Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Sssh! Don't tell

I have been hiding away in my workroom for the last few days making a couple of Christmas presents. I'm taking a big risk here - I have to hope that the people they are meant for don't decide to look at my blog until after Christmas!
This first journal is made mostly from re-purposed fabrics and the nice thing is that the person who receives this one actually gets their own item back in a new form! She was just about to put a favourite old dress in the charity bag when I stepped in and requested it. It had an under skirt with a gathered trim along the edge and a small floral print cotton top layer. I have managed to incorporate both pieces into the front of the journal, added some extra lace trim and finished the edges off with a decorative machine stitch.
I set an eyelet into the tab so that I could loop a suede leather cord through to use as a wrap around tie to keep the journal closed.

The second gift journal is made in the same way as the one I showed you in the long stitch tutorial. Its even got the same decoration on the front, but in a different colour.
Yes.. I know..."No imagination!" I can hear you saying, but Hey guys it is Christmas, and just like the rest of you, I'm pushed for time and right out of ideas!

I think this might be the last post before Christmas, so I'll take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry time and hope that you get all the crafting goodies that you are wishing for!!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Eureka moment

Ever since I was a child I have always hand made many of my Christmas gifts. One of the more memorable ones was a "granny square" crocheted poncho for my little sister. It would probably be wonderfully retro now. I remember staying up half the night to finish it and even then I think I had to give it to her with threads hanging and sew in all the ends later.
Last year I was frantically devising excuses to lock myself away in my bedroom and frantically knit a cow shaped cushion for my son - that was after completing a quilted knitting needle case for his girlfriend and a few other projects. I always naively think that 2 weeks is ample time to make the creations that I have dreamed up as being "the perfect gift" for a particular person.
You wouldn't believe the "still to make" list that is in my head at the moment!
Besides these gifts I also volunteered to make a couple of pairs of baby shoes for new family members of my sons' girlfriends. They had to be posted abroad and I wanted them to retain their shape. ( I was also thinking I might put them on Etsy as well).
I spent far far too long looking for suitable boxes to buy that didn't end up costing more than the baby shoes themselves - nowhere did the right size. I realised that I had to make the boxes. Now I quite like making boxes, but my lids are never a perfect fit for the base (this is the perfectionist in me talking). Most people say they are fine -but I always end up with at least half a dozen boxes because I think I'll just have one more go at making a better fit, and then another and then...... yeah, you get the picture!
Frustrated, I looked across at an scrapbook style explosion box I had made at least four years ago, still sitting on the coffee table......

......and that was my Eureka moment! It was a box, the lid size was not crucial as the sides will always spread to fit the lid. A pair of baby shoes was likely to fit in the bottom and the parents could fill it with photos and keep the shoes in it once the baby had outgrown them.
So this is what I made. I shortened the sides of the traditional scrapbook style box so that the shoes didn't look lost in the bottom and I co-ordinated the papers to match the shoes.

Now all I've got to do is get on with the rest of the handmade gifts!!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

A quick card idea

If, like me, you are just beginning to realise how close its getting to card sending time and how few cards you already have made, then you might need this idea for a quick, but effective Christmas card.
I saw the idea used as a bobby pin, and decided it would also make a good card.
The tree focal point is made entirely of ribbon - you need about half a metre. Cut two 8cm lengths, two 7cm lengths, two 6cm lengths and a different colour piece for the trunk. Fold each piece in half and glue the ends together. Glue your ribbon "trunk" in position and the glue the two longest loops at right angles to each other at the top of the trunk. Continue upwards using shorter loops each time. Finish off with a star or similar at the top of the tree - a button is my favourite. Easy peasy and super quick!!
Of course you don't just have to use ribbon. Strips of torn fabric, crepe paper, felt, off-cuts from mixed media paper-cloth - they will all work fine. You could machine stitch them in place through the centre if you prefer that to gluing. I did one using sheer ribbon and an acetate card front. I attached the ribbons with brads, but it didn't photograph very well, so I haven't included it.

This one uses scraps of patterned paper. The loops would get flattened if sent through the regular post, but it is OK if you are delivering by hand.
Let me know if you think up any good variations.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

I can't believe I'm knitting fair isle again!

What was I thinking of?! I swore years ago that i'd never do anything in fair isle again. All that twisting of the colours around each other to prevent loops, all that trying not to get them too tight, so there is not enough give, all that unwinding of the yarns as they get wrapped so tightly together (possibly with your fingers entwined in them) and then horror of horrors - all those ends to sew in!!So what possessed me to start again? Maybe it was the cuteness of a little baby shoe. Maybe, like childbirth you are genetically programmed to forget the downside of something as time passes. Whatever it was, there is just one problem - having remembered all the things I don't like about it, how will I ever make myself knit the second shoe??!!

Monday, 9 November 2009

A Day of Indulgence

You know when you get an idea in your head and you just want to sit down and play with it, but the higher priority jobs always win out. Well a few weeks ago I treated myself to a book which had a long stitch binding in that I hadn't tried before and I've been itching to have a play with it ever since, but by the time I got through the day's jobs it was always about 4pm and somehow didn't seem worth starting. So yesterday I indulged myself. I let everyone fend for themselves and I played from daybreak until dusk and beyond.
The book I had bought is called The Bookbinding Handbook by Sue Doggett published by Search PressI really didn't need another book on bookbinding, but the pictures looked very clear to follow. The Keith Smith books are like the bibles of bookbinding but you really do have to have your head in gear to follow the diagrams. This book is for my "brain-retired" days.
I cut my paper and folded my signatures.

and pressed them under my trusty press .(Yes, its a brick covered in paper, really)

Next I made the cover out of felt and had great fun embroidering it. I machine sewed a cream felt lining to it.
Did the maths and pricked the sewing holes. I did wonder whether, being felt the holes would just close up again - they did to a certain extent, but if I held it up to the light I could still see them. I then started one of my favourite bits - the sewn binding itself. There is something very comforting about the repetition and the sound of the thread as it works its way through the pages, bringing all the separate pieces together.
The last picture was taken in artificial light. I had "played" all day! Overall, I'm pleased with the way it turned out.I like the fact that I now have a long stitch binding that doesn't have beads or knots on the spine, so its a good choice for a masculine cover, but I didn't like having to go through all but the end signatures twice.
I did enjoy myself though!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The power of the internet

So sorry I haven't posted for a while.
As most of you know, I make and sell things on Etsy to raise money for Leukaemia Research. At the moment I'm knitting furiously as my little baby hats, particularly the ones with ear flaps are selling like hot cakes - mostly to the US and Canada, but I think that's because Etsy is much better known over there.

I've also sent little hats to China and Australia recently and the ladies in my local post office always have a chat and ask me about them. They are the same ladies that knew Dave when he used to take in the parcels from our online craft shop sales, so they are always ready with a kind word or two.

I'm always amazed though when people find, and like my shop, so imagine my surprise when a lady in Canada emailed me to say she had featured my shop on her blog! She is going to do an interview with me and do a second post so I'd better keep my needles clicking over the next few evenings incase there are even more sales.

Ironically, her blog is called Organized Mum (http://www.organizedmum.blogspot.com/), so I'd better try and be an organized mum so that I can keep my shop well stocked.

I am hoping to make some journals to add to the shop in time for Christmas, but I like knitting - I find the repetition very calming. Its as good as yoga and meditation, so if I don't post for a while I'm either so busy with orders or asleep in the chair!!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Talking Threads - new TV series

I was so pleased to find out yesterday that there is to be a new TV series starting this week on textile arts.
It is called Talking Threads and the first one will be on Sky channel 171 this Wednesday at 7pm. If you don't have Sky you can view here http://www.countrychannel.tv/.
Apparently there are to be interviews and workshops with various british textile artists including Jill Kennedy, Angie Hughes and Kim Thittichai.
This is such great news. My Sky box is set ready to record, so now I'm really looking forward to Wednesday evening!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Cats sleep anywhere (even on my new quilt!)

A few weeks ago I bought a kit for a quilt at the Festival of Quilts, NEC, Birmingham. I don't usually by kits but I knew I would never get round to making one like this unless I had it all to hand, so I splashed out. It is made from brushed cotton and the seams are left raw, snipped at regular intervals and then the whole thing is washed and tumble dried so that the raw edges fluff up and becone a feature of the quilt. As the evenings have become progressively cooler my kids were urging me to complete it as they wanted to huddle under it whilst watching TV, so I set to and did just that. Until that point I had been working on it sporadically. (hence the reason for the paper pieces with numbers on - I needed to remember what went where!).

As I pieced together the strips I laid them on the floor and as always at least one of my cats came to check up on what I was doing. This is Saffie - she thought she was going to get first dibs on this quilt. I'm sure she was sitting on pins!

I finished the quilt and laid it over the back of the sofa, and feeling very pleased with myself went to get my camera........by the time I came back, our other cat Ruby had claimed it as hers - sorry kids - you just weren't quick enough to get that quilt - its going to be a chilly winter for you!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

I made it to the Treasury

Just a really quick post to let you know that a little felt embroidered bird brooch in my Etsy shop made it to the Treasury.

This particular Treasury page is items from Etsians who donate some or all of their profits to a charitable cause, which is great, because even if it doesn't generate more sales for me, I'm sure it will for someone, so a charity somewhere will be getting extra help.

The Treasury list is only there till Tuesday evening, so be sure to take a peek

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Sea Fever

As I shall be away on a residential retreat with my textiles group for most of next week I decided to write this post now.
We are given a challenge each time we go, which we try and complete ready for the next time.
Last time we were given the poem Sea Fever by John Masefield and these two photos of the sea. We can use any media we wish.
I initially wanted to experiment with different types of image transfer and make a book cover, but time was not on my side so I picked up some glittery foam letters from my local Hobbycraft store (sorry, I forgot to take pictures of them in their "raw" state) .and altered them.

I made a piece of fabric paper using the Beryl Taylor technique. I embedded tissue paper, dyed scrim, netting, organza, some eyelash yarn and glittery fibres along with printed extracts of the poem. I then heat embossed over the wording to create a resist before applying colour. For the sky and sea I mainly used dyes and the rocks were Lumiere acrylics - particularly the halocolours.

I then traced the letters onto the back of the the fabric paper and cut them out. I then bonded the paper onto Pelmet Vilene, although with hindsight I think this was unnecessary.
I free machine stitched in a linear pattern across the sky and the sea with a variegated thread and used a circular motion for the rocks.
A mixture of buttons, small beads and sequins were hand stitched to the rocks and the sea spray was just some glued down fibres and glitter.

I then glued the pieces to the foam letters and painted them. It will be very interesting to see how everyone else interprets the challenge,I'll let you know at the end of next week!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Paper Punching Book

Ooh! Look what the postman brought this morning!
Although I'd seen loads (and I mean LOADS) of edits via email, I hadn't seen a hard copy of my book until it arrived in the post this morning. I just love the quality. Magmaker have done a really good job on these, and for £4.95 I think they are a real bargain (but then maybe I'm a teensy bit biased?).
I was lucky enough to see all four titles and everyone has done a great job. I know just how hard everyone worked on their own title and how many hours we spent sweltering in a tiny photography studio during the only heatwave we've had this summer, but suddenly now it all seems worth it.
I guess if I've got my copy they are generally available in most craft stores, but if you are having difficulty finding it you can buy direct from Magmaker at http://www.magmaker.co.uk/books.cfm

Since finishing the editing I've been giving myself a few relaxing weeks - knitting and sewing in the sun ( well I couldn't be too picky about how much sun there was - if it wasn't raining it was good enough for me) but I guess its time to get back to some proper work now. My relaxation finished on a high note with a visit to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham on Thursday. I spent a fortune of course but came back with loads of inspiration and ideas for new stitchy and mixed media projects, so its back to the "too many ideas, too little time" scenario - but I'm not complaining - its all just such good fun!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Hexagon Quilts

I've just taken a wonderful trip down memory lane as I read Posy Gets Cosy's last post about hexagon quilting. If you are, like me, somewhat older than a "spring chicken", do take a look. If you crafted as a child, the chances are you had a go at this.
We always had one of these types of quilts on the go during the summer holidays. As it was hand sewn in small pieces it was the perfect activity to do whilst sitting on the lawn in the sun. We cut the hexagons from old magazines and used all the dressmaking scraps to make the quilt. I remember there was a half finished one in my Mum's wardrobe for years. I guess it must have been thrown out when she was no longer able to sew - what a shame. Seeing her post has given me some great ideas though - the sun is shining - so guess where I'll be this afternoon!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

New era, new book

I enter a new era of my life today - my children's friends start getting married.
That makes me feel sooooooo old!! It only seems two minutes ago that they were phoning each other to check on school homework and arranging parental lifts to places, etc. Now we are guests at the wedding. Where does all the time go?
So, yesterday afternoon was the usual last minute panic to make the wedding card. Fortunately, oh so fortunately for me, the girl in question likes plain and simple styles, and I knew the colour theme of the wedding so I was able to make it really quickly. I did want to make sure there was a little stitching on it, but then stitching is like yoga to me. It allowed me to slow down and get into the right frame of mind for a relaxing weekend. I just about had enough time to take a quick pic for you - so here it is.
The cardstock is DCWV Luxury stack. It is pearlised and metallic, so that saved me loads of time. Normally I would have enjoyed spending time creating my own background, but I have been busy on other things, and at last I can share with you what that is!
I have been busy over the last few weeks editing the book I have written for Magmaker, the same company that produced the Making Cards for Children Special that I co-wrote with Laura. They are producing a series of four books. They go to print very soon, and you will be able to buy them via Magmaker (see the link on the right hand side) and in most good craft stores. My book is on paper punching, Lindsay Mason has done one on rubber stamping, her sister Heather Fenn-Edwards has written about beading, and Amanda Fowler's is on decoupage.
So with the editing in hand and the wedding card made, I am now going to totally ignore the awful weather we are having and enjoy myself reminiscing about "How tall they've grown" and "Do you remember when....."at what I guess is just the start of the "children's friends' weddings" season. I guess I just have to stop feeling old and embrace it!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

On my organic soapbox

This morning started so well.

I woke too early, as usual, and did a few rows of knitting in bed until such time as I could justifiably risk waking the rest of the household - knitting with organic cotton, of course.

I went down to enjoy my usual breakfast of organic Weetabix, topped with organic dried fruits and nuts and on most days a few organically grown raspberries from my garden. I took the newspaper from the letter box and there and then - mid mouthful - my nice day stopped. The front page article purported that there is no nutritional benefit from organic foods!

I was, I am, incensed. The article admits the report is only one of several and another one contradicting this evidence is soon likely to follow, and it admits that good quality data to back up any study is hard to come by, but haven't they all totally missed the point. It's not what is in the organic fruit, dairy produce, cotton etc that we buy it for, it's what's left out!

Personally I don't want to eat food with chemicals in it and I extend that reasoning to my crafting.

I have written about the effects of chemicals on the production of crafting materials on my website http://www.julietaylor.com/

The website, I'm afraid is no longer updated as it is so much quicker to show you what I'm working on in this blog, but the article will stay there for the foreseeable future.

However, if you just want a short taster, the reason I was knitting with organic cotton this morning is this:

"Cotton production is one of the world’s most chemically intensive agricultural processes. It covers just 2.5% of the earth’s agricultural land but uses approximately 22.5% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of the world’s pesticides. Its production damages wildlife, contributes to climate change and contaminates water supplies.
20,000 people die each year from pesticide poisoning, many in cotton production. Another 3 million suffer side-effects from the pesticide residues including cancer, birth defects, respiratory problems, infertility and sterility. A single teaspoon of Aldicarb, the second most used pesticide in cotton production, on the skin can kill an adult. Two thirds of cotton is grown in developing countries where the people are least able to get medical to treat the side effects."

So please, next time you are buying yarn, consider buying organic.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Stick Binding Tutorial

Right, I've bored you all senseless with family life ramblings over the last few weeks, so its time to get back to business and post about the things this blog was meant to be about.
This is a tutorial on how to make a little notebook using the stick binding method. It is a good introduction to bookbinding if you have never had a go before.
The "stick" can be any straight item that you can cut notches into. I have used a colouring pencil as I think it is kind of quirky to use something that is associated with a notebook - a bit like feeding chicks with hard boiled egg! You could also use a kebab stick, a chopstick, a garden cane or a fairly straight stick. A wooden spoon would be fun to use if you were making a recipe book.
You will need:
Paper for the pages
Decorative thin card for the cover,
Wooden stick (pencil)
Craft knife
Thread and needle
Bradawl or pricking tool
Eyelet (optional)
Sewing cradle (optional)

1. Cut the pages for you book, lay them in a stack and fold in half. This is a single signature book, which means all the pages are folded together in one go. To get them to lie flat it is a good idea to press them overnight under a brick or pile of books.

2. Take your pencil and trim to the same height as your pages. Mark and then cut evenly spaced notches along the length of your pencil. They don't need to go all the way round, just sufficiently far to hold the thread in place.

It was at this stage that I decided I wanted my pencil to match the book and ribbon I had chosen so I gave it two coats of acrylic paint, and a final coat of acrylic wax to make it smooth to touch, but you can equally well leave your stick in its natural state.
3. Lay the pencil in the centre of the book and mark the where the notches are along the centre fold. 4. Cut the cover for your book and fold it in half. Mine was a couple of millimetres deeper than the pages and half a centimetre wider so that I would be able to attach my ribbon to the back with an eyelet.
5.Make sure your pages are evenly stacked, place the cover on the outside and open the book to the centre.Make holes at the marked points through all the pages and cover with your bradawl . This job is so much easier if you have a sewing cradle. I will post a tutorial at a later date on how to make one. I'm not sure whether you can see from these two pictures or not - the first picture shows the first hole being made, the second shows the five completed holes.

6. Cut a length of thread. I would normally use strong linen thread, but as I wanted it to be decorative and this particular book is for immediate and short term use, not an heirloom, I used pink embroidery cotton. A piece four times the height of your book should do.
Thread your needle and take the thread through the bottom hole from the inside of the book to the outside. Leave a tail long enough to tie a few knots later.

7. Pass the thread round the base of the pencil, making sure it sits securely in the bottom notch, and back through the same hole to the inside of the book.

8. Take the thread out through the next hole, round the pencil and back in through the same hole again. Continue in this way until you have completed the last hole.

9. Put the thread tight, checking that it is held in each of the notches and tie several knots around the last stitch. Cut the excess thread away and tie the tail at the bottom in the same way. If you are worried that your knots may come undone, put the tiniest dab of PVA glue on each knot and allow to dry well before you close the book.

10. Place a length of ribbon around the book and attach to the back cover with an eyelet. As it is a single signature book it is prone to gaping open, so the ribbon will help keep it in good condition.

11. Now for the fun part - decorate your book and enjoy using it!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The Travelling Quilt

This is the quilt that Laura has been making that I promised to show you.

The quilt set off with them on their travels on Sunday. They will spend three months touring Europe in their prize possession, the red camper van, otherwise known as Bertie.

There were times when we thought she would be busily sewing her round way Europe instead of sight seeing as it just didn't look possible to finish it in time,but finished it is and it is fantastic!

A traditional quilter would hold up their hands in horror, the seams aren't turned under, they are all top stitched in different stitches, there is a whole variety of fabrics from wincyette to jersey to cotton. But it is a memories quilt, which will hold both stories of their past and all the tales from the travels. It will wrinkle when it is washed, and parts will fray, but that is all part of the charm. Some of the sections are made from old T shirts that neither would part with as they were long term favourites, old pyjama bottoms, old quilt covers and scraps from other projects. There are hand made embellishments such as felt flowers and birds and little appliqued people. It truly is a work of art.

I believe they are in the vicinity of Paris at the moment, trying to pack as much sight seeing as they can into a few days before the pace slows down to savour the flavour of true rural France, then Spain and Italy and so much more. They have their hand made journals to entrust all the memories to, of course, but I suspect the quilt will be the item that is pulled out many years from now, to remind them of the adventures they had in Bertie the van, discovering Europe

Monday, 13 July 2009

Cuttlebug ideas

I have posted these pictures for everyone at Solihull Craft club.
I am giving a demonstration of the Cuttlebug there tonight, so these are some reminders for you of the cards and the techniques that you will see.

I've used Core'dinations cardstock for this one and rubbed over
the embossed areas with an emery board so that the lighter
colour core shows through.
The snowflake is one of the "cut and emboss" sets.

This is a small section of a Christmas village embossing folder.the embossed houses are highlighted with Sakura glitter pens and the "noel" is cut from scraps of mountboard, painted and glittered to make my "chipboard" letters

You can cut a lot more than just card on the Cuttlebug, including metal shim, vellum and a whole range of fabrics. I made a needlecase and then cut felt flowers and letters to decorate the front.

I use Pelmet Vilene quite a lot in my mixed media work and it's beginning to creep more frequently into my cardmaking too. This little heart was cut from Vilene on the Cuttlebug. I then painted it with Lumiere paints in pearlescent emerald and halo pink-gold, and embroidered it. I could make these little embellishments all day long!

I demonstrated this technique on the Crafts Beautiful stand at the Hobbycrafts show, NEC, Birmingham last November, so you may recognise the samples from there.
I have applied an inkpad to the indented inside of the embossing folder (sometimes called the negative or the female side of the folder). I then place the card or paper into the folder in the normal way and run it through the Cuttlebug. The ink only adheres to the background once it is embossed, as hopefully, none went down into the hollows when I was applying it to the folder. You get different looks depending on the type of inkpad and card that you use. Just remeber not to use a Staz On. all the rest wash off the folders fine. The card on the left had a fluid chalk inkpad onto pearlescent card. The card on the right had an embossing pad onto cream mat cardstock. Once I had embossed the card in the Cuttlebug I then sprinkled it with gold embossing powder and heat embossed it.

This final pic shows embossing on ordinary kitchen foil. I take a piece of foil and fold it in half to give it extra strength. I then colour it with alcohol inks or two or three colours of Staz On.

This one is a mixture of Eggplant and Cranberry alcohol inks, with just one tiny drop of blender. Give it a second or two to dry. (Voice of experience speaking here - yes I've had to use blender to get the alcohol ink off the inside of my embossing folder before now!) Place it in the embossing folder - this was the hearts one.
Run it through the Cuttlebug, trim the edges and matt and layer. Simple and effective!
The two smaller hearts are Sizzix Originals dies, embossed with border embossing folders and highlighted with glitter pens.

Phew! This has been a long post, but hopefully it helps you remember what you saw, and is of interest to other people who may be reading, as well.