Spring Things

IMG_7539The bluebells were out early this year and there seem to be more of them than usual. I love seeing the haze of blue in the wood behind our house and how they have spilled into much of our garden.

June is not far away and it feels too hot to work hard in the garden now and soon the buggy things will be out and about and ready to feast on me, so apart from a couple of hours in the early mornings, I’m taking a break from all-day gardening until September.

I have dragged some old planters chairs that were in our cellar into one of our greenhouses, so that I can sit and enjoy the garden whenever it is very windy or when there are too many biting insects to risk sitting still outside.

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Last year I spent so much time trying to generate stock and meet deadlines for a shop and craft stall that the summer disappeared while I was looking out of the window and wishing I could be out enjoying the good weather. I decided that wasn’t going to happen this year, that I would spend every lovely day outside from March until May and then some of every lovely day outside after that. Everything else would have to fit in between. This is what I have done, so there has not been a whole lot of sewing going on since my last post.

Last week I trawled through my fabric stash and unearthed my ‘works in progress’, or more accurately, my ‘works planned’. Hmmm, I seem to have quite a few of those. I found patterns I liked years ago and bought the fabric to make them, which is good in that fabric is much more expensive these days, but not so good in that my tastes have changed and I am itching to do more challenging things now.  I guess I need to get on and get them finished, perhaps alongside something new that is smaller.

There are some new ideas that I have been dreaming about; a project that involves a series of images that use folded and manipulated fabric stitched in place. I have made some drawings and now, although I have no idea if this will work the way I want it to, I can’t wait to try it out.

I also made this drawing, as a free embroidery design for you, if you want to give it a  try.

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Last week I had a complete re-organisation of my fabric stash. I found that a sweet shop nearby has stock of Haribo sweets arrive in square plastic boxes and that the owner is happy to let me have the boxes as they are emptied, rather than throw them away. This means I can sort, subdivide and store fabric to my hearts content, and it stays clean and easy to find. I have scrubbed the insides of the boxes but I love that when I lift each lid a sugary, sweetie smell still wafts out.

The only trouble is my study/writing space is turning into a craft room. There is hardly any leg room left under my desk because the space is full of stacked, fabric-filled sweetie boxes and my bookshelves are gradually being taken over.

I also managed to complete a couple of mini projects during April and May. The first mini project was a small embroidery ‘sketch’ for Mental Health Awareness week. It was to flag up the problems caused by depression/anxiety/agoraphobia and how sufferers are often housebound, trapped by their own fears.

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The second is a tiny wall hanging for an artist friend, Lisa Hooper, which is a copy of a driftwood sculpture she made, of an owl. Here is her lovely driftwood piece, on the left, and my fabric variation on the right. I just have to pop a label on the back and then it is ready to post out to her, to wish her luck when her studio opens its doors to the public later this month.

 

This blog  started out as a journey in English Paper Piecing but I see that it is gradually turning into much more as I explore the different aspects of working with fabric that interest me. I am certainly on a journey and learning all the way, and although my love for EPP will always be a part of it, I can’t resist the desire to experiment and maybe surprise myself.

Until next time….

 

Put a Wee Bitty Tartan on It

IMG_7670Continuing with my current ‘House’ obsession, I decided to try my hand at making some House Brooches and that it might be fun to start with some tartan ones. I used to think brooches were just for jacket lapels and  although I own quite a few brooches I have been given as gifts, would never have considered myself a brooch person.  However as I was making these, I started to think about other places they could be pinned; not just jackets and bags but hats, curtain tie backs, lampshades, decorative cushions – and realised they could be pinned to any fabric background that that invites a temporary pop of colour. And why not a pop of tartan?

I was particularly excited about making house brooches because I could imagine a row, a whole street of little brooches, IMG_7688pinned on a jacket like a crop of medals; a row of cottages or a cityscape travelling across a weekend bag and the thought of it made me smile. Unlike a lot of brooches these are quite robust, in that they are soft and flexible, can be bent and just pop back up again. They are also washable. Of course the embroidery threads could catch on anything jagged, so I am working on decorating my houses in ways where this won’t be a problem. Fabric paints here I come….

I began with houses just an inch tall and then moved on to larger ones of two to two and a half inches. IMG_7683After adding a door and a window the large ones still seemed too ‘naked’ somehow, so I started adding a few flowers and stems.  Then I wanted to try adding vines and painting flowers, so I made some wider. (Three inches wide but still two and half inches tall).  I thought these might be a bit big but there seems to be a trend in big brooches at the moment, so perhaps they are OK.

They are surprisingly simple to make; only using small bits of tartan at front and back, a spot of interfacing between, a little flourish with the embroidery needle, a stitch all around the edge and few more stitches to secure a pin onto the back. IMG_7673Despite that, the smaller they are the more fiddly they are to hold and decorate. I also learned, after making the first few using co-ordinating colours, that the tiny ones really needed to make use of more brightly coloured threads if they are to stand out on a coat or a bag (for example, the one on the right in the photo below, rather than the one on the left.

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You haven’t heard from me in a while because I have been busy sewing like crazy for the first sales of my crafts in a local shop throughout June. I have been worried about not having enough stock and enough variety of stock available, so have been burning the candle at both ends trying to get through what I had planned months ago and fallen short of achieving.

I have ideas to do so much more in tartan but I’m surprised by how difficult it is to find good quality attractive, varied tartans in 100% cotton in the UK.  The best (i.e. authentic) tartans are wool but I found wool too hard to work with. It frays easily and doesn’t hold creases, both of which is a nightmare when making tiny things using the English Paper Piecing technique. I have come across some tartans in polyester/cotton and perhaps I should try some of those. There are also some lovely ones available in brushed cotton which might be good for  wintery, Christmassy designs. I do love working with cotton though, so I am sticking to a mixture of cotton tartans, when I can find them, and cotton plaids (checks and mock-tartans) which are more fashionable and therefore more readily available.

Tomorrow I am off to join in the last day of this year’s Spring Fling. Spring Fling is a contemporary visual art and craft event that ranges across Dumfries and Galloway here in South West Scotland throughout the bank holiday weekend each May. Close to a hundred artists and makers across the region open their studios to the public while a variety of art projects take place in various venues outside these as well. I look forward to it each year and try to cover a different set of studios and events. Last time I went west. This year I’m going east. Yesterday I went to a new local craft fair which is to be repeated at Christmas. Thinking it would be good to give this try as it was so close to home, I have booked myself in for a table at Christmas. Excited by this but also getting the “oh no, more manic sewing!” tremors too. IMG_7698

By the time my next post appears, all my little creations will be for sale in a shop and I do hope people will pop in and, whether they choose to buy or not, that they give me some useful feedback. When you first start out, you don’t know what people will like or would prefer to have. I guess you need quite a bit of time and experience before you figure that out. Anyway I hope to be able to tell you a bit about the experience and how it goes.

Till next time……