this process for the other side.

Place one half on top of the other, I made the same pattern for each half and then rotated the top half by two segments.  To make it easier to sew, I set one half as picture above and then inverted the other half to sit inside it, it was then really easy to see where points and seams should join.  Sew all the way around but leave two sides unsewn... we need to turn this ball right sides out eventually.

OK, it's time for the fun bit, grab then knotted end of the tacking line and release the paper template... Don't throw it away, you can reuse it.  Turn the ball inside out through the opening.

Take your stuffing and fill the ball, now don't make the mistake of grabbing a big wadge and shoving it in, go with little and often, it gives the ball a better finish.
Grab a safety and pin the centre point down.  Work your magic with the whip stitch again, sewing the two sides together.
And there you have a lovely little piece of hand sewing and you have mastered a basic element of English piecing, how clever are you?  I was just sitting here thinking, when the C word came into my mind, if I made the pentagons smaller, wouldn't it make a great decoration using up scraps for a handmade Christmas tree? 
But guess what, if you have stuffed your ball properly, it will bounce, go on give it a go!

Right now it's over to Wendy Massey's Handmade Monday, been absolutely ages since we have been on there, can't wait to see what everyone has been up to.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Colours, Loose Ends and Kaffe Fassett

A couple of weekends ago, I woke up and thought, I have nothing planned for the day... what can I do, and then it hit me - "A Life in Colour" , the Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum.  I had read about it and thought I really must go and see it as I had missed his previous exhibition at the V&A.
I should also mention that I had recently read his autobiography, A life in Colour which I highly recommend, it traces his past from an idyllic childhood in California, to his move to London, how he learnt to knit, murals that he created which were then... painted over and then there are the luscious images of his work and inspirations I got my copy from the library, but do read it, it really whets your appetite
Now the Fashion and Textile Museum was set up by Zandra Rhodes, and my claim to fame is that she once admired a hat I was wearing with a fantastic hat pin when I went to an exhibition in 90s!  It was a great intimate venue for the Fassett knits, tapestries and quilts.

So in I trotted in, well I have to be honest, it was just a little bit gloomy until my eyes got used to it, but when I thought about it, it's just what you need with Kaffe's work as all that colour coming at you would probably have ended up with a bunch of women with bleeding eyeballs!
So where to start, I loved the way you could see what had inspired a design, from photos of an object, eg stones on a beach, through to the paintings - which I thought beautifully executed but a little 2d, however I then realised that is why they translate so well into fabric designs - and thence to the cushion, quilt, knitwear.

But OMG, the colours, his assuredness and use of bright shades is just amazing.  His first cardigan really cheered me up, a stripey number in unlikely subtle shades of brown, but... yes there is a BIG BUT, I whooped and hollered inside, it was the ultimate realisation that the man is human.  He left loose ends, yep, loose ends everywhere... now if you have ever knitted, you will remember the first multi-coloured piece you knitted and all you wanted to do was sew it up and wear it and to the devil with the sewing in the loose ends... see, he is just like us!
The quilts were delicious, the quilt police might have been narked about the lack of perfect corners but the colours were sublime.  You could get up close and personal to actually break down how they were made.  Oh, and there was a wonderful display of fabrics and wool swatches to touch and feel, which was great because no matter how many signs there are in an exhibition, don't you just long to reach out and stroke?
Upstairs was a room that was staged, with needlepoint cushions and rugs... I saw both worked not only in Tent stitch but also in staggered Long stitches, chairs covered in needlepoint.  Knitted cushions and quilted cushions - it was like a fairground explosion, blousey but not slutty - glorious in its celebration of sewing, quilting and knitting.
There was also a row of 1980s knitwear which although it showed its age in style but not in its innovative use of colour and patterns.

This was 90 mins of my time well spent, I came away inspired to sew, resisting the temptation of buying some fabric Fassett and Brandon Mabley collection... I really recommend it as a lovely exhibition to set your fingers twitching.  There are classes and lectures to take associated with the the exhibition, wouldn't it be great to work with Brandon and Kaffe, so when the lottery win comes through... However, as I left the exhibition, guess what I spotted in the road... hexagonal drain covers, how spooky is that?