Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A couple of secrets.. sssh, don't tell!

Right, I have just finished my first Secret Santa make for this year... am rather relieved as it does have be in the post by Friday.
I am only sharing them with you because the person they are made for does not read my blog, so will not know that they are on their way.  However, I am now worrying, what if they are like me and do not drink tea... then I thought, what the heck, it just means they have a present to pass on for next year!
Best of all a friend, Elaine who has the amazing Victorian classroom at the bottom of her garden, gave me a bag of red buttons and beads back in the Summer and I was able to use a broken bracelet for the holly berries.  And if you want to make your own for a Secret Santa gift, here is the tutorial.
Now here is my second secret, when I was seven I thought that I had made the shocking discovery that there was not Santa Claus as I noticed that his handwriting on my gift tags on Christmas morning looked exactly like my mother's...  I challenged her on this from my little truckle bed and quick as a flash she told me that Santa Claus had actually gone to her school and that was why they both wrote in the same immaculate Copperplate hand.  So, now I can can exclusively reveal that Santa Claus went to a Loretto Convent just outside Dublin, and I know this is true as my mum would never lie to me, would she?
It's good to share...

Sunday, 27 November 2011

OSS - Nowt to do with WWII...

I admit it, I am a bit of a pattern tart.  There, I have said it so it must be true.

So how does it manifest itself... well OSS is probably the easiest for you to understand.   But really you have to understand something about me, I am a show off, I am useless with colour and texture, unlike my sister who has both an eye and taste but  I am a great technician, show me a pattern or an object and I can make it. Yep, I am that sicko that looks at your sweater or dress and can tell you exactly how it is made, which bits need easing, where you should insert a dart and where to take it in to make it fit properly... yeah, I hate myself too!

But there is a dreadful affliction which hits knitters, OSS - One Sock Syndrome.  We find amazing socks, knit em up and then... tumbleweed... and more tumbleweed... and the other sock... what the heck, I have made one, so really I need to make another... you are kidding me, haven't you heard of hopping?

Well you might remember at the beginning of the Summer I started fabulous Flutter-by socks from Library girl, I made them because I had never done butterfly stitch before and it looked good, first sock done within a few days.... other sock = six months, give or take. 

Finally they are done, I make no mention of the ripping back when I had knitted too many rounds as I did not need to look at the pattern because I had already made one, I mean what sort of muppet would do that?  Well today, the final Kitchener stitches were sewn in place and the pairing was complete.
It was a beautiful stitch to knit, dinky little heels in eye of partridge and frankly anyone with a bit of focus would have made them up in June... but honestly who needs bed sock for July?   So I am introducing in timely fashion to the world, my warm and wonderful Winter flutter-by bed socks... 
And for others who suffer from this nightmare syndrome, maybe we can all join up and send on the other sock to some show off that you know to complete the pair.  I wonder if I should open up a sock registry... I can record tension, speed and accuracy so the the owner knows the genetic history of their pairing... but what if the owner needs counselling as the OK (other knitter) uses magic loop rather than 5 DPNs, could they co-exist happily?

PS - In the meantime I made four other complete pairs...

PPS - It was cold enough to wear them last night, I was as snug as a bug in a rug!

Friday, 25 November 2011

The Rustic Domestic Angel - Christmas Tutorial no 14

I know how much time is spent in the kitchen before, during and after Christmas... so here she is, your very own Angel of Domesticity, complete with her apron and ready to go.  And if you want to know her name - it's Marion, and she loves a little bit of Welsh rough!

You will need:
A cup of black tea (the sacrifices I make for you readers as a seasoned tea loather!)
A 12” square of Calico
A 6” x 12” piece of cotton ticking and the same again of gingham
6” x 6” wadding
Greaseproof paper
Sewing machine
Soft stuffing, eg Kapok
A ruler, a water glass and pens
Scrap of wool
Crewel needle
Scissors including pinking shears
Iron and ironing board
Hairy string
First make your cup of black tea, and place it in a contained where you can put in your calico and ticking.  The longer you leave it in there, the more aged your angel will look (aged but not drudge like).  Let the fabric dry.

While this is happening, we will make our template for the body using the greaseproof paper for our patterns, take a water glass and draw round it (I used one with a 3” diameter) ½ “ below it, draw a rectangle of 3½” x 4” – this will be your body.

For the wings, if you are artistic draw them freehand, if you like me were told that perhaps art was not the O level for you, then look in your craft books – you know the ones that you buy in September when you know you will simply make everything for Christmas – there will be a shed load of wings for you to choose from!
Iron your fabrics and pin out the pattern pieces, cut two bodies in calico, two sets of wings in the ticking and one set in wadding.
Honestly... this is not a Simpsons Re-run!
Sew the body together  using a ¼” seam allowance, leaving a hole at the base. * Around the top of the head and anywhere that has a curve, cut little triangle with the points almost at your running stitch as this will ease the fabric and give you a smoother finish.  Now put the stuffing into the angel.
Whip stitch the opening closed (this is overstitching with attitude) when you are happy with the shape of your body.  You are now going to use the twigs as arms and legs, attach these to the back of the body by overstitching onto the fabric where legs and arms would sit.  

However, I had another idea, if you have smalls in your house* and are worried that they might injure themselves on the twigs take a length of hairy string and run it through the top of the body for the arms and loop it through your base opening for legs.  Make a knot on each piece of string to represent knees, ankles, elbows and wrists.

To make the hair, take your wool and with the crewel needle sew French knots from half way up the face just below the seam of the head and the go back on the other side of the head in between the first row of French knots.  You are now going to make her lustrous locks by taking a piece of cardboard and winding the wool around the cardboard, go to the top and sew over three pieces of wool then back under two, continue to do this until you reach the end of the “hair”, now be brave and cut along the bottom of the wool.  You now have an angel’s wig!  Pin this on the back of the head and sew it in place, trim as necessary.
Draw on your face, two dots for eyes (in the middle of the face), two dots for the nose, a broad smile and I used a pink eye shadow to create the cherubic cheeks.
Now think back to how you made dresses for your dolls when you were little... if like me you were not Coco Chanel or Vera Wang, try this.  Draw a rectangle 9” across by 6” down on your greaseproof paper, mark the paper an inch down and draw a line 2” in and then down to the base.  Fold the pattern in half and curve the line around the under arm of the dress.  Make a gentle curve from about 1.5” to create the neckline.

Pin this out on your gingham fabric, cut out two pieces and sew together using ¼” seam allowance, cut the hem and sleeves with pinking shears.  Slip the dress over the angel’s head... the dress is rather mahoosive, isn’t it?  You are now a window dresser, make a fold at the back of the dress and catch it with a couple of stitches.  
Errr... the neckline looks rather grim, so we will gather it, make a knot at the end of a double thread and stitch a line of running stitch across the neckline, pull it tight to make a neckline gather, sew it off firmly.
Make a wing sandwich, with ticking, wadding and ticking, to make it look really homemade I stitched the wings together using blanket stich, you could use your machine to do this with a running or embroidery stitch. Turn the angel over and pin the wings onto the dress and body and sew firmly onto the angel.
Use two short lengths of string as bows on each sleeve.

Cut out a piece of fabric, 6” x 4”, stitch both sides, then fold over the top and fold over 5/8”, then pink the base of the apron.  Run a piece of string through the casement you have created at the top of the apron, ruche the apron and tie it up at the back of the angel.
Now pop her on a shelf to watch over you while you work! 

You now need to take a look at Wendy's Handmade Monday and see what all the other bloggers have been up to over the past week!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

It's a mugs game!

One of the things that I love about this time of the year is local artist, Howard Robinson's annual release of his new bone china mugs.  He does a limited edition and they are always of local scenes... and so far I have collected over a dozen of them.
And finally this year's have arrived.

Howard chooses local landmarks, this year we have The Billet Pub from the old town, Hadleigh Castle, The Arches, the beach huts, the signal box and the lagoon over on Two Tree Island.
It is so lovely to be reminded of how blue the sky was in the Summer when we have Milk of Magnesia skies at the moment...
And here is my favourite, it is Hadleigh Castle and is rather special because it shows the 2012 Olympic Mountain Bike course which is all around the castle.
So if you are in Leigh over the weekend, pop in and see Howard and Joy at Gallery 3... but please leave some mugs for me!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Christmas Rag Wreath Factory

I spent a lot of last week chopping up Christmas fabric ready the first rag wreath workshop at Roses and Rue...  I was also the sad one up at 6.00am to make sausage rolls for the tea breaks, we had pork and apple and, pork and caramelised onions, rather yummy!

Managed to get the room set up really quickly and both of Sharon's daughters were there too:
This is Rosie... firmly following in her mum's footsteps making a bandana for herself
And this is Rue, who had just woken up from a nap behind the cutting table,
 with her mum  knitting in the background
So we had nine ladies, all ready to get going on their wreaths, everyone had the same basic pack ... except for Lara, who has a themed and tasteful Christmas, when I am grown up, I might be like that but I doubt it!

So here are the various wreaths
Behind this lovely grey, silver, red and white wreath is Lara... she used a gorgeous white satin ribbon to set it off.
Now this is the very speedy Barbara... first to try out the rotary cutters and first to finish, her wreath looked so lush and thick... I had wreath envy!
Here is Pat, she is the most amazing knitter, so precise is her work that I reckon she is the only person  who possibly knits a tension square for her tension square... when I grow up my work is going to be as good as Pat's!
Darrell was totally focused (I love her t-shirt, almost as stylish as she is!) and I can tell you her wreath looked fabulous when finished.
As you can see, we had a real factory line going and no-one was going to leave a single piece of white showing.

And here is another one that I have made, I rather like this as it is rather manly, surprisingly I have used a lot of black in it but I am really pleased with it.
And this is the song that got everyone singing:
So you know what to do next, hightail it over to Wendy's Handmade Monday to see what everyone has been up to this week.

Oh and the weekly Christmas tutorial will be up tomorrow... I promise :)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

And the winner is... Me!

I rarely win anything... and certainly not anything decent but last week, it happened :)  I won a clock on Wendy's 1st Unique blog and here it is hanging up in my kitchen:
Now as I get older this is an amazing aide-memoire... Imagine forgetting to get your G&T ready each evening... I mean that would be so sad...
So I have my kit ready and I have the clock, I mean what more could a middle aged crafter need? Actually I am slumming a bit cos Plymouth Gin is real perfection but Tanqueray will do in a squeeze...

Well there is something that I still need... I am putting this up so friends and family can see... remember it is not for me, it is to fulfill a professional need...
Yep, it's one of Wendy's too... and the most repinned on my Pinterest!

So thank you Wendy... as you can see the clock has found its spiritual home... all puns intended!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Cosying up... Christmas Tutorial no 13

Before we start I have a confession to make, I don't drink tea, never have and never will but I do love afternoon tea.  In fact, one of my earliest memories is having our tea delivered every Friday in quarter pound packs by Albert the Brown's tea man who drove a little green van and delivered all round Southend,  we used to have so much delivered back in the 60s, the butcher Mr Wells, the baker, the Corona man (yes, even lemonade was delivered) and the milkman.  So this week, we are going to make a tea cosy with matching egg cosies and yes, you've guessed it I don't do eggs and soldiers either... I wonder if that is why I want to hide them?
You will need
Grease Proof Paper
Top fabric (1/3 of a yard or metre) - I used linen but any heavyweight cotton will do 
Quilting wadding (1/3 of a yard or metre) - I used a medium weight
Internal fabric (1/3 of a yard or metre) - Lightweight cotton, I used gingham
Small piece of double sided iron on lightweight interfacing
Sewing machine
Pins & needles
Contrasting fabric for applique
Chopstick or paint brush
And woe betide you if you don't have your iron and ironing board at the ready!

Almost in the words of the immortal Mrs Beeton, first catch your teapot, measure it in the middle from top to bottom and add two inches then measure the pot from side to side (from tip of the spout to the end of the handle) and add two inches.  Draw this out onto the greaseproof paper - now you can leave this as a rectangle but really this is rather boring, so fold the paper in half starting about a two thirds in on the the top, mark it and then mark a spot half way up the side and draw the curve between these two points, by folding the paper in half both sides will look the same.
Now cut out two in your top fabric, then cut out two in the wadding but add an inch to the bottom (it will be longer than your top fabric) and finally in your inner fabric add two inches to the bottom of your patterm.
I found my gingerbread men template on a children's toy stall at a craft fair (along with a boat, a cupcake and a teddy bear) so if you have children take a look in their toy boxes or if they will not let you share toys, take a look at your pastry cutters.  On the reverse side of your applique fabrics, trace around your template and cut them out, do the same on the paper side of the interfacing.  Place the fabric templates on the top fabric and move them around until you are happy with the placement, place the interfacing onto the top fabric and then place the template on top and iron the applique into place.  
Then select a stitch from your machine, I have used a stretched satin stitch, but you could use a simple running stitch to give it an edgier look.  At this point you can also embroider on a message or slogan.

Now pin the the bottom of the inner and the outer together and sew the two together using a 5/8", press the seam upwards so that all the fabric is sitting under the upper fabric.  Take your wadding and pin it all round the outer fabric, remember it will sit an inch lower than your outer fabric, sew it together using a 1/4" seam allowance.
Cut our a piece of fabric from the internal fabric measuring 6" x 2 1/2", using a 5/8" seam allowance sew across the top and down the side.  

Using your chopstick turn it inside out and cut the end off, put the seam in the middle of the tab and iron it down so that the seam sits in the centre of the tab.  
Fold the tab in half and find the centre top of your cosy, on the outside of the fabric and pin it so that it sits with all the raw edges together.  
Leaving about 4" open at the top of the internal fabric, pin both sides together, taking great care to align the seams between the inner and outer fabric and sew them together using a 5/8" seam allowance.
Remove all the pins and then check again, reach in through the hole, grab the tab and pull it through the hole.   
Have another feel around for any pins that still might be inside... see I told you there was another one in there! 
Fold in the raw edges and sew the seams together.  
Now push the lining into your cosy, pop your cosy over the end of your ironing board and press the contrast border down.  I have to give credit to Lisa over at Mimi and Cakes for the border idea, I think it looks fab.
Turn the cosy inside out and using a few stab stitches, catch the inner to the wadding to hold it in place.  Now turn it out, give it a final press and get the kettle on!
To make the egg cosy, cut out a square  of grease proof 6" high x 5" across, using the technique we used for the tea cosy, fold it in half and round the top - I found it easiest to use the base of a mug to create the curve.  When cutting out, use an extra half inch on the wadding and an inch on the lining at the bottom to make a narrower border, as with the tea cosy cut two of each fabric.  You will also need a shorter tab at the top of the cosy.  Now follow the instructions that we used for the tea cosy to make up the egg cosy.  
One tea cosy and two egg cosies would make a great prezzie for any couple... and to make me really happy, team it up with a pack of loose tea rather than tea bags for a proper cuppa and transport me back to Friday afternoons and the Brown's tea delivery.

Now if you want a really Christmassy tea cosy design, take a look here for one that I made as a Secret Santa gift.

And as you sit there with your pot of tea, go on over to Wendy's Handmade Monday.  By the way I am off to the Post Office on Monday to collect my clock that I won on 1st Unique... cannot wait and there will be pics, I promise!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Lest we forget

This is St Clement's Church, A Norman church which sits at the top of the cliffs overlooking the Thames Estuary, it has seen boats both military and civilian, going down to the sea during major conflicts and planes using the River Thames as a path to London.

In the quiet graveyard at the back of the Church is a memorial to four cockle boat men who took a boat called The Endeavour over to France to evacuate men off the Dunkirk beaches.  Cockle boats were invaluable as they had shallow drafts and could get close to the shore and ferried out nearly 1,000 men out to the larger boats.  After successfully completing this mission, Endeavour hit a mine on its journey home and lost all hands.

Today I am remembering,  Frank Osborne, Lukie Osborne, Harry Noakes and Harold Porter.

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them

They mingle  not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home,
They have no lot in labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.