Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Brooches and Butterflies

Quite a long time ago... an embarassingly long time ago actually, I spent a lovely day with a very kind lady called Terry who taught me how to make mosiacs. Well... a mosiac actually, the one pictured below, because I'm not really sure I could repeat the experience and remember how to make another one! The idea was that we would have a skills swap.

We did have a date set for Terry to come to my studio to do some embroidery but with one thing and another I had to postpone. Finally my guilt got the better of me and last week, Terry and I met at Wimpole Hall. We bought some lunch and sat in the corner of the restaurant trying to avoid the hoards of children on their Easter holidays and I showed Terry how to make a brooch using needle weaving.
A couple of hours later Terry had made the most exquisite brooch which she finished in time to wear home. Unfortunately my photography was not so exquisite and you cannot see how pretty it looked!

While Terry worked on her brooch I worked on one of my own and this is what I ended up with. I had forgotten what fun these are to make.

Tiny squares of woven threads adorned with beads.

And so inspired was I by Terry's pretty blue/green combination I made another one that evening.

And it did occur to me that as well as a collection of expensive bags...

I could also make a collection of not quite so expensive brooches for Open Studios in July.

And then at knitting on Friday, Pam was giving away some gorgeous threads... and I thought these would be just the thing for a whole range of beautiful brooches.

I would say watch this space but no doubt I'll be excited by something else by this time next week... butterfly brain... that's me!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Bag loads of bags

Before I released the instructions for my collaged fabric onto you dear readers I had been road testing it on my weekly machine embroidery class. As ever, armed with the same instructions and my samples, each member of the class has come up with their own individual interpretation.
Margaret made this lovely purple and turquoise combination into a changing bag for her first grandchild... and very obligingly, baby Penelope arrived this week!

This summery looking bag belongs to Linda our newest member of the class... but she always makes such lovely accomplished things that I really am going to have to stop calling her a beginner.

Di included some fabulous fabrics in her bag, including these old doilies.

And of course, as Di is a beader she had to add a little special beaded touch... have you spotted the butterfly?

Jan made two bags in the time everyone else made their first one and was already on her third by the end of term!

Barbara's pictured below was still a work in progress...

As was Ann's below. Ann has a lovely handle to attach to hers when it is finished. It also has an incredible amount of stitching and it reminded us all of Mary Poppins' carpet bag!

And Jean made this lovely bag below following my bag instructions to the letter, thoroughly testing it and proof reading it for me. Thank you Jean!

Feeling inspired? Then why not buy your own tutorial to make some crazy collaged fabric for yourself... available here!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

A Handbag????

The title of this post needs to be read in your best "Lady Bracknell" voice....
Do you remember a few weeks ago that I was inspired by the fabulous work of Lauren Shanley and as a result I devised a way of creating a similar collaged fabric and then made a bag? You don't? Ah well, never mind, I did and the result was the bag pictured below... so do read on...
I loved creating this fabric... it was such fun.

So much fun in fact that I went on to make a second bag... very similar to the first as I perfected the technique....

and tried to write out the instructions for my students in a language they could actually understand.

I even added pockets and labels...

I was actually so excited that I went on to make a third bag but this time in pink. I'm working on a collection (I jest not) which I'm hoping to have ready for Open Studios in a couple of months.

But just to test the water I have decided to list the pink bag and one of the black bags in my Etsy shop.

Now I am aware that I'm about to shoot myself in the foot and I'm unlikely to pick up any awards for salesman of the year... but the bags are a bit pricey!

In truth, I do think by the time you factor in all the time, planning, fabrics etc. they are not really that pricey at all and are quite good value for money... especially when you consider that each one is a unique designer item and actually it seems positively cheap compared to some bags!

But I'm also aware that I wouldn't want to pay that for a bag that I would probably think I could make myself. And let's face it... my average reader is pretty useful when it comes to making things for themselves. And so then I hit on another idea (prompted by a special blogging friend), that if I was teaching this to my students then I could also teach this to you!

So as well as listing the bags in my shop I have also got a 14 page step by step, fully illustrated tutorial and pattern listed for making both the fabric and the bag... two for the price of one!
So you can choose... a ready made bag... or instructions to make your own!

And next time I'm here I'll show you the bags that my students have made!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Fun, Friendship and Fellowship

 I've been away for the weekend... not teaching, not working but having lots of fun.
I've attended my first ever national AGM for the Embroiderers' Guild and I'm wondering why I've never been before.
There were a variety of workshops on offer and I started off on Friday morning making fairy shoes with the delightful and very funny Annette Emms.
Totally frivolous but lots of fun... even more so when we realised that dotted around the conference rooms were bowls full of sweeties... jelly beans, jelly babies, refreshers etc.... I confess I may have been just a little high on sugar and e-numbers all weekend!

After a wonderful lunch I took another workshop with Brenda Scarman where I learned to attach Shisha mirrors onto canvas - a new technique for me.

I've ended up with a delightful little pin cushion that I'm thinking will make a good project for my Young Embroiderers.

As well as workshops we were treated to some entertaining and informative talks, there were exhibitions to look at, books to browse, traders to buy from and best of all friends to chat and laugh with.

On Saturday night we had a wonderful Gala dinner - the food all weekend was excellent - with a talk by Professor Malcolm Lochhead, which was very entertaining.

Of course in the middle of it all was the AGM, which despite being a little drawn out and over long was still postive and encouraging for the future of the Guild.

And without doubt it feels time to put the past problems of the Guild behind us and move forward...
And I'm looking forward to my next AGM for more fun!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Year in Books :: April

Just as I seem to catch up with life, get on top of things, start to feel in control... then life seems to catch up with me and it all becomes a bit of a roller coaster. It's been a crazy week on all sorts of levels so far, but there is still time to catch a few moments to read most days.
I finished my March choice for The Year in Books, Bitter Greens early in the month and I absolutely loved it, finding it a fascinating mixture of fiction and fact. It tells the story of Charlotte Rose de Caumont de la Force who was a French novelist and Poet in the court of Louis XIV. She was best known for her story Persinette which was then adapted by the Brothers Grimm as the story of Rapunzel. Woven into Kate Forsyth's tale of the scandelous life of Charlotte Rose is also a retelling of the story of Rapunzel along with the story of La Strega Bella, the woman who holds her captive. An excellent read!
My choice for April was going to be Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, but as seems to have been my habit so far this year, it was started and finished before April began. I found this a strange and enchanting book filled with magic and illusion, that kept me turning the pages until late into the night... and then I couldn't wait to pick it up again each morning. Different from my usual choice of read but utterly compelling.

And so I have chosen another book to read in April... Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott, recommended by several of you and one that I'm really enjoying... I've almost finished that too.

It just so happens that we had a meeting of our other book club this week... The Mucky Book Club... named because of a rather risque book chosen by one of our members not long after we first formed and were still trying to think of a name for ourselves. We are all still keen readers but we don't really read the same books or even discuss books much any longer. We are really just a group of friends who get together for an evening of good food and lots of laughter every few months. This week we had an Italian evening...

My contribution was a chocolate tiramisu cake...

At this point of the evening the conversation came to a stop... I've never known them all so quiet!
Have you read any good books... or eaten any good cakes... this month?

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Happy Chocolate Day!

I had a lovely Mother's Day treat last night when I went out for a meal in Cambridge with all four of my sons... it's not often they are all free at the same time. Good food and lots of laughs... why it still amazes me the amount they can eat I do not know!
Today it was my turn to treat my Mum to lunch so I made a chocolate cake for dessert... funnily enough three of the boys were also available for lunch today as well!

The recipe from this month's Good Housekeeping unfortunately supplied dietary information... and without the chocolate truffles (they are truffles not giant Maltesers) it clocks up a whopping 856 calories per slice...

I tell you I could feel myself getting fatter before I even tasted it... but it was worth it. And I don't even like chocolate cake that much! But it was rich, dense and fudgy and worth every calorific mouthful. And I ate a truffle!

We did have a lovely long walk in the sunshine after lunch to burn some of it off!
Whether you are a Mum or have spent time with your own Mum, I hope you have had a lovely day too!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

An Afternoon Well Spent

I was all set yesterday for a nice day out in London, meeting a friend for lunch. Left home to catch the 10.20 am into Kings Cross, bought my ticket from the machine... no such luxury as a manned ticket office during the day where one might get information and went to wait on the platform...
After 10 minutes there was an announcement that they were sorry for the delay but the train was running 6 minutes late. Not a problem! A few minutes later and the announcement changed to 8 minutes late, another couple of minutes it was 10 minutes late... and so it went on until 40 minutes later the announcement changed to there would be no more trains until further notice due to lines down at Harringay.By this time I was frozen... not being one to take my own advice of "Is that all you're wearing, you'll freeze to death, put on something warm"... and waiting rooms are another luxury we don't have out in the sticks. 

So home I came, warmed myself up with several cups of tea and decided to make the most of my unscheduled afternoon at home. I blame the Sewing Bee but I thought it would be fun to have a challenge... to make a skirt in three hours? The pattern (from Sew Me Something) and fabric (from Little Laura's Haberdashery) had already been bought on my trip to the NEC last week... not entirely sure how I feel about the fabric now as it was a bit of an impulse buy... I like it but not sure how it works as a skirt... but hey ho...

Four and half hours later I had my skirt (minus buttons and buttonholes)... and I think I quite like it.

It is obviously a mistake to have chosen a horizontally based pattern for a skirt with a curved hem because it looks as though my hem is wonky on the underskirt but I can live with that... I know it's straight!

This morning I finished off the buttons and buttonholes which took almost as long as making the skirt itself (how do they do it on the Sewing Bee?)

But I quite like the overall effect of the piping with the covered buttons

Best of all the skirt is reversible but I haven't got buttons for the otherside so I can't show you that.

Did I say how much I like the buttons?
So much so, I'm tempted to make another skirt... although I think my fabric choice might be more considered next time.