Thursday 31 July 2014

Busy, Busy

This is where I have been since Sunday....
Working at the beautiful Missenden Abbey

where I have been teaching a level 1 City and Guilds in Machine embroidery.

Nine ladies, all complete beginners and in four days this is just a small selection of the design and embroidery work they have achieved.

Amazing work!

We've still got one more day to go, for them to finish off work and for me to sign off their paper work...

and then they will all be walking away with their Level 1 award.

A fantastic achievement by each and every one of them. They have had to work so hard.

It has been a brilliant week but I am totally exhausted.

I'd like to tell you I'm relaxing over the weekend but I'll be in David's bookshop cafe in Letchworth on Saturday with other members of our Embroiderer's Guild where we will be stitching, handing out kits to make these flower brooches, drinking tea and no doubt eating cake.... all in aid of the National Celebration of Stitch day.  Do come and support us if you are local. We'd love to attract more members... and if I'm honest, a few younger members!
And on Sunday... I'll be doing b****r all!

Sunday 27 July 2014

Joyeux Anniversaire!

Despite the heat and melting buttercream I got the cake made and decorated on Friday, and delivered it in one piece ready for the party on Saturday afternoon. I have known Ivan for almost as long as I have lived in my village but first got to know him well when he was playing the fairy in a village pantomime. This was long before I ever trod the boards but in those days I used to paint scenery or make costumes. We were doing a variation of Jack and the Beanstalk..... called "Jock and the Beanstalk". As you might guess, the principle boy, Jock was a Scot but in our version each of the characters was a different nationality. Dame von Strapp (Jock's mother... I let you work that one out) was German, King Cornetto was Italian and Fairy Nuff was French... played by our resident Frenchman.
This was my sketch of his costume... and the results!

I guess all villages have their "characters" and Ivan is definitely one of ours. When he married Marie Therese (who is another wonderful "character") 12 years ago I was privilged to be asked to make the waistcoat for his wedding outfit... embroidered and appliqued in silk to a very specific design! 

What a fabulous couple they are! They have recently moved away from the village and will be greatly missed by so many people.

And so yesterday it was wonderful that they returned for a surprise party for Ivan's 80th birthday. The sun shone and we had a fabulous afternoon catching up with good friends.

And here is the birthday boy getting ready to blow out the candles on his cake... while we all stood around and thought there must be some mistake... this man could never be 80 years old. He is a wonderful example of how to live life to the full and enjoy every minute!

Oh... and I suppose you want to see the cake...

Bon Anniversaire Ivan!

Thursday 24 July 2014

Why I do what I do: Blog Hop

I was recently asked by Penny from Planet Penny would I mind joining in with a Blog Hop... a sort of "Why I do what I do" type of meme. I don't usually join in with these sort of things, not because I mind answering the questions or whatever, but because I don't like to have to pass things on. It feels too much like a chain letter... or those facebook things where people claim to know who their true friends are by those who will re-post. I never re-post those things, ever, I tear up chain letters... and I won't pass on the blog hop to other bloggers. It makes me feel uncomfortable. But Penny was okay with that, so I'll answer the questions and join in anyway... just in case you might be the least bit interested!
1. What am I working on?
Loads of things... there's knitting and crochet on the go (several pieces), half finished machine embroidery which I suppose is my real "work"(more of that later), not to mention the odd quilt or two. But what is actually on my kitchen table today are various cake books because I've been asked to make an 80th birthday cake this weekend... for a fabulous Frenchman who cycles and plays tennis, has been an active and hilarious member of our local amateur dramatics group, still goes to work at the craft market in Covent Garden at weekends and generally acts about 60 years younger than he is! I've looked at so many ideas and seen so many images on Pinterest that my head is spinning but I think I know what I'll do. I'm keeping it simple and have put aside all ideas of tennis racquets and Frenchmen on bicycles... I'll show you when it is done!
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I'm not sure my work fits into a genre... maybe "machine embroidery" can be considered a genre, I'm not sure? In which case it is not unique as there are others of similar style. But although other people tell me they can identify my style, I'm not entirely sure I can. I think it is quite an eclectic style depending on what I'm trying to achieve. Not easy to answer that one as you can probably tell!

3. Why do I create/write what I do?
I think it is in my genetic make up to create... I have to do it. I need to do it! It can be anything from knitting, drawing, gardening, cake making, embroiderery to writing but if I'm not creating or making with my hands in some way or another every day, I get very restless. I have always done it for as far back as I can remember... there were dolls clothes, little hand made books full of secrets, and miniature gardens for fairies (anyone else do that or is it only me?) The writing is a more recent creative endeavour. I suppose I have always jotted things down in diaries and suprised myself when I was writing essays for my degree in that I really enjoyed researching and writing. But the blog has turned it into something more creative for me. It is a way to connect and share with like minded people, a way to get feedback (we all like that reassurance, don't we? )and a method to sort out my ideas in my other creative pursuits. I can't imagine not writing my blog.

4. How does my writing/creative process work?
This really does depend on what I am working on. My machine embroidery work has various starting points and can be triggered by words and text as in the pages of my lace book pictured above, or from pages in my sketchbook as in this recent work based on Dia de los Muertos images - I'm still working on Frida Kahlo ideas! You are getting to see this in a still very rough stage and I will continue to stitch into it and adding to it until I achieve the effect I am after. Then I'll be ready to show you again!
My writing process is entirely different and is almost always visually inspired. I never really have a clear idea of what my next blog post will be. Sometimes I plan them ahead in my mind and then the days pass and they are not relevent any more, occaisonally I write two or three at once and schedule them but there is no real pattern. Mostly I take lots of photos of the various things I am working on or places I have been and then write as the moment grabs me. Most of the photos never get used! This post was particularly difficult because it was the questions that have prompted it and not the visual images.

So those are my answers for what they are worth. I won't pass this particular baton on, but if you would like to take it up just let me know and I'll add your blog post to the few I've that added below that have gone before me. There are some fascinating posts and interesting reading so do take a look!
Penny at Planet Penny
Claire at Mrs Brown Makes
 Sue at The Quince Tree
Annie at Annie Cholewa
Jessica at The Rusty Duck
Sarah at Mitenska

Monday 21 July 2014

Sod's Law

What did I tell you... the two new aprons I made last week remained untouched, unloved and unsold at Open Studios over the weekend just as I predicted. But that does mean they have been listed in my Etsy shop this morning.
But I cannot complain because I have had two weekends with lots of lovely visitors, a chance to meet new people, catch up with old friends and generally have a good time. And of course, the added bonus is that I have sold quite a few bits and pieces. All but one of my new vintage cloth tea cosies have sold

As well as all but one note book. So you'll find those in the Etsy shop too.

And I also sold this pink bag over the weekend... so that has been removed from the shop! Although remember you can still buy the pattern to make your own bag.

So that is Open Studios over for another year. Today's job is to try to get the house back to normal and then I'm packing and preparing for Missenden Abbey next week where I will be teaching at Summer School. But I'll be back at some point this week because Penny has nominated me in a blog hop... I'll need to get my thinking cap on for that one!

Friday 18 July 2014

Five on Friday

I am being extremely optimistic with the title of this post today. The chances of me actually finishing writing it before the end of Friday are pretty remote, so you are probably reading this on Monday and wondering why on earth didn't I call it "Random Crap Monday". On the other hand if you are reading this on Friday I'm most likely breaking the speed limit getting to Letchworth for our Embroiderer's Guild supper party as you read. It's been a mad week with an even madder weekend coming up... absolutely no time to write a blog post but hey-ho...
1. I made Millionaire's Shortbread
I have never made it before as I find it just a bit too cloying and sweet even for my sweet tooth but I was tempted by this twist on the original version. Somehow by adding cocoa to the caramel it makes it seem less sickly sweet. The family declared it the best they'd ever tasted. It's all gone! I only made it so I would have something pretty to photograph on my gorgeous new mini platter ( a very special birthday present) and mini cake stand but I think I will make it again.
2. I made aprons

In the five days between my Open Studios weekends I thought I would make all sorts of extra bits to sell this coming weekend... but it didn't happen. All sorts of other stuff happened but no sewing... until yesterday afternoon.

and then I made two aprons! Only two aprons but I guess it's better than nothing. They probably won't sell... sod's law!

3. I've been knitting

I'll re-phrase... I've knit a couple of rows! Whilst collapsed on the sofa last night I happened to wonder what was in the hessian bag tucked down the side and discovered some abandoned knitting. A cardigan I started ages ago and that I was really enjoying knitting as it is all made in one piece - no sewing up! But I'd gone wrong on a sleeve and abandoned it. But I picked it up again last night, cast on the sleeve again and I'm keen to finish it now. I promise to link to the pattern and yarn etc when it's finished... but no time to look it up at the moment!
4. I've spent today baking

Yes, I know it has been the hottest day of the year so far but I've been baking since 8 am. I've made a savoury cheesecake, a quiche and a pavlova for the Guild supper this evening. A lasagne for my family's supper this evening and a cheesecake for supper tomorrow. I've managed to invite friends to stay for supper after open studios tomorrow... and more friends on Sunday! Lovely to see them but just a little bit bonkers on my part. But using my shiny red mixer still makes me smile.
5. Fan My Flame

When I first started my blog (it will be seven years ago next week) I was stuck for a name. I was starting to think about branding what I do and I had been using the image of this fan on my business cards etc so thought I could use the name of the work as the name of my blog... and so "Fan My Flame" was born. I regretted it almost immediately. Read quickly and it looks like Fanny Flame which sounds more like some sort of porn star name than a textile artist. And it doesn't sum up what I do in an way, shape or form. For some time I've been thinking about the possibility of changing the name and it just so happens that Annie of the blog formerly known as Knitsofacto has done just that recently. It seems like a bold move. But then what else would I call it if not Fan My Flame?  Just my name possibly? What do you think... good idea or not?

Well it is still Friday... just... and I didn't break any speed limits tonight. I've been to the Embroiderer's Guild supper, which was excellent and have now come back home to unwind with a glass of wine. We had a lovely supper and great speaker - Clare Fleck, archivist at Knebworth House who spoke about the textile collection and conservation. But now I really think I need to get bed as I've got another busy weekend of Open Studios coming up. Hope you have a good weekend!

Sunday 13 July 2014

Flower Brooch Tutorial

I promised a tutorial on how to make these flower brooches... but before I start I think that it is only fair to say that I was originally inspired by the brooch by Gemma Nemer featured in Mollie Makes. However, the actual technique is not new, and this is my take on the process, which is slightly different from that featured in the magazine.

First of all select your fabrics - you can use the same fabric for all five petals, choose five completely different fabrics... or like me choose five different but toning fabrics. What is important is that they are thin fabrics... too thick and your flower will be too bulky.

You will need to cut 5 circles of fabric, approximately 8 - 9 cm in diameter. I found that the lid from a large Golden Syrup tin to be the perfect size template!

Thread your needle with a strong thread and make a knot at the end of your thread. Taking your first circle, fold it in half.

Fold it in half again making a quarter circle.

Now stitch along the circular edge with small running stitches, making sure you are stitching through all four layers of fabric.

It should look something like this...

Fold your second circle of fabric into quarters and without knotting or cutting off your thread stitch along the curved edge of your second circle with small running stitches.

Repeat for all five fabric circles. They should look like a string of bunting when you've finished.

Now, gently but firmly gather up your thread. You want to gather as tightly as possible without snapping your thread (this is why you use strong thread)

When you have gathered it up as tightly as you possibly can, tie a knot at the end to stop the gathers coming undone...

and then working from the back, join the first and last petals with a couple of over stitches.

You have now finished your first round of petals!

Using a smaller template (approx. 6-7 cm)... I used the lid from a small tin of Golden Syrup... cut another five circles of fabric

Repeat the method and make another circle of fabric petals. By now you will realise that by selective folding you can position designs/colors/patterns on your petals.

Next you will need a pretty button, large enough to cover the raw edges and gathering stitches of your smaller circle.

I did originally try stitching the button onto the small fabric circle but it is really difficult to keep the button firmly in place so that it covers all the raw edges. So my advice is to use a hot glue gun to firmly position your button in the centre of your small circle of petals.

Using the glue gun again, spread some glue onto the back of the small circle of petals and position it centrally onto the larger circle.

You should now have something that looks like this....

Next you need a circle of felt, about 4 cm diameter, a circle of firm card, about 3.5 cm diameter and a brooch back.

With a matching thread start to stitch the felt circle onto the back of your flower brooch, using small slip stitches. About half way around, slip the card circle in place behind the felt circle.

Carry on slip stitching around the felt circle securing it firmly in place

Then stitch the brooch back into place onto the felt backing.

And your flower brooch is ready to wear... pin it on your jacket, your hat, your bag... anywhere you like!

or pin it onto a fancy card with some pretty ribbon...

and put it in a case with lots more and go peddle your wares!