Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mini chocolatier

Why not? Here are a few more photos from Bruges, Belgium, last September.

099_from belfort
The view from the top of the Belfort. Quite a climb.

Well, hello.


Monday, January 23, 2012

I like telling you about all the bits that didn't work

In my family we always make Christmas and birthday lists to help each other choose gifts (though we like surprises too). One of the things my sister wanted was a fabric cover for an A5 diary. She had seen some on madeit, and I would have been quite happy to buy her one there, if I could have found an option that seemed right for her, or had left enough time to request a special order.

So, in a moment of pre-Christmas craziness, I decided to try to sew it myself.

This really is a very simple sewing project. Except for the fact that I don't really sew.
I do have a sewing machine that was given to me years ago by a friend who was leaving Canberra. I've only used it a few times and generally for some half-thought-out (if that...) attempt to alter clothing.

So this was a challenge, and I am proud of how it turned out - not perfect, but she thought I had bought it, which, under the circumstances was a compliment!
Unfortunately I can't find the instructions I actually used, but it was basically this method, though I also used interfacing on the front piece of fabric.

This was one of those projects where I thought I was going to make something fancier, and had to simplify. I really wanted to embellish it, and tried quite a few options, but in the end this rather detailed Japanese print fabric just didn't want to be embellished. By me, anyway.

I vaguely considered having a section of contrasting fabric or a ribbon/trim, but gave that up quickly as it was a rush job and I didn't manage to find fabrics that played well together.

So I moved on to embroidery, trying it first directly onto the fabric...
The two above both use whipped backstitch and the beginnings of some seed stitch filler, as seen here. The one below is split stitch.
I was trying to use elements of the print to pick out an 'E' monogram - thereby biting off WAY more than I could chew - and had trouble getting anything sensible to happen. I couldn't even decide what colour thread would work - I think blue silk which closely matched the fabric was the best option, but it was inclined to disappear a little too much.

Meanwhile I searched for examples of hand-embroidered print fabrics and found lots of inspiration, including Amy's lovely work which I had admired before on her blog.

I'm pretty sure I should start with a fabric with a different sort of print, something much simpler, if I want to try this type of embroidery.

Next I decided to try applique (which I have never done before), embroidering a monogram onto a different fabric. Although I don't really know what dryer sheets are, I managed to work out this technique using scraps of non-fusible interfacing.
But I would have needed more planning and time and probably practice to - maybe - make this work. There were two main problems. The first was that I didn't come up with a combination of fabric and thread colour that would work with the main fabric. And the second was the difficulty of getting the shape right, I wanted my applique to match one of the shapes in the print, which might have worked, but only (I think) if the shape of the embroidered monogram was more sympathetic to that shape as well. I would have needed to invest some time with a pencil and paper to have a chance of making this work.

Finally, I was going to add a button and elastic loop for closure. But I realised that E might not want this (a friend pointed out that with the button, it wouldn't sit flat on a table for writing, which could be annoying). So I just took the button with me on Christmas Day and checked if she would like one - she said she wouldn't be inclined to fasten it anyway.

So plain it was.

And even though I spent a lot of time on things that didn't pay off for this project (as well as some that did: I didn't mention at least two practice goes sewing the cover with scrap fabric first), I have no regrets. Firstly because I like the final product and it does the job. And secondly for all I learned in the process, lessons I will be able to apply to some other project in future.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


The other day I was hunting in my wool cupboard for something when I came across a packet of lavender scented cedar balls. They are supposed to be a moth deterrent (both the cedar and lavender scents are allegedly unappealing) but I'm pretty sure they don't do much good sealed in their packet. These balls would be ok just scattered in a box or drawer, but I hadn't figured out a good way to disperse them in the cupboard. I didn't really fancy having a few balls bounce out and roll away each time I shuffle through the shelves.
I had an idea and dropped what I was doing to implement it right away. And doesn't that feel good, occasionally? At least, when it works - I've rushed into my share of projects that turn out to be a waste of time.

I deliberately chose to use an acrylic - it probably doesn't matter but it seemed wrong to use wool to make moth-repelling sachets. I also get a kick out of finding ways to use the most horrible yarns in my stash. They were knit in the round in a fishnet-type stitch I happened to remember from making this bag, just alternating rounds of (K2tog, YO) and (YO, K2tog). A silly impulse project like this quickly loses its momentum if you have to spend time researching/planning! And it couldn't have worked out much better if had planned it. The first one happened to turn out to be the perfect size to hold six balls. And the packet had 18 in total.
Terribly dark photos, sorry....
So I made two more, and thumb tacked them to the inside of the cupboard door. I know they are absolutely not guaranteed to keep moths out...but they are cute, and can't hurt.
Not the full stash, just (much of) the feltable wool. And yeah it's a colourful mess.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Drink to the sound of the song parade

This Christmas present for our littlest nephew was a collaboration between my sister (she's here too) and me. I knitted the doll and she brought it to life by adding the face. It was a joke that instantly became an excellent plan - I sent her the link to show her what I was making and said 'don't worry, I promise not to call on you at the last minute to rescue me, like to embroider the face at the last minute ....wait... unless you WANT to collaborate?'
It turned out she loved the idea, and didn't she do a sweet job? I would never have come up with those eyebrows! Such personality.

I used this lovely simple pattern (there is also a version knit flat, in several different sizes, designed for beginner knitters), though I did the in-the-round version, and added a little bit of shaping to the top of the head, hands and feet.

I was delighted when Dolly was immediately given a good gumming.

Actually not only Dolly, but also this post, is real family effort. The photos were taken by our biggest nephew (just 6). I should note, he actually composed them nicely with people in them - I've just cropped them for this post. Later their mum, our sister, drew this sweet portrait.

Monday, January 02, 2012

the galaxy from inside a jar

I had plenty of lavender left after making the eye pillow, so I took the opportunity to make a few little lavender sachets for presents. The lavender came in a big bag and it was a bargain because it was still on the stalks rather than just petals. It was a bit time-consuming pulling the petals off to use (though a lot had fallen to the bottom of the bag, which helped, but it smelled great! I still have lots left, and I think I might make myself a neck pillow with the remaining linseed and lavender.

The pink one started with a picot hem, a round with eyelets for the drawstring, and then I used this
chain-of-hearts motif - after several failed attempts to reverse the direction of a different heart motif (also, that pattern included SK4P and K4tog, not super fun in splitty cotton).

For the other two I just did a normal cast on edge, and this leaf lace pattern. The ties are just a crocheted chain. The white one is Patons Feathersoft 4ply, and the orangey one is Trekking XXL sock wool. I switched to the navy blue fabric for the lining because I became slightly concerned that the white cotton I had used for the pink one might not be tightly woven enough to stop a few bits of lavender/leaf/sticks I missed poking through. I hope it wasn't a problem though, as I used that white fabric for the eye pillow as well. I like the navy with the white sachet, but I think white would have looked nicer under the orange one. Still, all of them will smell nice in the wardrobe or underwear drawer.