Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Make & Craft Issue 2 Now Out

Make & Craft magazine now has its second issue out - and you can see several of my projects on the cover.  Make a teacosy to keep your teapot hot this winter adorned with matryoshkas, and a matching egg cosy:
Here is a shot of the cosy, just before I took out the basting and attached the back.  It is a great use of those felt squares available everywhere, and also a good way of using up the leftovers.  It would make a good image for a greetings card too - pick the three smallest and instead of felt use lots of offcuts of paper and card in Christmassy colors.  You could even have them all holding presents!

You can also make some nice flat cards ready for mailing using embossing foil.  My project features three plus a matching tag, here is a picture of the church one being made:
It would look just as good in silver, or colored in with permanent marker pens.  Those outlines can be used for other things too - on fabric the lines could be picked out in metallic thread perhaps in chain stitch, or why not ice them onto a cake with a fine piping nozzle?

There is also a beaded bauble (I don't have a photo of that, you will just have to buy the magazine from here) On the first page inside you can see an advert for Mad Cow Beads and this features two more bauble covers, available to buy as kits from here.  Available in Blue Star or Red Holly, these fabulous bauble kits contain everything you need to make a beady decoration for your favourite bauble!

  • Includes a full bobbin of nymo D, a beading needle and all the beads and charms required.
  • Choose red and gold with holly charms, or a 'drapey' midnight sky design with star charms
  • Professionally written, full colour 'bead by bead'  instructions are downloadable - we send a llink with your kit
  • You need to buy a standard size bauble - 2 1/4" - 2 3/4" work well, although the pattern can easily be made bigger
  • these are suitable for beginners with some crafting experience, or beaders who want to try out seed beads! They are a little more challenging than our seed bead animals, but not too complicated.

You can also find instructions for a necklace to wear to all those Christmas parties (or just out for a nice lunch while shopping):
Plus a matching barrette for your pony tail:
A good reason for growing one if you don't already have one!  You could also clip it to the front of a bun, looks very effective.

Operation Pancake isn't forgotten either for as well as the embossed metal cards there are some patchwork ones.  These are just the thing for all you crafters who end up with lots of little bits of card, paper, fabric, ribbon whatever and wonder what to do with it all.  Make some patchwork cards that look like this:
This was cut up from an old flyer advertising a craft book, plus a few bits of white card left over from cutting some card blanks and a few peel off snowflakes plus a greeting.  It is all stitched on with some metallic thread so you need a sewing machine with a swing needle, but not a lot else.  There are two more, and if you wait a bit I will rustle up another one for you to make in a few days' time.

Plus it is gloriously, unashamedly FLAT AS A PANCAKE and at only 5 1/2" square it will easily slip through all the post office machinery at the lowest rate as long as you don't stuff a fat letter in with it.  Send an email instead...

Over to you.  Let's hear about what you have been up to, what you think of all this and anything else you can think of.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Operation Pancake - What A Waste?

Remember Operation Pancake?  This is my drive this year to make some flat cards that will qualify as standard (not large) letters.  The "waste" in my title refers to sequin waste, a most useful and green product that used to be thrown away.  After all, this is just what is left over when you have punched out all the sequins isn't it?  Yes, but look at what you can do with it...
You can make cards with it, like this one.  Here's how:

First off you need a sheet of white card 10"x7".  Score down the middle to make a card blank 5"x7" and cover with green paper.  Cut two right angled triangles of gold paper with equal sides of 3½" and stick down.  Thin strips of red paper have been laid along the top to cover the join and add interest.  It's cheaper than a peel off and looks nice and bright.

The glittery swirly background on the green paper was made with three colors (gold, green and red) of glitter glue swirled around and left to dry for a night.  I buy the big squeezy bottles of it from Anita's (DoCrafts) that come in eighteen colors.  This is the cheapest way to buy glitter glue, unless you know better.

Then you need this bell template, cut from a scrap of card: 
You now need some standard holed (usually about 5mm in the UK) sequin waste in red and gold.  I laid my bell onto the sequin waste and drew around it with a chinagraph pencil, but laying it underneath and making sure it does not move would also work.  You have to make sure that you end up with something made from only whole holes, which looks like this:
The purple line is the template, the green line is where you actually CUT.  Next, measure the hole diameter in your sequin waste.  Choose two papers that go with the gold/green/red theme and cut a few strips.  Here now is a weaving diagram, because these strips are not for quilling but for weaving in and out of the holes:
 This is a weaving diagram for the RED bell.  Here is the other one:

This one uses the GOLD sequin waste.  I hope you can see where you weave the papers, up one and down another in most cases.  When you get to the edge don't cut off the papers or they will fall out.  Instead, bend them over on the wrong side for about ½" and then cut.  Glue the bells down as shown using a suitable glue.

Here is the holly leaf template for the corner sprays.  The berries are red sequins, so you are not just using the waste.  Cut four green leaves and two gold ones, and use three sequins each corner.

Voila, you have a nice flat card.  It looks as though some time has been spent on it too so you ought to avoid the sort of comments you get if you have just stuck down a topper, added a bow and a greeting.  This usually runs something like "well, you can't have had much fun making this can you, why don't you buy some charity cards instead next time?"

I hate it when people say that!  Instead I buy other things from charities and make the cards...of course, you could always make these cards for charity as there is no copyright on them. Then you would have the best of both worlds!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Christmas Cute Critters - Get that Christmassy Feeling

There is nothing quite like curling up on the sofa in front of the TV on a dark late autumn evening and making something for Christmas.  If you go over to Mad Cow Beads and scroll down you will see a small picture of the Christmas Festive Seed Bead Kits - pack of 7 weenies!

If you remember a short while ago I posted up links to the same site for the Halloweenies then this is another larger kit of these beaded figures to make up.  I will introduce the cast to you.  First up alphabetically there is Angela The Angel looking innocent and lovely in white and gold:
Next if you fancy something a tad more pagan there is Holly the Christmas Fairy:
Next up there is O Christmas Tree:
And it wouldn't be Christmas without that garden favorite (recently voted #1 most popular British bird) good old Round Robin:
Ho ho ho here comes Santa, who gets given the sack every time he turns up for work:
And his best buddy Snowbody, who seems to have appropriated Wanda The Witch's broom:
And last but by no means least, let's do some stocking up:
All these make great decorations to hang on the upper branches of your tree.  However big a Christmas tree is the very topmost branches always lend themselves to small and light ornaments, but trying to get these in a store is not easy.  Christmas trees seem to get bigger every year and many baubles look more like footballs!  These are just the right size and very light for hanging on those fragile wee branches.  Or hanging up on a swag decorating a wall, or on a wreath, or how about adorning the fronts of crackers?  Each person then has a wee gift to take home even if they just get a plastic eye patch or pair of tweezers that don't work...

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Make & Craft - New Magazine On The Block

There's a brand new craft magazine out called Make and Craft, starting this month.  You can find out all about it by clicking here.  It is a multi craft publication available both as a print copy and online and there are also many free projects you can look at to whet your appetite.  It comes out every month, and also contains a section with projects for the junior crafter which is always a good thing.  I spent many happy hours crafting as a child, making a mess but at least I was quiet while I did it!

One project I have submitted can be found on page 48 entitled In The Bag.  Using that pleasantly squidgy craft foam (Anita's, CraftTime etc) you can make some cute gift bags that double as a seasonal bag for the little girl in your life.  They weigh nothing unlike this crafter, and thus can be hung from even a modest sized Christmas tree with a gift inside it - not a heavy one of course.  Also a good way of transporting gifts and lasts far longer than a plastic bag.  You recycle it by using it many times.

I had to submit two designs but was stuck between a robin and a Christmas pudding.  The robin won as it was more colorful, but here is the pudding which is surely great for an edible gift.  
Here are the templates in black and white.  First the icing (cut one in white):
Now the large holly leaf (cut two in green):

Now the small holly leaf (cut another two in green):

Lastly the berry which doubles as a raisin.  You need three in red for berries, and as many as you like for the raisins studding the pudding in black foam:
You will also need a front and a back both in brown, and a handle in white.  You can find patterns for these and instructions on how to put it all together in the magazine, issue 1 October 2012.

You could also do a pumpkin in orange foam with black features but you can draw that for yourself...

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Halloweenies - Gavin The Ghost

Here is the fifth Halloweenie, Gavin the Ghost coming to haunt you along with his friends Jack O Lantern, Scary Skull, Wanda The Witch and Catkin.  Watch this space for the Christmas set of Cute Critters plus two beaded nets to dress up plain tree baubles.  Visit Mad Cow Beads to find out more...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Halloweenies - Get That Fall Feeling!

There's something spooky going on over at Mad Cow Beads - a set of four different beaded charms to make up.  Available singly there is Jack O Lantern to start with:
He's a folksy pumpkin with a style of his own, gloriously orange.  Then there is Scary Skull, the scourge of the High Seas...
He comes with his own crossed bones!  Next up there is Catkin:
He's a witch's cat, nobody tugs his tail!  Last but by no means least there is Wanda The Witch:
She has a broom ready for a game of Quidditch, or to sweep away the snow if the upcoming winter is as hard as everybody keeps telling me it is going to be.  Look at all those huge bunches of berries on the trees...

The kit contains all you need to make all four and is a snip at £1.98.  Suitable for older children and of course adults they are a great way of personalizing all sorts of things, ideas given in the packet.  Soon there will be a Christmas set as well...just the thing for the long dark evenings ahead.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Popular Crafts Oct-Nov 2012 Out Now

Get your copy of Popular Crafts now, the last one before the Christmas issue.  There are lots of projects in here to try, including plenty with a Halloween theme and a children's section.  Turn to page 16 and see my project for a fun Geisha makeup bag.  The figure on this is made from applique but not a stitch is sewn thanks to Bondaweb - you have to stitch the actual bag of course but it cuts down the time and makes attaching lots of fiddly little bits a breeze.  This is a good way of using up lots of small pieces of fabric, and then decorate it with the Gem Master.  Clicking on this will take you to the Antex website where you can buy the item plus extra stones and studs to use with it.  It is simple to use, just plug in, turn on and applying the tip (you get several different ones) to the stone heats the glue on its base and thus it is stuck where you want it.
Turn to page 95 to see another project, this time one for the tweenager (or teenager) in your life.  The Deluxe Charms Bracelets Kit contains enough polymer clay and other materials to make two Pandora style charm bracelets.  Read the article to show you how but here is a photo to whet your appetite showing what it contains:
Popular Crafts also has a website filled with more projects, many with an autumn theme right now as well as stockists in the UK, a forum and more.  Click on the link to take you there.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Pond Diary - Genesis of a Wildlife Pond

Pond  Diary - Genesis of a Wildlife Pond

As promised, my first green issues entry on a blog that is not going to be just about crafts.  I am now the proud possessor of a wildlife pond, although as yet there is nothing in it besides water.  Surely a pond is a pond is a pond many of you are thinking, but there is more than one type.  Most shops and catalogs stock items for a koi pool which is something else entirely, so if you are wondering - as I was not long ago - what the difference is here is the lowdown.

Q What is the main difference between a koi pool and a wildlife pond?  Surely it is a hole in the ground filled with water?

A Not really.  If you want to keep koi carp you won't have much else in the pond as they are voracious and eat everything in sight!  You will also want to keep the water clear so you can admire your beautiful fish and to do that you need a pump.  These get rid of impurities such as fish droppings and waste food and keep the water clear.  They are pricey to buy, expensive to run and difficult to maintain so feel pleased that if you are going to have a wildlife pond you won't need one.  You are going to have a proper ecosystem!

Q But I still buy a fiberglass pond base from my local garden center, right?

A I shouldn't.  They are rather on the small side, fine for carp being fed but not much good for encouraging native wildlife as they aren't big enough.

Q So how am I going to line my pond and what size does it need to be?

A You can find butyl lining on a roll in garden centers and buy the best you can get as you don't want to have to do it all again in a couple of years when the plastic wears out.  A good entry size wildlife pond for your back garden would be about 8' x 12'.

Q How deep does it need to be?  Can I dig it straight down like a tank?

A If you want water lilies - and I would suggest that you do for a number of reasons - the water needs to be at least a meter deep.  Not all over however - have lots of ledges of different depths and an area that slopes down gently from the ground level.  Birds and other creatures can drink here and take a bath, and snakes can glide in for a swim.

Q Okay, now I have dug and lined it (or got somebody else to do this as I did, nothing like a proper professional job) what happens next?

A  You need to fill it with water.  The most natural way to go about this is wait for it to rain, but it will take a long time to fill and every time you have a shower you have to go out and tweak the liner.  Better to just fill it from the tap unless you are on a water meter.

Q But the water isn't fit to drink and has to be filtered before I do so!  Surely it will kill all the livestock?

A  It would if you put it straight in!  Wait at least a fortnight so the impurities can evaporate before doing anything.  All you need to do as you wait is to obtain some oxygenating plants or your water will go stagnant.  But that is where I leave you this time apart from a few photos of what it all looks like...

The pond being dug in my back garden, first stage after being marked out with a hose.
Hole in the ground!  Turn on a tap somebody...
That is better.  Pea gravel on the edges and you can see the wrinkles of the liner.  Nothing you can do about that, but you won't see them when a few plants have been added.  Haven't Ben and Luke done a great job?  Now off to the garden center and hang on in there for more Pond Diary and of course some crafts.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Operation Pancake - How To Make A Flat Card

When the Royal Mail decided to make it somewhat pricey to send a card over A5 in size and over 5mm think it rather put the kibosh on making your own cards if you have to mail them.  I used to do a lot of paper tole but now have to find other, flatter ways of making a card look interesting.  This time last year 2nd class mail was 36p; now it is 50p and I am sure more people than me are slimming down their card lists, especially if, like me, they have to mail out all their cards.

Hence Operation Pancake - let's find as many ways as possible to make interesting and attractive flat cards!

A rummage in my closet looking for something else yielded up a large bag of aida fabric - how about a spot of cross stitch?  Those who have read my profile will know that I design card making kits for printing out up on Craftsuprint and some of these are cross stitch.  To whet your appetite here is one I have designed for this blog:
Here is the key and list of flosses you need:
For more in this vein, and more yet to come watch this space.  Or you could go over to the Craftsuprint site for some more...

Either way, a flat card or at least one that is going to be less than 5mm thick.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Heligan Bag - Adventures in Hand Sewing
Hello everybody - I had intended to update this blog more often but when deadlines loom it is all hands to the wheel and everything else gets pushed aside.  Autumn seems to come earlier every year so maybe that white and gold bag won't get any further for a while as I don't see myself getting any use out of it until next summer now.  No matter, here is another smaller but more seasonally versatile bag I made a while back.  Up there you see the front, down here you see the reverse:
Now you see the inspiration with the bag in situ:
This photograph was taken at The Lost Gardens of Heligan which is not far from St Austell in Cornwall and close to the Eden Project which has rather eclipsed it.  They are nothing alike however and a wander through the wonderfully wild woods is a treat as there are trees like this and they can inspire bags!  Here is the picture that inspired the bag on an earlier trip:
This inspired me to make this textured bag.  First I got some bits of leftover unbleached calico from making toiles for garments and I painted a background with fabric paints:
Then I got out my mixed box of yarns.  I mostly use embroidery floss when doing freestyle or cross stitch and it is all too easy to get into a rut; there is life beyond six-strand mercerised cotton.  Most of these were ends of balls of yarn or from the wonderful mixed packs of yarns sold by Texere Yarns.  You can buy their textured yarn packs as I have used right here 

There is some floss there too and those ivy leaves are cut from some soft dark green gloving leather which I was given.  Sorry, I have no source for this and wish I had as leather is difficult to get hold of.  The handle remains painted and is shoulder bag length.  To make your own with your own photos (or use mine, why not) here is the pattern for the front:

And here for the back:
These include seam allowances and are full sized but of course you can make them any size you want.  Lining them is a good idea and I used the same fabric to make a good tough bag.  The strap is as long as you want it (depends on personal taste and your height) and should be about 2 1/2" wide.  This gets painted, folded in half and the sides turned in along one long edge, then this is stitched close to the edge and then the other side too.

Ivy leaf pattern for the large leaf:
And for the small one:
And lastly the stitches I used:
Plus a close up of a leaf being attached and the work itself:

To make just do the following: 

Cut out two backs and two fronts plus a strap (try measuring your favorite bag strap for length)

Paint the background with fabric paints on one back, one front and the strap.  Leave to dry and heat fix with an iron.

Decorate with stitches, leather leaves and anything else that comes to hand.  Hey, its your bag after all!

Follow above instructions for the strap.

Right sides together, stitch front to front lining and back to back lining leaving a space at the bottom of about 2".  Turn to right side and stitch up the space with neat oversewing.  Press well.

Place front on top of back and stitch all around the front, leaving the top open of course. 

Attach straps by turning in a bit at each end and stitching under the part where the back flops over.

You now need a fastening of some kind and I used a largish press stud sewn under the flap with one part on the front and the other just on the lining of the back and thus invisible.  Nobody really wants to see a press stud after all.

Your bag is ready to roll.

Sewing World - September 2012
Have you got yours yet?  Time to visit Smith's or even better, take out a subscription so you don't miss anything.  If you have it turn to page 47 and you can see my Pretty Pintuck Shirt, all ready to team with your favorite trousers when it gets too cold to wear that sundress.  I did not take a photo of it, such was my haste to make that deadline.  Visit the site right here for some free projects and more. 

Actually, the magazine might not even be out quite yet at the time of me typing this but by the time you read this I am sure it will be.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Golden Sunbird Applique Bag Project

Here it is at last - the template pieces plus a photograph of what it looks like ironed on.  The pieces are the exact size I used, and here it how I combined them to make a pleasing image.  To get this far you need to do the following:

I)  Copy and print out the template shapes, and then cut them out.  As this is green crafting I often use any old sheet of A4 paper with one blank side as hey, they are only templates.  If you plan on using them for something else using a sheet of thin card might be a better option however.

II)  Buy some Bondaweb.  They do this in two weights and I try to get the heavier of the two for any projects that are going to see plenty of wear and washing.  On the tracing paper draw around the templates the correct number of times and roughly cut around them.  Note that they are the wrong way round when comparing them to the picture.  This is the way they have to be to look this way.

III)  The first fun part - choosing your fabric.  My color scheme is white and gold and I have chosen one plain white ( the same fabric as the bag which is white linen), one plain gold (lame) and one patterned gold and white brocade.  All these are leftovers from other projects which is much more fun than tossing them into the recycling box.  Place the cutouts rough side down onto the wrong side of the fabric, lay on a cotton pressing cloth and turn your iron up to cotton setting - don't put any water in or select steam.  Iron on.

IV)  Cut them out along the pencil lines - the sort of task I do while watching TV unless it is something really riveting.

V)  You now need a bag front to put them on.  Maybe you already have a pattern or maybe you are going to wait until my own pattern has been bench tested this end and put up.  You don't even need to make a bag of course.  Why not a cushion cover or bustier?  Whatever you have lay the pieces in a pleasing arrangement and lay on that cotton pressing cloth once more and heat set with your dry iron still on cotton setting.  The picture below is a half scale of a possible arrangement (ie the one I have used).

That is it for now - back soon with the next installment.  Coming soon to this blog too is POND DIARY which perhaps speaks for itself, a account of how to put a wildlife pond in your garden.  And of course some more projects that show the greener side of crafting.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Got the latest August issue of Sewing World yet?  If you have, turn to page 36 and you will see my latest project.  This is a very useful beach dress with an elastic ruched top that doubles as a skirt.  Simply put your swimsuit or bikini on and pull on the garment; once on the beach remove it and you are just wearing your bathing costume...brilliant!  Of course after you have had your swim you have to somehow get the wet garment off and then put the dress back on again without anybody actually seeing you nude...better choose a nudist beach I think or buy a tent.

I've got the dress back now and being of the busty type I decided to add straps to it to save my blushes.  It will slide down and bare my assets I know, and I prefer wearing a bra anyway.  If you also want to do this then you need to save a bit of the fabric and cut two strips from it each about 20" long and 2" wide.  Or if you are of the metric persuasion about 51cm long and 5cm wide.  Right sides together and fold in half lengthway, then stitch and turn to right side.  Press firmly.  Put on the bra you intend to wear with the garment and try the straps on, pinning them in place.  When you take it off again you will be able to cut off some of the excess unless you are very tall (like about 7" and I don't know the metric for that) and tuck under about 5/8" (1.5cm) each end.  Stitch and press, your dress now has straps.

Why not dress it up a bit more with some beads and sequins?  I often get mine from and they have loads of other goodies too so you ought to be the belle of the beach.

I know, I know you are wondering where on earth that bag pattern has got to.  I cut it out and ironed on the pieces...then found another similar bag I started last year!  So expect not one but TWO bag patterns as soon as my deadlines pass and I can on with something else besides work.  Also expect news about my shiny new camera.

Monday, 16 July 2012

I'm still working on the bag pattern and will be bringing it to you shortly; deadlines to meet first!  Meanwhile if you have the latest Popular Crafts (August/September 2012) turn to page 21 for a summery project.  This is beach jewellery made by using a glue gun and some colored and glitter cartridges.  Fast and easy to make, it is the sort of jewellery that goes where other pricier pieces fear to tread ie the beach.  Made to go with a beach dress I made for Sewing World it is fancy enough for you to take your pick where you eat your lunch or dinner...provided you wash all that sand off first!

Glue guns, cartridges and more available from

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Hello fellow crafters! I've been meaning to do this for ages now and have finally got around to it. This is going to be the place to come for free projects and downloads, plus news about what I am currently up to both in the craft world and out of it. Those of you who buy Sewing World, Sew Hip, Popular Crafts or any of the magazines my work appears in might have seen the type of project before that I am going to post first as I do so love making them. Although we don't seem to be getting a summer down here in darkest Devon this year (nor have done since 2007) I do still need a new white bag so am making one. This is a simple 14" x 9" shoulder bag with a gusset and a top that flops over with an applique picture on it. As birds are in right now, and flowers always look great for summer this picture is going to feature both in white and gold fabric, plus some beads and sequins for accent and extra sparkle. This is either to make the bag look brighter, or maybe to cheer me up with its shiny happy appearance when the sun fails to shine. Watch this space for a pattern and instructions soon!