Monthly Archives: November 2013

All work and no play?

It seems like ages since my last post, and I was reflecting that it looks like I haven’t done much…  I’m working on a project I won’t be able to share until after Christmas, as the person who it is for is definitely reading, and would guess straight away.  I have been quite busy at work as well, though as many of you know my work often seems more like play! On Tuesday I made these willow stars with my regular adult group.  The instructions we used had diagrams, photos and written directions so all learning styles could find the best for them. I used the diagram and whilst it was tricky at first we were soon turning out lovely stars.  I felt the need to cover mine in glitter.  The wire you can see on them can be removed once they have dried out.

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I have also made some samples of things we are going to make next week – a simple but really cool way to use up old Christmas cards (yes, there was a stash in a cupboard, us Education Officers always plan ahead).  All you do is cut a card into even strips, punch holes in each end, join the stack together with a split pin, then bend the whole thing into a C shape and swivel the pieces out into a sphere.  The only useful tip I have is make sure the strips are at least 1.75cm wide if you are using a standard hole punch. So simple but I think it looks really sweet.

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And last but not least, something from the Nature Detectives newsletter I received by email today.  This might just be the BEST way to use felt beads (of which I have a few knocking about…) EVER.  Click here to download instructions, though I do think that Rosiepink‘s blog gives you much better instructions for making the bead itself. Three lined up would make a lovely brooch I think.  I am in love with this little acorn and had fun posing it with the squirrel that lives atop my work computer.
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Getting organised

On Saturday morning I woke up and had a frightening thought – I only have four weekends left that I am not working until Christmas. And on some of these I have important social engagements.  I know, scary.  Time to get organised.  Those who know me well know I adore lists so this wasn’t a particularly unpleasant prospect.  Unfortunately it revealed that there are still 19 people (and animals) that I have to make things for… I put it all down in a grid with name, what to make and supplies needed.  I feel better knowing what I need to do and what bits I need to do it.  For quite a few people the things to make are foodie items so those will need to be done the weekend before Christmas, so I’m not too panicked, but I had better get a move on with the other stuff.

My shopping trip had also yielded some PVA glue, so I was able to get on with covering these magazine files.  The wooden files came from Ikea, and the map I used to cover this one was found ripped in half and used as packaging in a parcel we received at work!  As a geographer I am in love with the beauty of Ordnance Survey maps and at least this way it will be on display to be enjoyed, even if I can’t fathom how anyone could use it as packaging.

It was a messy business, I used sponges to apply the slightly watered down glue and a wallpaper brush so smooth out bubbles and creases.  I found that smaller pieces were easier to apply neatly, and doing the inside led to me being covered in glue! I tried to put interesting bits of the map in visible places, I hope this is going to brighten up someone’s study.

Close up of map file The map file

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Two kinds of felt

Hello! I did my last post from my phone and it went a bit wrong, and didn’t send it to Facebook, so I guess lots of you haven’t seen it.  I have been pretty busy crafting over the last week though.  After the knackering Chestnut Jam (see below) I thought I would try out making some felted flower brooches.  I’ve made felt flowers before but been a bit disappointed with them, so I had a look on the internet to see if there were different ways of making them.  In the past I have just made a circle of felt and cut into it when wet to form petals, but I found this great post at http://feltersjourney.blogspot.co.uk/p/tutorials-felting-flowers.html so I thought I’d try making them already in a flower shape. I added in some silk and other threads, including a little angelina (sparkly stuff, looks like lametta!) to the petals so give them a bit of interest, and so they weren’t too rustic.

They have to start out quite large as I was planning to felt them quite aggressively so that they would be strong enough to hang about on a coat day in, day out. I decided to make two layers for each flower. In the picture below the purple one is about half felted and the blue one is finished felting.

2013-11-11 15.03.25_resizedThey need to have the petals shaped as felt will keep the shape it dries in.  I didn’t want them to be too flat so once they were shaped I laid a tea towel over one of our wide radiators and nestled them in the gap there.

I decided that whilst they looked pretty cool with no adornments, they would be even better with a few beads, so at the weekend I nipped out to a local town to see what I could find.  I managed to get some metallic looking black beads and even the brooch backs so I could finish them! I sewed beads in different arrangements on each of them, taking the thread through both layers of the flower to stitch them together at the same time.  Then all that was needed was to add the brooch backs and they were done! I think they are my favourite thing I’ve made so far.

Felt flower brooches Beading on the flower brooches

 

Seeing as I’d managed to get a stash of brooch backs I was also able to finish something else that had been hanging around a while.  Inspired by the Sleepy Fox brooches I wondered what else would work well in that style… I doubt it is very original (though I haven’t seen them anywhere) but I got some red and white sheet felt and drew on the pieces for a mushroom!  I’d been leading a fungi walk at work so no doubt that was where the idea came from.  It is a classic Fly Agaric – I cut two pieces of the stalk and stitched them together, two pieces of the cap and stitched these together with the stalk inside, and lastly sewed on some tiny white spots.  I think it is pretty cute.

Fly Agaric brooch

 

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Last of the foragers

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This year has been fantastic for fruit of all varieties. Even the Sweet Chestnuts were big enough to be collected! This tree is not really native to the UK, it’s from Southern Europe, hence it is quite rare to get plenty of good sized chestnuts. I managed to collect nearly 500g and in the trusty River Cottage preserves handbook there is a recipe for chestnut jam.

I have to say that peeling the chestnuts took forever and resulted in burned fingers as you have to dunk them in boiling water first. I was on the point of giving up and abandoning the whole idea several times! I was really wondering if it was worth all the effort. Then, at the end, my husband tasted it and the look on his face told me it was.

Mont Blanc anyone?

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Hard at work

As I mentioned before, I work in Education for a local wildlife charity, which means I am able to bring a lot of crafting into my working life. I try to stick to crafts using natural materials or recycled things as we want to promote sustainability through our work.

Every Tuesday I work with a particular group, some of whom have poor health, so when I saw that this week was forecast for heavy rain all day I looked for something indoors to do. A colleague had made willow lanterns one Halloween and I thought this would be a fun project to try and occupy our day hiding from the rain.

I used instructions from the fantastic Woodland Trust Nature Detectives website – how would us environmental educators survive without their generosity?!

I took those of the group that wanted to to cut willow out on the reserve and then we came back to the classroom to make our lanterns. They were pretty easy to do really and it was fun to see the slightly different structures everyone came up with using the same instructions. Some went for shorter lanterns and I should point out that they are planning to use led tea lights in them not standard candle ones. I on the other hand went for full on height and left the willow at the top uncut for a more natural look.

We covered the structures in tissue paper and these are some of my tips for that:
– Try and only use as thin layers as possible, the areas where there is only one sheet look so lovely and sheer. Where there were more than two it looked pretty opaque so may not look so good when lit.
– We used cut up kitchen sponges to apply the glue mix and then finally put a wash of glue all over the outside. This was much more practical than brushes as the tissue paper gets so delicate when wet.
– Before we applied the first tissue pieces we sponged glue all over the outside of the willow to give the paper something to hold to.

We let our lanterns dry out in front of the log burner (on a plastic sheet as they were still dripping glue!) and many group members cut shapes from coloured tissue to use as decorations. Once the glue had dry we used sponges to apply the decorations and left then to dry again.

Mine is still white. I don’t know whether to leave it that way for ultimate simplicity or to glue on a few dried autumn leaves. I think some slightly smaller of these would make pretty presents – though maybe for a child or cat free home!

One of the group adding the finishing touches

One of the group adding the finishing touches

My lantern

My lantern

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Something Special

I’ve been working on something that’s not for Christmas, but is for someone very special, and it’s been so hard to keep it secret! Today is my Mum’s 60th Birthday – she’ll forgive me for saying, my sister already put it on Facebook for her 174 friends to see.  Her real present from me is a trip to London to take afternoon tea somewhere iconic, I haven’t revealed the exact location to her yet, and last weekend I suddenly thought up a good way to let her know.

In March I took a workshop with the fantastic Moy Mackay, felt artist and author of “Felt in Art and Stitch” where we made felt paintings.  In her book there are lots of projects to try and one of the most alluring is of tea and cake, so what better thing to make to represent the real present?  I was running low on roving supplies (and time) so I made a fairly small piece of a tea cup and a cupcake on pretty china.  I modeled the china from some inherited from my husband’s nanny, Rose – another truly special lady. The cupcake was imagined, sadly.

After laying out the roving the piece is wet felted, I’m afraid I never took photos of the stages because I was in such a rush to get it done. Once dry the sewing machine was used to embellish and make the design stand out.  This was my first time free stitching with the machine and I was somewhat nervous to fit the darning plate, remove the presser foot and get going.  I had another piece to have a quick practice on as there was no room for error. Luckily it all went smoothly, no needles broke, the felt fibres didn’t clog up the machine and I achieved the level of control I needed over where the sticthes went.  The only hitch was when the cat decided she wanted to play with the thread, picked it up from the top of the machine and started biting it, before hiding under the table with it.  After changing thread colours so many times I am now also a total pro at winding bobbins and changing them!

Once this was all finished some hand stitching was done for further enhancements such as the hundreds and thousands on the cupcake and the highlights in the tea.  I was working all weekend so this had to be done with snatched hours in the evenings, and I even had to send my husband to town to buy more colours of thread yesterday.  I finished the hand stitching 20 minutes before she arrived for lunch today, phew!  She definitely liked it, it was another what I like to call “French A Level moment” where she was surprised at my abilities, ha ha!

Sorry for the quality of my pictures, I struggle to find good light in my house so they can come out a little weird…

Tea and CakeCakeHappy Birthday Mum!
Close up of hand stitches

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