New Toys

You may remember in my last post, I mentioned that I was reawakening my very rusty sewing skills.

You see, my Nana taught me to sew when I was a young thing, for a school project. Where I made a stuffed animal of my own design. I learned to sew on her own machine. The one that is the same model as the one pictured here:

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Singer Sewing Machine 99k-13 (made in 1922)

A couple of years later, I had fallen in love with Japanese Culture and a kind lady was willing to teach me to sew my own Yukata, (a casual cotton based robe for informal wear), but I had to use my own machine to make it.

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Yukata Image from Wikipedia

So I asked my Nana to help. She couldn’t sew anymore, as arthritis had claimed her dexterity, but she gifted me her own sewing machine, fully serviced and working fine.
“Always go with Singer machine Sharon. They keep their needle sizes consistent no matter which generation of machine you have.” She told me as she re-taught me to thread the shuttle bobbin and to follow lines on a piece of paper on the machine. Working on my pressure on the unique knee lever.

Now, this wonderful antique machine was wired for the North American electrical system, which I didn’t wish to trust to the UK’s higher amperage, so I entrusted it to my best friend for safe keeping when I moved here.

With my new found interest in sewing again, and an attempt to remember some of the skills my Nana taught me I have sought out a more modern machine.

My new toy arrived and I am so happy to share it with you!

Needless to say this one has a few more bells and whistles than my old 99k, but the system is the same and like my Nana said:

“Always go with Singer machine Sharon. They keep their needle sizes consistent no matter which generation of machine you have.”

So pardon me while I wrap this up and go warm up my new toy.

Watch this space, I may make myself a new Yukata to fit my more adult frame.

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Always Learning

One thing that I am sure about is that the second we stop trying and learning new things is the second we stop growing.

As this is a crafting blog I thought it would be a good time to share with you some of the tutorials and online resources I use to keep me growing.

First we shall start with the mysterious and confusing (for me) Sewing.
My own Nana taught me the basics of sewing when I was a young lady, on her antique Singer Sewing machine.

I loved the lessons we had, but I only really learned how to thread the machine (complete with a shuttle bobbin) and sew a straight line.

So here is where I have turned to expand my knowledge base:
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A great class that is reasonably priced and has given me a bit more confidence in using my much newer sewing machine.

Next,  is the art of Needle Felting.

I have always wanted to be a sculptor, but stone and wood are not my preferred mediums. Then I discovered FeltAlive and I learned I could work with my preferred medium and make lovely soft sculptures.

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The Tutorials are now free to all and that is a great value.

Now I am going to introduce you the learning Library that is Craftsy.

I found it when I was unable to go out to my local yarn shop and attend classes to expand my own skill and it was helpful to learn at my own pace.

The classes I really enjoyed were:
Plug and Play Shawls By Amy Singer

Heirloom Lace Edgings With Franklin Habit

Fearless Knitting by Lucy Neatby

Knit to Flatter With Amy Herzog

So I hope I have armed you with  few places to go and expand your skills and keep learning and growing and exploring your crafty world.

I hang my head in shame…

Not only did I fail to finish the thing I initially meant to blog about, but I forgot to blog entirely. Instead, let me briefly tell you the story of my Saturday.

I got out of bed. So far, so good.
Went grocery shopping, because I had nothing in the house. Then proceeded to have pie for breakfast while watching Fresh Prince.

Then, finally, I sat down and began what I had planned to do: Make a couple of project bags. Having managed two of the same type, I was quite pleased with myself…

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So I thought, hey, why not keep going??? So I cut out some more fabric, pulled another zip, and kept stitching.

And then my needle broke.

Building A Boyfriend

This last weekend the Top Floor Art gallery was all abuzz as we hosted our Build A Boyfriend workshop. The day was filled with chatter, laughter, and squeals of glee as we brought our creations to life from our imaginations. Heather created a half dragon, half man from Dungeons and Dragons lore; Anja modeled hers off of actor Richard Speight, Jr. as Gabriel in the show Supernatural. Emma worked on the dashing David Tennant as Dr Who.

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We began with cutouts of our boyfriends and stitched them together. We all had a giggle as we stuffed them, sewed them together and began to embroider their features. The fun part comes when deciding on hair style, eye colour, facial expressions, and other details!

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The concentration was fierce in the gallery.

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The day finished on a high as the boyfriends were completed and we could all stand back and admire our handiwork!

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img_6363.jpgI couldn’t resist making an homage to Stephen McClean, artist and co-owner of Top Floor Art!

Thank you for joining us today…

… for a very special episode of…

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If you are intrigued by our cast go ahead and have a look at the Top Floor Art Gallery in Saintfield, Co. Down, where our lovely Jaele will be offering a Build A Boyfriend Workshop on the 20th of August.

You could build your own Cas, Sam, Dean, Crowley, or even Idris Elba. (There has been talk of Chris Evans as well…

So don’t be shy, head on over and check it out!

Our Crafting Demo Day

Recently we held a crafting demo day for Voluntary Arts Week (6 – 15 May). We wanted to create an opportunity to allow people to experience craft as a relaxing pastime, an escape from the stressors of everyday life or as a way of pleasantly passing the time should they suffer from health issues that might otherwise inhibit them.

We met at 11am at the Dock Cafe in the Titanic Quarter, knitting needles and yarn swifts at the ready! I even made cookies for the occasion.

So what kinds of crafts were we demonstrating? Pretty much everything! Knitting, spinning, crochet, sewing, embroidery – if we could carry it, we brought it.

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We even had Sharon on duty sewing hexagons for NI Big sock!

We definitely attracted attention and had a brilliant day introducing future crafters to new hobbies, and exposing hardened crafters to new ideas. Next year we’ll hopefully engage more people, but then we did happen to accidentally coincide with Comic Con! Regardless, it was a lovely day and we hope to be seeing a local surge in craft soon!

How Not to Sew an Elsa Dress

Back in August, my mother visited us for a few weeks. One of her friends is an avid sewist and kindly passed on some left over material and a pattern for an Elsa dress, so my mother brought it along with her. It sat in my sewing stash, teasing me, for almost 8 months. And then I said enough already….I was ready to take it on.

Now, my daughter enjoys Frozen. I enjoy Frozen. But we’re not uber fans. My daughter likes being her own princess, and frankly, I could do without princesses altogether. But the perfect fabric and the pattern was just sitting there, waiting to be used, and I thought, well, why not?

I should have known better.

Anyone who sews surely knows the pain of sewing with satin, the tedious nature of chiffon and tulle and the machine-gumming, swear-inducing headache of sewing through that synthetic stretchy stuff with glued-in sequins. Ugh. Then combine a garment that has all three, and don’t forget the tulle has glued-on glittery snowflakes.

 

My house looks like a fairy barfed all over it. 

Anyway, I got to sewing. I gummed up the machine with that sticky gluey sequin stuff twice, and broke two needles, and it’s the sloppiest thing I have ever sewn together in my life. That’ll teach me to sew something that my heart isn’t completely in. Also, I modified the pattern a bit for our colder weather and used the satin for the yoke and sleeves instead of tulle.

Because on its own, the pattern was simple enough. On their own, the fabrics would have been fine. But combining the two, a multi-step, detailed pattern with fiddly fabric when I have limited time and space and trying to wrangle three young monsters kids?

What was I thinking again?

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But look at that sweet face. She loves it.

 

She better love it. She better be planning to get married in it.

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I jest. Kind of.

Just imagine…

…you have a stack of fabric scraps from previous quilting projects. You’re saving them, because somehow, you thought it was a good idea to start Rhonda Pearce’s Insanity Quilt.
And you told your friend you’ll do a bit for NI Big Sock. She gave you more fabric scraps for that.

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Insanity

So, one day after work, you whip out your Cutting Mat (and realize you really need a new one because this one is tiny, and you also wrecked it), Quilting Ruler and Rotary Cutter and get to slicin’. Only, as you slice and slice and slice, the stack of scraps just doesn’t seem to shrink…

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The result of that realization?
After about an hour and a half of cutting and countless repeats of “Play That Funky Music White Boy”, you decide to call it a day, put the tools away, whip out the laptop and watch “My Little Pony” instead.

At least that’s what I do. XD

A Day in the Life

I like to sew. That’s pretty obvious if you know me. I like to sew a lot. If there’s something that I need or want and it can somehow be made with fabric, I’ll give it a go. One might use the word obsessed, but since we’re in polite company, I’ll just stick with enthusiastic.

So anyway, most of my friends know that I love to sew, and they occasionally oblige my obsession enthusiasm with requests for various items. Most of them are pretty typical: bags, clothes, toys, dolls, cushion covers, etc. But of course some of them have been a little eccentric. I mean, considering who I hang out with, of course there are gonna be some interesting projects. (Wouldn’t have it any other way, by the way. Where else would I find such a motley crew of nutters to hang out with who would have me??)

Anyway, so Sharon asked me to make her 15 blindfolds. And no, it’s not what you’re thinking!

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A selection of pinks and reds.

Sharon has recently qualified as a chakra dance instructor, and she’s very good at what she does. (Wondering what that is? See her website here.) I’ll let her tell you more about it, but the blindfolds are part of the course. To help you feel less self-conscious about dancing yourself to discovery! So I made these blindfolds out of lightweight cotton, and they’re opaque just enough to cut off your view but not dim the light.

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And obviously they’re in shades of all the colours of the rainbow.

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Some of these prints are sparkly!

I hope they make her – and more importantly – her clients happy. They made me happy to make them, and seeing them altogether just gives me the warm fuzzies. Sharon has an event coming up soon, too, on the 21st of February. If anyone is interested, please feel free to get in touch!

A Merry Handmade Christmas

Reblogged from A Million Paper Stars

Like almost all crafters, I can’t resist throwing in a few handmade items into the gift stash. Making things especially for people I love out of fabrics, yarn, and materials I know they’ll treasure, in colours I know they like, just gives me that warm fuzzy feeling. And like most crafters, I’m not just a one trick pony. I like experimenting with different designs, styles, and media. So I thought I’d create a post that showcased a few examples to demonstrate that handmade crafts don’t have to be hokey (unless you want them to be), and they don’t have to be huge, expensive, or elaborate to make an impact.

Ornaments and Decorations

We’ve all seen that tree on Pinterest. The green felt Christmas tree with the felt ornaments that the kids can decorate. Well, one year we decided to forego a real tree and go with this instead. While it turned out ok, I think it’s definitely better when used in conjunction with a proper Christmas tree with lights and all the trimmings! Or maybe I’m just a traditionalist.

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Then there were the handmade decorations. These were fun, quick and cheap to make, and I think they look extra sweet on a (proper!) Christmas tree!

 

Clothes

Of course I couldn’t resist trying my hand at some Christmas clothes. I hadn’t been sewing long when I realised that I couldn’t find the kind of Christmas clothes what I wanted for my toddler son. So I decided to make some! I wanted something festive, but easy and comfortable for him to wear. I decided to draft a design for a waistcoat, and the Christmas waistcoats were born!

The original is on the right, and on the left are all the variations! They’re fun and relatively easy to make and I think they make wonderful little additions to a festive outfit, for both boys and girls!

And there were matching shoes for the babes….

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But then there came a time when my daughter wanted a frilly dress. So I made her a dress. (This is a slightly modified version of the fabulous Olivia dress!)

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And let’s not forget the knitting!

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I promise she was more excited about this hat than she seems here. No, really.

At least my son appreciated his.

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And then there were the failures, like the homemade Christmas paper:

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The stamps were cut from potatoes, and while it was messy and fun, I had reams of brown paper roll drying all over the living room and kitchen for half a day. That was not so fun.

But all in all, I think a little bit of handmade at Christmas goes a long way. Top tip: Leave yourself some time to finish. Don’t do what I do and frantically try to finish things on Christmas eve, or worse – Christmas Day!

(What I’m doing now:)

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I certainly am very appreciative of the handmade gifts I receive, because I know how much effort, time and love went into them! Whatever your traditions this year, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Crafty 2016!!

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