Friday, 29 November 2013

Pinspired - Let there be light

Like most people, I do enjoy good lighting.  For sewing, nothing beats daylight, but I mostly sew at night when the boy has gone to bed, so I find myself switching on the lights and supplementing with a good strong halogen lamp.  After years of bridge watchkeeping at sea and straining out into the darkness it's time to look after my eyes now.

Lamps I love, lamps are easy.  But I struggle to find attractive and functional overhead lighting, especially lampshades that will fit onto the light fittings in our rented home.  Our dining room and sitting room are both besmirched by spectacularly unpleasant, dust-collecting uplighter shades.  I hate them and would love to replace them with something a little easier on the eye.  Of late I have found myself browsing Pinterest for a little inspiration.  Wow, there are some amazing lightshades out there, and frankly, some rather astounding prices too.  

Always a fan of the crafty and the DIY (well, the idea of it anyway - I rarely seem to get around to anything that isn't sewing), I thought I'd check out some more homemade options (click on the captions for tutorials)...
Made from plastic cups
Yarn lanterns in scrummy colours
Glam - DIY hack from an ikea sputnik shade
Wire wastepaper basket with scraps of fabric
Stylish hat-shades
Yarn shade - tutorial here
Made from lightweight card - would look fab in a neon colour
Old maps stuck onto a paper lighshade
This last one has to be my favourite - I love maps - not sure what the light would be like through it though, perhaps a little dark.  Maybe I'll give it a go with some lighter sections from my stash of old sea charts.  There are lots of other great ideas for variations on this theme, including using comic books and cocktail umbrellas here.
You can find me on Pinterest at

Kate x

Monday, 25 November 2013

Stocking enlarged

Following my stockingy stitchy exploits last weekend I was keen to make something christmassy for the boy.  I love the idea of a mini stocking advent garland hanging above our fireplace like Henry's, but I don't think I'm going to have time to make one this year.  Not with all the other things I'd like to get sewn-up before the festivities begin (and certainly not before Advent begins!).  And I'm sure he's too young to appreciate an advent calendar anyway!

Instead I decided to make him a Christmas stocking to hang out on Christmas Eve.  To be honest I did think the boy was a little young for a visit from Father Christmas, but I've swept my scrooge-like tendencies aside.  A few night-time feed Pinterest browsing sessions provided much inspiration; I particularly love the woolier creations.  But knitting is not my thing and my inexpert forays into crochet are certainly not equal to getting a stocking completed prior to Christmas Eve.
Some lovely stockings from Pinterest
Then I remembered PLH's "favourite" jumper which he accidentally shrunk in the wash a few months ago.  Pure wool, super soft, felted and ripe for an upcycling!  It might fit the boy in a few years but there is no way PLH will ever squeeze into it again.  So scissors out and the jumper got it!
With my recent applique addiction showing no signs of abating, I decided to adorn the big wooly sock with a scandi-inspired reindeer silhouette.
I wasn't sure how fray-proof the wool would be so I lined the stocking with some festive spotty fabric...

(Our fireplace is waaaay too ugly to be used as a photographic backdrop!)
Working with felted wool was just lovely; PLH had better keep close tabs on the rest of his jumpers!  And the boy may be too young to appreciate the aesthetics, but with a little luck Father Christmas may leave him a few little treats!

Kate x

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Stitching little stockings

A while ago my friend Milly asked me to make an advent calendar stocking garland for her son.  Instead of stitching it myself, she came to stay last weekend so we could make it together.  We had a great weekend - the boys played happily together and when they were sleeping we got busy with the fabric, scissors and sewing machine to make some very small stockings.  With wine, of course there was wine!
After a fair bit of browsing on Pinterest for some inspiration, I came across this tutorial for a stocking garland.  Before her visit I drew a template and made a prototype, then Milly selected the fabrics from my stash (recently bolstered by some vintage fabrics I borrowed from my mum), and we got to work cutting out 100 little stocking shapes, then piecing them together...
After a lot of chatting, cutting, pressing and sewing there were finally 25 mini stockings ready to be strung up...
Something I hadn't given much thought to was how to put numbers onto the stockings.  In the end we opted for fabric transfer paper, although with hindsight I would have ironed the numbers on before sewing the stockings together for a sharper finish.

Overall though the results are pretty good, and it should look rather lovely hanging above their fireplace...
I hope little Henry will enjoy his advent treats from the stockings for many years to come!
Kate x

Friday, 22 November 2013

Get your Christmas craft-on!

On Monday I posted a tutorial on how to make an applique christmas card.  That post was part of a big bloggy crafty christmassy link up organised by Laura at Bugs and Fishes.  A huge number of bloggers took part, resulting in about 30 different christmas craft tutorials - thats a lot of crafting to get stuck into between now and Christmas!  

The links to all this craftiness can be found over at Bugs and Fishes.  My favourite has to be Hydrangea Girl's edible decorations - stylish and tasty - although I doubt they would last very long in our house.
Edible decorations from Hydrangea Girl
I'm not sure when I'm going to get a chance to try out any of these crafts though - I seem to have set myself a rather large stitchy to-do list before Christmas - more on that later!

Kate x

Monday, 18 November 2013

Tutorial - Applique Love Christmas Card

This post is part of a festive tutorial link-up organised by Laura over at Bugs and Fishes.  There will be a whole lot of bloggy christmassy crafty loveliness going on today and I'll be posting the links to all the other tutorials later this week.  Perfect to get your Christmas craft-on!
I've decided to post a tutorial for how to make an applique and machine embroidery Christmas card.  These cards take a little while to make so they're definitely for those that you love.  Not so much for the people lurking at the bottom of your Christmas card list in the oh, they've sent me one, I'd better pop one in the post to them, kind of way!

Materials you will need:
A5 card
Paper to sketch shapes out or print out of template (template to follow soon)
Scraps of red christmassy fabric
Scraps of green christmassy fabric
Red and green thread (you can use specific machine embroidery thread for more of a shine but if you don't have it then any cotton or polyester will work fine)
Buttons (one for each card)
Sewing machine
Darning foot

Step 1:
Fold the A5 card in half and run a ruler along the fold to ensure it is crisp.
Step 2:
Print out the template (to follow soon) or sketch out a Christmas tree shape and a heart on the scrap paper, ensuring they will fit onto your card.
Step 3:
Place the bondaweb over the template/sketches and trace the outlines onto the paper side of the bondaweb.  Cut roughly around the bondaweb shapes (there is no need to be exact at this stage).
Step 4:
With the paper side up, iron the bondaweb Christmas tree on to the reverse of the green fabric and the heart on to the reverse of the red fabric.  (It normally takes about 8 seconds to bond to the fabric, on a medium heat with no steam, but follow the instructions on your bondaweb.)
Step 5:
Cut around the christmas tree and heart, this time following the lines precisely.  Now you will have the shapes on your chosen fabric, backed with the bondaweb.

Step 6:
Peel the paper backing off your fabric shapes.  Then place the shapes onto your card in the desired location.  Now is the time to play around with the positioning.  Once happy with the position of your tree and heart, iron the shapes into place.  It's worth making sure the iron is not too hot at this point or you may end up scalding the card.  It's also important that the steam setting on your iron is off so the card does not curl up.  You now have a card with pretty fabric shapes attached and you could leave it like this, but I like to add a little more embellishment...
Step 7:
This stage is done by using a sewing machine for a little free-motion machine embroidery.  If you do not have a sewing machine, then you could use some hand stitching to embellish the card.  Set up your sewing machine - attach a darning foot and lower the feed dog (your sewing machine manual will explain how to do this and it is really important to ensure the card will move freely when you start the embroidery).  Set your stitch to straight.  Thread your machine using the green thread.
Step 8:
Open you card out, then place it under the needle at the point of the heart.  Lower the needle into the card using the hand wheel of the machine.  Then start stitching around the inside of the card, proceeding slowly and moving the card freely under the needle.  You should aim for the stitches not to be too close together - this can result in perforations in the card causing it to disintegrate!  Do not worry too much about perfect stitches - the aim is for it to look a little rustic and handmade!
Step 9:
Once you have stitched around the inside of the heart, you can take a wiggly line of stitches up to the base of the tree.  Then remove the card from the machine, pull the thread to the back of the card, tie off and trim.
Step 10:
Thread your machine with the red thread, then stitch around the inside of the Christmas tree, moving the card to determine the length and placement of your stitches.  Once complete remove from the tree and trim the threads as before.
Step 11:
Select a button to complement your fabrics (I've chosen a vintage mother of pearl button), then hand stitch this to the top of the tree using doubled red thread.
Now it's time to admire your handiwork - oh, and send it to someone special of course!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Blooming Christmas!

Ok, I know it's still a little way off, but as my Christmas Cactus has started to bloom, I thought it would be just about acceptable to start thinking about Christmas.  After all, the shops have been gearing up towards the festive season since September (for the record I am against this - it is waaaaay too early).
Christmas cactus in bloom (hurrah - I've kept it alive a whole year!)
Every year, as Christmas approaches, I make all kinds of plans for the many christmassy crafts I'm going to do.  Homemade everything, decorations, presents, the lot.  And every year I run out of time to do very much more than stitch a few gifts for my family.  Last year I was totally convinced that the maternity leave before the boy turned up would give me plenty of time to spin up a home-made Christmas that Kirstie would be proud of.  In reality I spent my time napping, doing a little baby-related sewing and eating A LOT of cake.  Actually the size of my cake-bolstered bump made sitting at the sewing machine pretty uncomfortable.

But this year it will all be different, honest!  This year I have plans.  Plans for gifts, plans for decorations and even plans for the kitchen (which, given the armchair nature of my baking habit, are unlikely to come to fruition).  I made a little start on some Christmas bunting the other day...

My vision is a string of hearts and robins, with MERRY CHRISTMAS (or Joyeux Noel - PLH is always teasing me about my love of all things french), but I'm keeping my options open.  I may find myself flagging in stitching 14 of these, so I'll save embroidering any letters until I've completed all of them.  If I only manage a shorter string I may keep them writing-free and haul them out for Valentine's Day - robins are an old English symbol of love!

I've also been raiding my mum's fabric stash of late, and found these festive beauties...
Vintage Christmas fabrics - I love those candy canes
Reds and golds
When I was a child we lived in Australia for a few years; imagine my delight when I came across these lurking in mum's stash...

Christmas koalas!  The last one also has some kangaroo Santas and what looks like a cross between a dolphin and a crocodile.  Slightly disturbing but cute nonetheless.  I have a plan for all this festive fabric.  A friend has asked me to help her make an advent calendar in the form of a stocking garland, so I've been searching for ideas on Pinterest and trying out a few things...
The last of the christmassy projects I have started is an applique and machine embroidery Christmas Card.  I'll be linking up with Laura at Bugs and Fishes to post a tutorial about how to make these in a couple of weeks, and posting links to other bloggers' crafty christmas tutorials.