Tuesday 30 April 2013

Our summer visitors are here!

I was delighted to see my first swallows here in North Wales on Saturday (27th April) whilst driving home.  They were swooping over the river fairly close to the coast - but I couldn't stop to admire them there.  Then yesterday I saw two of our local swallows from the window of the top bedroom at my workplace.  They were resting on a TV aerial and I wondered if they had just arrived from Africa.  Its always a happy day when we see swallows and feel summer is really on its way at last.  

Looking back to last year I noted first seeing swallows on 3rd May and I made a card to celebrate.  This time I thought I'd make a quick embroidered picture - well more of a stamped applique really - for my celebration.  I stamped onto some blue fabric, cut out my swallow, attached it to some plain linen using iron-on adhesive, which I then attached to a pretty printed cotton.  A few running stitches and french knots were added and I stamped on the date.  The swallow stamp is from a set of four pretty bird images by Hampton Art - a US company but I think I bought them on ebay.

I was reminded of the swallow's lustrous blue feathers when I was browsing the way to blue's gorgeous stall at the fair on Saturday (I make no apologies for harping on about this fabulous event - see my last post).  I couldn't resist a couple of purchases - but what to choose!  In the end I went for this pretty notebook and a tealight lantern.  I was drawn to this image of a robin silhouette and once lit and sitting on my mantlepiece I didn't regret buying it even thought it took me ages to decide which design to go for.


I do remember reading about cyanotypes and I have a dim memory of a nature project in a children's book showing how to transfer an image of a pressed flower or leaf onto paper or fabric using sunlight.  However this is the first time I've seen this process being used to such beautiful effect - and by a local artist too!

Note to self for 2014 - Swifts arrived Bank Holiday Monday 6th May

Sunday 28 April 2013

Vintage in the Vale - Take 2!

Yes, a very happy day was had by all at Vintage in the Vale.  So pleased for Gillian - the clever creator of this fabulous fair. 

Clever, clever crafters...........  this is Lisa's gorgeous stall.......

Lovely stall holders................ here's Nia from Wish in Rhuddlan......

Lots of original creativity.....................

And delicious vintageness (I suppose that's not a word).....................

Really hard not to spend all my takings on such loveliness - these gorgeous aprons created from vintage dresses being very difficult to resist!

Add songs of the 40s and 50s from Paula Rose and lots of tea and cake, what more could you ask for?  Don't you wish you'd been there!  But wait.... don't feel downhearted, you could be at the next fair on 17th August - save the date!  I'll see you there!

Tuesday 23 April 2013


I freely admit that in the past I had an addiction to craft magazines (I'm over it now - honest!) - especially ones with free gifts on the cover.  I couldn't resist buying them but after an initial browse through I rarely picked them up again and when the pile got too high they ended up in the recycling box.  I kept the free gifts though - you know the type, a kit to make a small item from felt or fabric, but I never made any of the items as the felt was not nice to sew with, being very thin and stiff.  I much prefer my lovely plant dyed 100% wool felt offcuts from Myriad for my felt brooches.

However I recently found a good use for this felt - its perfect for cutting with dies and the stiffness is just right for these felt garlands I've made for my next craft fair.  I die cut two shapes, stitched them together and threaded them onto twine or cotton yarn with some wooden or felt beads as spacers.

There's a crochet version too.  And I had the idea to package them in small glass jars, generously donated by a work colleague's baby grandson (thank you Denise), and decorated to match.  Hope they tickle!

Twas World Earth Day

As always, I'm late.  Monday was World Earth Day - its now 1.50 am Tuesday, but as I haven't been to bed yet as far as I'm concerned its still World Earth Day.  And I did record the fading sunset at 6 minutes past 8 - looks like tomorrow will be a good day .  

At last I've managed to make a start on tidying the garden after the winter and with no help from me I found these beautiful Snake’s Head Fritillaries had pushed their heads through all the dead stuff to celebrate the day.

Well, its late and I've a lot to do in the morning so I'm keeping it short.  Just wanted to acknowledge the day somehow - and encourage myself to keep on with the tidying!

Thursday 11 April 2013

Vintage embroideries reborn

If you are in the UK you might have noticed the latest drive for funds by the British Red Cross falling through your letterbox.  There are often little inducements sent with charity fund raising campaigns and this latest one is particularly appealing for me.  The greetings cards, bookmark and coasters are decorated with images inspired by the Changi Quilt, a patchwork quilt created by women in Japanese internment camps during WW2.  With the current popularity of sewing, quilting and embroidery I hope the campaign is a success - I think I must make a donation, not least because our family have to thank The Red Cross for getting my Father through the five years he he spent as a Prison of War in Poland during the war.  He always said food parcels sent by the Red Cross saved his and his fellow POWs lives.

Behind the cards in the photo above you can see some of my latest embroidered household linens acquired and intended for up-cycling.  The best pieces for me are tray cloths - the embroidered motifs are usually quite small and they often have tea stains, which makes it so much easier for me to take my scissors to them without feeling too guilty.

Anyway, I thought you might like to see how I use the embroidered pieces so I've put together a little tutorial (not really keen on that word!).  Here's how I make a simple hanging bird. 

I've made myself some templates from acetate packaging and use them to decide where to place the pattern on the embroidered cloth to best effect. 

I only use the embroideries on one side of my bird - although these hanging decorations would look pretty in a window and therefore both sides would show, the light would soon fade the embroidery and discolour the fabric.  So I will hang my bird somewhere out of direct light.  Use a plain part of the same embroidered cloth for the backing or use a different complimentary fabric.  Here I've used a plain linen of similar weight but a printed cotton would look pretty too, especially if a colour in the embroidery is picked out.

The scrap for the beak is completely optional - I must admit the extra layer of fabric does make turning out the point of the beak cleanly a bit more difficult, and I think the bird looks just as good without.  Leave a turning gap in the seam of at least 2 inches (5cms) to make it easy on yourself when turning the piece right side out.

My favourite tools for turning through small pieces are these locking forceps and my old wooden clay modelling tool.  The forceps are great for pulling through stubborn shapes as you can grab and lock on to that awkward far end of the piece - just be sure not to damage the fabric.  They are also invaluable for pushing stuffing into tiny spaces.  The modelling tool is nice and blunt and won't poke through seams making a nasty hole.   Other useful tools are knitting needles, crochet hooks and the points of scissors if they are not too sharp.

Remember to add the hanging loop and legs BEFORE you start to stuff.  You can use anything - I've used some lovely thick cotton bakers twine here, but ribbon is pretty and cotton knitting or crochet yarn, twine or string are good too.  I sometimes make a twisted cord using thin crochet yarn or embroidery threads.  You can find lots of demonstrations on Youtube if you don't know how to do this. 

You can leave the legs out altogether - the bird looks just as good without them.  I use acrylic toy stuffing to fill together with something aromatic.  Lavender is always a favourite but I also like crushed spices (especially star anise).  Recently I've tried herb or fruit teabags with a few drops of an appropriate essential oil added.  Be sure to to push the stuffing right into any sharp corners.  Wrapping the lavender or spices in a layer of stuffing is a good idea too so they don't show through or stain the fabric.

Using a single length of cord for the legs ensures you can pull through to make sure the legs are the same length.  Be generous with the length of twine so you can knot it easily before cutting off any excess.  When I'm finished I like to steam press the seams flat holding the bird in my hand and being careful not to burn my fingers.   This gives the piece a nicer rounded shape.  And even though the back of my bird is plain I do add eyes on both sides. 

Here are some more I made earlier!  The Dalar horse is an experiment - the pattern needs tweeking a bit I think.

 This post has turned out much longer than I anticipated so if you have stayed till the end I thank you - and if you have any queries please don't hesitate to ask. 

I really like the thought that something that has had so much work put into it long ago but has since lain forgotten in a drawer can now be brought out and admired by another generation of crafters.

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Two Types of Spring

A week ago we went to walk in the snow on nearby hills again.  This time we went to a beautiful area called "The Shelf" locally.  We found huge frozen drifts, high walls of snow on roadsides cleared by snowploughs, and beautiful ice sculptures shaped by the bitter the winds we've been experiencing over the last few weeks.  Although much of the lying snow has now disappeared these giant piles of ice will need lots of sunshine to melt completely, and that's not in the immediate forecast for us.  The surrounding hills are still showing a patchwork of brown, green and white today.

This weekend however we found time to search out signs of Spring in the Vale.  After my work shift we bought chips and set off down the lanes to find a pretty place to eat them.  There have been sad reports on the local news of hundreds of farm animals - sheep and lambs, cattle and even horses being lost during the blizzards, buried in snow drifts and starving in fields farmers could not reach at the height of the snowstorms.  And I can only shudder to think of the wildlife that has died.  But Saturday seemed to be the real first day of Spring with the sun feeling almost warm where there was shelter from the wind.

And what could be more spring-like than catkins, celandines, fields full of lambs and busy rookeries?  So at last we are looking forward to warmer weather and an end to those bitter easterly winds. 

A few of my faithful followers have mentioned that little white car cropping up in my photos recently.  Yes, it is a Morris Minor of 1960s vintage - a recent acquisition and my son's new pride and joy.  Goes with his mid-20th century style image don't you think?

Friday 5 April 2013

Disorganised February and March!

Thank you all so much for your kind comments on my last couple of posts.  The last few weeks have been rather difficult and I've found it hard to keep up with my blog and all my blogland friends, so much so that I have only yesterday managed to create my February and March scrapbook pages.  Believe me, sorting out all my photos and fitting them into those little squares, although not a difficult task, is very time consuming - and time at my laptop has not been easy to find recently.

Something I absolutely hate about Windows is the way it imports my photos in such an apparently disorganised and haphazard way I can never find them again.  Of course its probably the way I've set it up and is therefore entirely my own fault, but as far as I am concerned earlier versions have been much easier to navigate and control.

Anyway, I'm determined to be more organised from now on and have tried to make it easier for myself by spending time searching out photos and putting them into monthly files so that hopefully I can find them quickly when its time to put together my April scrapbook page.  Famous last words!!!

Thursday 4 April 2013

Hello dolly!

Unfortunately Easter was a bit of a non-event for me this year.  Apart from working every day over the holiday, I managed to pick up a nasty stomach bug which kept me up all night, and then I fell over my feet at work resulting in large colourful and painful lumps in several places.  Even sitting is uncomfortable and I'm walking like someone who has just celebrated their 100th birthday!  However being less mobile has meant I did at last get down to putting together my lovely Sophie Tilley wooden doll kit (with rather too much help from Titch!).

I'm ashamed to say I've had the kit for almost 12 months but tell the truth I've been rather nervous of painting the face.  Creating faces is one of those steps that can make or break a project but I gritted my teeth and just went for it.  I'm fairly happy with the result.  I painted my doll with acrylic paints and added her features with Sharpie pens.  I then gave her bits and pieces a thin layer of beeswax polish before putting her together.  The wax gives a nice smooth finish to painted wooden pieces and a bit of protection.  I made a rough paper pattern and used a scrap of vintage Laura Ashley fabric for her dress - its not perfect but she is a rather folksy girl so I'm sure she doesn't mind. 

Sophie is soon to add cloth dolls to her range so I'm looking forward to finding a comfortable friend for my wooden doll.


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