Because life’s celebrations shouldn’t cost the Earth

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Freehand machine embroidery

(Free motion embroidery)

My lovely niece has a very special birthday looming, so I whipped her up a couple of little presents this week. 

The make-up bag in the background is made from a vintage style apple green and baby pink floral fabric which started life as a 'Dorma' duvet cover and is yet another car-boot find.  I am always taken aback by the price of fabric in quilting shops and just can't bear to pay in excess of £14.95 a metre!  At car-boot sales I can get a duvet cover or pair of curtains for a pound or two and they will provide metres of fabric.  I try to only buy 100% cotton and generally stick to more classic brands like Laura Ashley, Liberty, Cath Kidston and Next.

I often wonder what our Grandmothers would think of our approach to sewing and patchwork, surely the original origin of the craft was to recycle 'patches' and old scraps of fabric into new and useful items?  The material I pick up at charity shops and car-boot sales often has worn patches and I get a lot of pleasure from knowing I have created something to be treasured from an item which was destined for the bin!

I have made a number of items from this particular duvet cover, the lining of the make-up purse is from the back of the duvet and I also made my daughter's rag doll a 'new' outfit with it.

Sorry about the poor lighting in the above picture, we are in the depths of winter here and it's pitch dark outside.  My camera is not keen to take 'photos under artificial light, but I wanted to finish this post tonight so that I could slip Dolly back into my daughter's bed!

Anyway, back to my niece's presents, the heart motif on the compact mirror was applied with raw edge applique and I then machined the wording using a technique called 'Free Motion Embroidery'. Basically, this means you drop the feed dog on a regular machine and then draw or write using the machine's needle in the same way as a pen or pencil.  It can be a bit tricky to master, but once you get the hang of it the possibilities are endless.

The Queen of freehand machine embroidery in the UK is Poppy Treffry.  She has written two books on the subject and they are very comprehensive and beautifully photographed - Well worth putting on your wish list xxx

Monday, 21 January 2013

Sew cosy

Cafetiere Cosies

It's still snowing here, and what could be nicer than curling up in front of a log burning stove with a piping hot cup of coffee?  

......So here are a couple of cafetiere cosies to share with you.  The gorgeous 'antique' tray you can see in the picture was made by my very talented 12 year old son at a B&Q 'Kid's Can Do It' class.  Unbelievably, he started with some blank MDF sheets and by the end of the class had created this fantastic tray!  I love the shaped handles which he cut out with a spade drill-bit and jigsaw.

Once we got it home he and I 'aged' it with regular emulsion paint and then stamped on the lovely flourishes, once again using some left over emulsion paint.  As a final touch, he ran a silver marker pen around the edges to give it a 'gilt' effect before giving the whole thing a coat of clear varnish.

Didn't he do a wonderful job?

My poor cosies aren't quite sure if they deserve to be standing on such a beautiful work of art!

The other much loved item in the pictures is our stove.  We have completed a number of improvement projects in the house, but without doubt this is our favourite.  If you are contemplating installing one, GO FOR IT!  Ours was put in 4 or 5 years ago and we have never yet had to purchase any logs for it.  We live in a fairly wooded area and every year trees come down.  Once this happens it takes a team of men at least a day to chainsaw the tree into smaller lengths to be taken away.  I make it my mission to walk past a fallen tree everyday until the cutting team arrives.  Then a few smiles, (and the offer of some bottles of beer to take away!) and, hey presto, a drive full of logs!  It is then simply a matter of stacking them under cover in our wood-store for a couple of years whilst they 'season'.

In this age of rising fuel prices it is great to get heat for free!  It is also worth noting that statistics suggest up to 90% of waste wood in the UK ends up in landfill sites and yet, if burnt, wood counts as 'carbon neutral' because the oxygen it produces whilst growing is at least equal to the CO2 produced when burnt.  So all that time when the Mr Larkin, the children and I jump into skips to pull out wood we're not being mean, it's us saving the planet........okay and we're cheap-skates too!

Anyway, back to the cosies, here's a close up;

I used some grey striped cotton cut from an old pair of curtains to make the main body of the cosy.  The insulation was provided by the 100% wool backing which started life as a jumper before being 'felted' in my washing machine on a 'boil' cycle  (All of my materials come from either charity/thrift shops or car-boot sales).

The design is a mixture of raw edge applique and free motion embroidery.

Here is picture of the large cosy laid out flat to show the whole design; 

It is a little curled at the bottom as I had just taken it off the cafetiere and forget to iron it for the picture...Oopps!

The fastenings are simply two hair elastics which hook around the buttons.  I think this looks much better than using regular elastic and those hair bands are made to last!  The buttons came from a box passed down to me from my Mum and they came to her from either her own mother or grandmother.  They are at least 50-80 years old!

Once I have got the hang of blogging I might progress to writing a tutorial as........ the sales last week I got........

 this coffee set and it was 75% off!  I'm going to slip off the little red cover and change it for one of my own, and if I remember to take photos along the way that tutorial might happen!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Style at Home magazine

How to spend a snowy few hours....

As I have already mentioned I treated myself to a magazine this week called 'Style at Home'.  I don't normally buy them as they can be quite expensive, but this one was just £1.99 and I had been given a Sainsbury's voucher for my birthday and I didn't want the whole lot to be spent on potatoes, bread, eggs, washing powder, bleach...........etc...etc!

Anyway, here is the super new publication I chose;

It had a great article on Chloe Owens, author of "All Sewn Up", followed by a piece on 'How to Blog' and so here I am having a go at blogging!
Now these two articles alone would be worth the £1.99, but there was lots more to interest me, including some super makes from a new book by Eline Pellinkolf, with the chance to win a copy;

Photo: Hello WIN IT Wednesday. 
We've two copies of the book Stitch and Sew Home by Eline Pellinkhof (£14.99, David Charles) to give away - email by Tuesday 22nd Jan at 12pm and two fans drawn by random will win a copy/UK only. 

You can also order a copy for the special price of £9.73 with free p&p/UK only (code R11804 at checkout) or call RUCraft on 0844 8805851
The five projects which Style at Home featured in this month's copy are all very pretty and spring-like, so what else to do on a freezing cold snowy day than stay indoors and make a little birdie!  

Here is mine feeling very glad to be inside looking outside;

I made a couple of small changes from the original pattern, the first was sewing up the end of the tail.  In the magazine he had a frayed tail and being made from linen looked super-cute and very shabby chic!.  As mine was stitched in cotton, this seemed less appropriate.  I also used two small seed beads for the eyes rather than working them with thread.  The final slight change I made was to put a couple of shaping stitches in the beak, which makes him look slightly more duck-like, although whether this is an 'improvement' or not is a matter of choice!   

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

Who's the fairest of them all?

Having done some research on the web, it turns out that my Badge Machine was manufactured by the 'London Emblem Badge Company' and they sell a number of different components, which means that the machine is capable of producing more than just simple pin badges.  I relayed this exciting development to my Mum and look what has arrived in the post;

Lots and lots of yummy components, thanks so much Mum for such a thoughtful combined Christmas and Birthday present!

Having ripped open the boxes, I decided to have a go at making a couple of mirrors and bottle openers.  I was pretty pleased with the opener, but you'll have to wait before I post a picture of it as it's for a present and I don't want to spoil the surprise for a certain favourite uncle..... 

Next I had a go at a compact mirror for one of my Mum's friends.  I also made a matching a make-up purse with a waterproof lining to go along with it.  I didn't have any suitable waterproof material in the house, but then remembered my daughter had just grown out of a little red raincoat and as it was fairly well used I didn't feel too bad about cutting it up;

and this is the result;

I also made my daughter a 'Dumpling Purse' using this fantastic tutorial;

I popped in a mirror which I whipped up on the badge machine. Adorning it is a picture of Granny when she was about the same age as my daughter is now!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

My new toy!

A badge machine

For Christmas the gorgeous Mr. Larkin gave me a shiny new badge machine. Well actually it was very much second-hand, but hey it only cost £105 including shipping instead of £475  new.  It might not be shiny and it is pretty bashed up, but it works beautifully!

Here it is;

I used it to make a couple of small presents before Christmas, mainly embroidered badges for the children's teachers.  I have since been being having a go at making personalised mirrors with it.  I'll share some pictures of those once they're finished.


I walked my youngest to school this morning as usual and then popped to the shops where I treated myself to a magazine using the voucher my sister kindly gave me for my birthday.  I chose 'Style at Home' which was a very reasonable £1.99!  I never normally purchase magazines, so was quite excited to flick though it, and as I did I found an article on 'blogging', something dear Mr. Larkin has been suggesting to me for rather a while.  Just as I was doing this the snow started to come down.

So..... I spent the afternoon  learning how to blog!  The idea was to then spend some time in the evening sewing.  However, this blogging stuff is proving fun but time-consuming, so it has spilled into the time set aside for stitching!  Hopefully I'll sew again tomorrow......

Christmas badges

The rest of the crafting world has probably already posted all of their Christmas creations and moved onto Valentines, Easter and other spring themed wonders, I'll do that next week I promise(hmm, unlikely!).  However, having only discovered blogging this afternoon I'm a little behind.  Never mind as here are the little gifts I made with my 'new' badge machine.  These are personalised badges which I free-motion embroidered on my regular sewing machine.

The sewing machine I use and love is a Bernina Aurora 440 QE.  Once again this was a second-hand purchase and I have had it for two years and use it most days.  I would hate it to fail on me as I would now struggle to live without it!

Appliqued Christmas Bunting & Stockings

So before I start on my spring themed sewing , I thought I would post a couple of pictures of my Christmas 2012 creations.  

Firstly a string of 'Noel' bunting;

And some patchwork stockings which I thought would be popular....

...... until the children told me they weren't 'big enough'!


I also stitched a couple of designs inspired by the fantastic work of Nancy Halvorsen.  I love her nativity designs, so adapted them from her original which was she intended to be used as a wall quilt.  I simplified it and made it more suitable for the front of my stockings.

I created the main panels of each stocking using my two favourite techniques of the moment; raw edge applique and free-motion embroidery.  The top half of each stocking is simply patchwork squares, which I then quilted by 'stitching in the ditch'.  This made them feel lovely and thick, especially as I upcycled thermal curtain linings for the batting/wadding!  On the same theme, the linen used both for Joseph's head-dress and the cow came from a pair of old summer trousers.  I was pretty pleased with the finished item until I pressed it, at which point one of the squares slightly shrunk so I must have used a poly-cotton mix....sigh!