Monday, January 21, 2013

DIY: Giant Suede Tassle Key Fob

This is another of those projects that's been rattling around in my head for ages. Since my summerhouse is no go at the moment with all of this cold weather (it is seriously cold in there) I'm not getting any sewing done. So am contenting myself with little creative projects I can do in the warmth of the house. Hence the tea and coffee dyeing and the little stitch markers. This is another really easy DIY using clothing weight suede I recycled from a skirt I found on the £1 rail at the charity shop....

Here's what you'll need....

1. Starting with a piece of suede measuring approx 16" x  5" draw a straight line approx 5/8" down from the top, along the long edge, on the wrong side. Then use scissors to cut a fringe, all the way along the length of the suede. Up to to the line but not through it. I just eyeballed the width of my fringing. Cutting approx every 5mm.
2. Stitch the "eye" part of a hook and eye to the top left hand corner of the wrong side of your suede, so it pokes out of the top when you view it from the right side.
3. Blob some glue (glue gun or leather glue) along the uncut band, wrong side, and roll as tightly as possible, a couple of turns so the "eye" is sandwiched between the rolled suede.
4. Keep repeating this process along the length of the uncut top edge. Apply a bit of glue, roll a bit more etc etc
5. Keep going until it's all rolled up, secure the cut edge with glue, removing any excess that may be visible.
6. Attach keyring/split ring to the "eye" loop, et voila!

I don't know about you, but when I can't sew for whatever reason, I simply HAVE to make SOMETHING.
Is it possible to be addicted to making? Are there  "Makers Anonymous" groups out there?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

DIY: Coffee Dyeing Silk

Sooooo, following on from yesterday's post about tea dyeing, I had ANOTHER silk top that was gifted to me by a lovely friend. The pale lilac colour really washed me out though so I'd never worn it. When googling info on tea dyeing it occurred to me that coffee might have similar dyeing/staining properties. After all, I've spilled enough coffee down my front to know that it doesn't always come out in the wash! (I am a clumsy cow!) Sure enough....

I followed exactly the same process and timings as I did for the tea except this time I used a 100g jar of Tesco own brand coffee priced at £1.50. Unfortunately their 47p one wasn't available in our local Tesco Express, grrr....!

Again, the finish was streak and blotch free and the colour much, much, much more me! Hurrah!
The one thing with both these projects that has yet to be determined is how the colour results stand up to washing. I'm fairly confident about this. For a start, these are silk tops and as such will be handwashed only which will limit the impact on the colour. Plus, everything I've researched online prior to trying this, suggests that it doesn't require a fixative to be permanent; and at the very most it may fade a little, but for all intents and purposes is permanent. I will be sure to let you know how I get on with that!
In the meantime, I have plans afoot to try out some other "grocery" dyes. Turmeric and beetroot are both renowned for staining so it seems logical to me to try them on some silk. Onion skins are another source of natural dye that I fancy trying. Of course, all manner of plant materials and fibres have dyeing properties. Dyeing fabric goes right back to ancient times and would have been wholly achieved by using natural raw materials before the advent of chemical dyeing processes during the industrial revolution. Some of it though is akin to alchemy and beyond my level of patience!There are  more experiments to come though! For now, I've run out of silk tops to experiment with. Best get down the charity shop and have a rummage; and you know how I hate that ;)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

DIY: Tea Dyeing Silk

On the £1 rail outside our local charity shop, I spotted this bright orange silk top with a kind of Swiss dot texture to it. I was smitten with the silk and the style, but a little dubious on the colour. The before photo doesn't quite capture how bright it was. It was REALLY bright. Since my freshly dyed hair can sometimes be on the bright side of ginger (depending if I'm in a red or ginger mood when I buy my hair dye ;) I thought a bright orange top could potentially be a bit "clashy"! I prefer more earthy tones anyway so I needed to "mute" the orange. Luckily Marie's post had reminded me of the ageing properties of tea on lace. (Thanks Marie!) Not too much of a leap then, to wonder what it's effect would be on silk.....

I'd had a box of loose tea at the back of the cupboard for months. (I'd bought it by mistake instead of teabags.) I quickly whipped up a giant teabag using a J Cloth and let it steep for 10 minutes in 5-6 pints of hot water. Submersing the silk blouse in the tea solution, I let it simmer in a big pan on the hob, on a low heat, for about 40 mins, stirring every few minues. Then rinsed in cold water until the water ran clear and hung to dry....

To say I'm impressed with the result is an understatement. The resulting colour is right up my street. Really Autumnal. But beyond that, the even colour result is immaculate! Not a streak, blotch or tide line in sight. Compared to commercial hand dyes I've tried in the past it's massively superior; and it's just humble old tea!!
Rit and Dylon hand dyes have always turned out uneven for me no matter how much I stir it and keep it moving. When you consider the price of a commercial hand dye is £4-6, and that a pack of 80 Tesco Everyday Value teabags is 27p, well, nuff said! Plus, it's non toxic so environmentally friendly AND gentle on the fabric.
Of course tea provides a limited colour palette of varying shades of, erm, tea colour, when using it on white/light coloured cloth. But if the garment has a strong base colour, like mine, it's a great way of achieving a more muted shade and changing up the look a bit.
This process will work on any natural fibre. Silk, cotton, wool etc. I'd imagine with wool though, you'd have to be careful to let the solution cool a little as too much sudden heat on pure wool can cause it to felt.
Totally in love with tea dyeing now though AND it's inspired me to experiment with a few more "store cupboard dyes" on some other garments. Coming soon!

Monday, January 14, 2013

DIY: Stitch Markers for Yarn lovers!

I've been delving into the joys of knit and crochet in the past few weeks. Alot of the patterns I was looking at called for stitch markers. When I looked at the offerings in my local hobbycraft and haberdashery? Well they were just a bit blaaaaah. Just as with yarn, fabric, and everything else; using something a bit nice when "making" just makes the whole process that bit more pleasurable, don't you think? So I decided to make my own by repurposing some old jewelry and a bit of wire....

If you want to make your own it really is super simple. Here's what you'll need...

1. Wrap your wire around a knitting needle to get the size loop you want
2. Twist the loop one full rotation to close the loop
3. Cut both straight ends using wire cutters. The length you cut them will depend on the size of bead you're using. Just be sure to cut them the same length.
4. You'll end up with this
5. Use round nose pliers to bend the ends of the wire in to create a mini "hanger" shape
6. Slot the ends into the bead (you may have to trim a smidge off the ends of the wire) so that the ends of the wire meet inside the bead. Done!

Below is an alternative design. You can see that instead of the "mini hanger" shape I've formed a tiny loop at the base. You can then hang charms etc from it OR use jewelry headpins to create your own from old beads, as shown. The difference between this style and the one above is that in the first style the cut ends are buried inside the bead so are completely snag free. With the style below you have to take care that the cut ends of the wire do not stick out. It just takes a bit of practice :)

Recycling old jewelry AND prettier than those plastic things you can buy in the shops. Sorted!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Thrifty Finds: The lost art of writing...

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a journalist. Lois Lane was my heroine and while I have long given up dreams of my very own Superman sweeping me off my feet (although J has the occasional superhero moment ;) I have retained a love of writing and the written word. One of the many satisfying elements of blogging. Hand in hand with my love of writing is my slight obsession with stationary. (I'm probably the only person I know who'd be equally delighted with vouchers for Staples as I would be with expensive perfume!) When taking into account my love of vintage too, you can imagine my delight on stumbling upon this beautiful vintage leather writing case for a mere £1 in my local charity shop...This one is particularly darling. Lockable, with the original key. Gorgeous tan leather (is there a difference between leather and cowhide? Are they not one and the same?!) and in mint, unused condition.

Writing cases used to be ten a penny back in the day. For those of you too young to remember, they would hold a pad of writing paper (Lion Brand embossed of course!) in the main section, with pockets for envelopes, stamps, blotting paper and a holder for your pen (slimline fountain, naturally). All designed to take with you on your travels so you could write home about your exploits.

All evocative of a bygone era. Long before emails and facebook. When twitter was the sound a bird would make on a sunny spring morning; and a text was a large volume of printed, erm, text.  Handwriting was an art in itself and to have good handwriting was kudos. I remember practicing for hours as a child. Using finger spacing when I was very (very) young. Then as I grew older I remember how grown up I felt when I was allowed to use "joined up" writing for the first time. Again I would spend hours perfecting my "loops", being careful to have a piece of blotting paper under my hand so as not to smudge my fountain pen ink as I went. I was a bit of a perfectionist with my handwriting. I used to receive comments on it regularly. "Oh what beautiful handwriting you have", "look how it flows", "so unusual for a young person...."

These days my handwriting is a pale echo of what it was. Why? I'm out of practice. Simple as that. These days, really, when do we actually need to WRITE anything. I don't mean scribble down a shopping list, or jot down a few ideas. I mean a letter. An essay. Something that will be given to someone else to read. Something that we'd have to take care over not only in terms of what it says, but in how it looks too. The other day I had to sign some paperwork.  I even had to think twice now how to sign my name. Like I've forgotten how my signature goes. A few years back I'd sign mountains of paperwork on a daily basis without a second thought.

Everything is so automated these days. We don't sign cheques or credit card receipts any more. We have pin numbers and online shopping for that. We type blog posts and emails. We punch in texts and tweets on our phones. When you really think about it, we put pen to paper so rarely these days. In an era when we are actively embracing "handmade" is "handwritten"  actually obsolete? Would it even matter? They say for instance, you can tell alot about a person from their handwriting. Can you tell as much about them from what font they choose on Word?! Is that the modern equivalent of graphology?

I for one, can't decide. I love handwriting but tend to opt for typing because it's quicker. I would tear my hair out without the convenience of "delete" and "cut & paste" when writing my blog posts and emails. I can't remember the last time I wrote a letter. So this little leather case, made just for writing, has got me thinking ( can you tell?  ;) Has handwriting had it's day? Will biros ever cease to be manufactured?

Of course I could always use this lovely vintage writing case for a brand spanking new tablet instead of a writing pad....hmmmm...a bit of online shopping coming on methinks....;)

Monday, January 07, 2013

Why it's worth buying decent yarn...

At last peops! I have finally completed a knitting project that hasn't been consigned to box 101 under my sewing table; but has in fact been worn several times already....

I decided to bite the bullet and invest in some decent yarn using some Hobbycraft vouchers I got for Christmas. Up until this point I've always used thrifted or "salvaged" yarn for practicing with. The theory being that if I messed it up (again!) then I would have lost little except my time (because that's not precious at all is it?!) It occured to me recently when casting on with some particularly nasty DK yarn, that if I didn't enjoy the feel of the yarn when I was knitting with it, then I certainly wouldn't enjoy wearing it. Obvious I know! Much like sewing with nasty fabric, the finished article never sees the light of day; and I'm done with making stuff and then never wearing it! (That sounds suspiciously like resolution, ooops!)
The creation above could not be simpler. It's made using Rowan Colourspun shade 271 (Pen-Y-Ghent), A DK/8 Ply wool/mohair mix. Just under 2 x 50g balls. I cast on 28 stitches and then just knit it in Stockinette Stitch until it was long enough to wrap around my neck twice with the ends overlapping at the front. Then some simple single row buttonholes (I was particularly pleased with myself when I mastered these!) and some vintage buttons from my stash, et voila!

So apart from learning the single row buttonhole technique; (great tute here) this make has taught me some valuable lessons.

1) You rarely pick up good quality wool in charity shops.
2) Decent yarn is delicious to knit/crochet with which means less swearing and more "aaaahhhh" moments
3) Although good quality yarn is more expensive, I'm less inclined to waste it on a crappy make. However cheap a yarn is it's still money down the drain if you're never going to wear it.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

2013 - Preface

I'll be honest...I've been off the grid for a few weeks now. December saw several birthdays (including mine) and Christmas preparations just seemed to gather at a ridiculous pace from mid December onwards. The last couple of weeks has been a pleasant blur of visiting relatives, food, wine, pressies and telly (and this year a particularly excited Little Tornado; who also turns 4 on Friday! Where has THAT gone?!)

Anyhow, I was all set to launch straight back in to a few DIY and refashioning posts. But it didn't seem quite right to just launch back in without at least a nod to the fact that this is the start of a brand spanking, shiny New Year. One that potentially holds some interesting opportunities and milestones....

Yes, the "telly stuff" is still on the bubble! The wheels of TV grind surprisingly slowly I'm finding. (Perhaps I'm a bit spoilt by the instantaneous nature of our online existence!) But finally I have a bit of news to share. Whilst pursuing what has become a bit of a mission to get some sewing on the telly, one of the production companies I've been working with approached me to screen test for a project that they already have in paid development (that is that a major UK channel is interested in principal in a particular idea; and has paid them to further develop it and film a pilot). Well I'd have been daft not to agree wouldn't I?! If only for the experience. So I duly screen tested, thinking that would be an end to it. Er, no. Turns out they liked me and and we begin filming (yes, you read that right!) the pilot, in the next week or so! If that's successful then it will be a 25 episode series for a major UK channel. Now before you get too excited, it's not sewing related. It's more closely allied to my other interests in thrifting and such. Although there IS the potential to showcase SOME sewing, in theory. I'm sorry to be so non specific! But I am allowed to tell you no more than that on pain of death! Suffice to say, that if this comes off, and I get my foot in the door, I shall harass them silly until they give in and put some flipping sewing on the darn telly!! Anyway, will keep you posted on that!

Our "little" boy starts proper school this year! A prospect that makes me feel happy and sad all at the same time. Happy because I know he's got so much ahead of him there and sad because, well, it will be another first gone in the blink of an eye. The years since he was born have gone by so quickly but by the same token they have been he most full and purposeful of my life. I feel like I've chenged so much and achieved more in the last few years than I ever did in all the years preceding. I can hardly remember the person I was before he came along. The effect that becoming a mother has had on me has been profound. To me everything is that much clearer and simpler now. Everything has a purpose and a meaning now. Something about being responsible for that little bundles needs and his future really focusses the heart and the mind.....

This Blog...
I started this blog towards the end of 2009 with no clear idea what I was going to write about. I was a new Mum, feeling somewhat isolated having just moved to a new town where I knew no-one; and I guess I saw blogging as a way of connecting. You know what I mean? At the time of writing I am just about to hit 500 google readers and have already exceeded that when you count in bloglovin readers. Now I know to some that's not a huge amount. But I am constantly gratified and excited, nay, chuffed to bits; that people would find my ramblings of interest. In 2013 this blog will continue to be an important aspect of my life. I love blogging and I love connecting with you guys (although I need to be better at replying to comments I do read and appreciate every one and am always excited when a blog comment pops into my inbox! So thankyou one and all for general loveliness and supportiveness!)

Textiles Degree...
You may remember my plan to finally apply for this long forgotten dream of a degree course? Well, I haven't anything resembling a portfolio and haven't even gotten round to downloading the application. (I did take a six week art class to improve my skills in that area, but alas have done no art at all since!) So this element of my plans has been an epic fail! I must confess it is purely down to the opportunities that have sprung from this blog, completely turning my head and distracting me from my goal. However, I have always been an opportunist; and when opportunity comes knocking, I tend to open the door. So I've given myself permission to put this particular goal on hold until I see how the whole TV (and a couple of other projects) pan out. I'm a great believer that sometimes we can be so focussed ahead on one specific goal, that we can miss out on opportunities waving at us from the peripheries...

Wedding Plans...
Those too are on hold. With Jason being made redundant we are struggling to make ends meet at the moment. Let alone plan a wedding! But I have a good feeling about this year my friends. Something tells me that we won't be in the situation for long...

Sewing Plans...
Loads.  I always have loads. It's just sticking to them that I have trouble with! That is what I really need to work on this year. Already in my queue (bearing in mind today is only the second day of the year) are 2 dressing gowns, a coat, a jersey tunic, 2 refashions, another bodice block, a skirt and a bag. Will this stop me from adding to my list further each time I find something I love online? Nope; probably not!

So that is where the start of 2013 finds me.  You'll find no list of resolutions from me. (I'd never stick to them anyway!) I've never been much of a planner. Preferring instead to remain open to things as and when they arise. I've got a real sense of anticipation about this year though. Something in my waters I guess you could say.  But for now, I can only guess at what I'll be writing this time next year, and look forward to enjoying the ride (bumps 'n all) along the way!

Happy New Year and bring it on 2013!