Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Quick and Easy Drawstring Bag

My little girl has been asking for a new bag for her P.E. kit at school so it gave me a good excuse for a trip to the amazing Leons fabrics in Chorlton for some fabric and as it is a cold and rainy Tuesday afternoon, and I have a sleeping boy upstairs I decided to give it a go.

I didn't look for any patterns or advice - I had an idea in my head and it all worked out quite well. I had bought enough fabric to be able to fold it over to make the bottom seam so only needed to cut out two identical pieces, wide enough for the finished width plus two lots of seam allowances each side; and long enough to fold in half and still be the finished length, plus two seam allowances at the top.

I started by sewing a seam along the short ends of both pieces of fabrics to keep them neat (they have another fold later on to make the tube for the cord).

Then with right sides together I stitched down the long sides of the two pieces, leaving about 1 1/2 inches gap at each of the ends. Once sewn together I could turn then the right way out to leave a long tube.

At this point I ironed the seams to make them lie flat on the right side.

Next I folded the whole thing in half and sewed up the two long sides again to make the bag, again leaving the gap at the top. I turned it the right way out again and the basic bag shape was finished.

The next stage was to add the cord. I had bought 2 meters of piping cord. I lay this over the open ends and folded them over the cord, pining them down to keep in place then I stitched along the seam to hold it together, making sure there was enough room for the cord to move easily inside its tube.

And that was the basic bag finished - really quick and easy.

I decided to go another step and cut some letters out of felt which I then free machine embroidered on to the front of the bag to add her name (I was quite glad we gave her a short name!!)

All finished - the whole thing made, finished and blogged about, and there is still time for a cup of tea before the school run...


Sunday, 9 March 2014

Meet the Menagerie: Hillarys Blinds Country Craft Competition

A few weeks ago I saw the details of the Hillarys Blinds Country Craft Competition to use a piece of fabric to create something, then blog about it and enter into a competition.

Calluna Amethyst
The fabrics were lovely. In the end I chose one with a smaller pattern repeat. Some areas are dense in colour and others are much paler. Many of my items are fairly small so I wanted to make the most of the variation in pattern.

I started by adapting my map print owl and made two - from the two different sections of pattern. They are made from my own hand-drawn pattern. Having cut the pieces I hand stitched a circle of felt with a zig zag stitch and attached a button to make the eyes, with a small piece of felt for a beak. Next I machine stitched them with right sides together, adding in a hanging loop from cream ribbon. Then I turned them right side out, stuffed and used a ladder stitch to close up the hole.

My second make was a version of my linen chicken. This uses 3 pieces of fabric - two sides and a joining piece underneath. The first stage is to pin the base to one of the sides and stitch, then repeat with the other side. Then I sew around the rest of the chicken, leaving a opening to turn it.

I usually sew the eyes on the side pieces before sewing but this time I decided to do it afterwards as the buttons I used were quite large and the opening would therefore have to be large. This time I turned the chicken right side out, and then added the buttons for eyes before stuffing and using a ladder stitch to close the opening.
And finally...
I decided to finish my little menagerie with a new creation - a little mouse. It is a really simple pattern - two side pieces, almost semi-circular but with a taper at one end, and a base piece.
As with the other creatures I machine stitched the pieces right sides together leaving an opening to turn. After turning I attached the tail - this was made from a piece of velveteen tubing with some floristry wire inside so I could shape it. After stuffing and attaching the tail I used some black embroidery floss to add in a nose, eyes and whiskers. The ears were made from two layers - one of the fabric and a larger piece of pink felt which were then stitched onto the outside.
And that was it!!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Market stall experiences

I attended my first handmade market of the year at the weekend, at the fantastic Stalybridge Handmade Market. Its always a lovely event full of really talented sellers and lots of friendly and happy customers, all situated in a lovely building, so its a great way to spend a Saturday.

My first craft event was last May, and since then I have sold at a few different events, both regular markets and one off events, indoors and outdoors. The first event took me weeks of hard work to prepare for and plan.

Since then my stall has developed and so has my understanding of what makes a successful day.

 So what have I learnt?

  • Choose the right events - the best events are the busy ones, not just in terms of selling but because a busy day means lots of nice people to chat to about your work, plenty of feedback from customers and the time flies by. Finding events that are situated in the right location and are well promoted can be difficult, but learning which ones are not right for you is a good start. Some events provide the equipment (tables, gazebos etc), others don't so deciding whether to invest in your own kit might be important.

  • Start making well in advance, trying to decide how much stock to take is difficult. I have lots of different products and I find that every time I do a market a different product become popular. You never want to sell out of things you could have sold more of, but spending time and money making things that don't sell, and having to carry all your stock around can be hard work so it is about finding a balance. Making things gradually helps you build up a stock over time so isn't all a last minute rush.

  • Be prepared. Every time I do a stall I take a box of things that may come in handy - blu tack, sellotape, pins, needle and thread, baby wipes, scissors, notepad etc - it is amazing how many times I have had to raid the box either for myself or to help out a fellow stallholder.

  • Practice your set up. About a week before each event I measure out the table size I have booked on my own dining table and then plan a basic layout for the stall which I photograph on my phone so I have it with me on the day. I have built up a collection of stands and boxes over time so I usually have something to display my items on, but as I like to continually change my stock I still need to check I can display it all together. The last few stalls I ran last year were focused on Christmas and much of the space was taken up with a display of hanging decorations. This time I had some new larger dolls who needed a place to sit, so putting it all out and planning in advance helps make sure you have what you need on the day. You need to be flexible though - if your stall is close to someone else then you may not have the space you thought, if it is on a corner then people may be viewing it from two possible angles - be prepared to make the best of the space you are given on the day.

  • Take snacks! No matter how much you enjoy these events you will still feel tired and hungry after a while so even if it is an event that sells lovely food make sure you have something with you to get through the day - you may be too busy or too far away from food stalls to leave your pitch and there is nothing worse than feeling hungry and thirsty all day.

  • Pack it well. Most places I have sold at involve some amout of trekking back and forth to your car which is no doubt parked well away from the venue, so being able to carry things easily will help save time and energy. When you pack to go to the venue make sure the things you need first (gazebo, table, cloths, shelves etc) are packed at the top, then you can unload stock more easily.
There are plenty of people who give good advice about setting up for a craft fair - @agirlcalledboz wrote this lovely piece lately with some great advice, and @craftbloguk has loads of advice on everything, including craft fairs. For inspiration about how to set up your own display have a look at pinterest - I have started collecting some ideas on my own craft fairs board but there is loads more still out there.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Wet Felting Technique - our kitchen sink experiments

I have been making some felt balls using a simple wet felting technique recently and have had some help from my daughter who is 5.

Take a small section of wool roving - it needs to be quite loose with soft edges. Obviously it depends on the size you want the final item to be but a piece about as large as my hand was enough to make the final balls that were approx. 1cm in diameter.

Start with 2 bowls - one with hot water (as hot as possible for your hands to go in) and the other as cold as possible. Put some soap on your hands and roll the roving into a rough ball shape to start (keep it gentle to begin with).

From there it is about dipping it in the hot and cold water bowls alternately, rolling the ball round in the palms of your hand in between - the longer you roll the firmer the ball gets and the harder you can apply pressure to it. At first it will be very squishy and hard to keep in a ball shape, be patient it will suddenly begin to firm up. Dipping it in the different temperature waters it will help the felting process, it will also help to get rid of the soap as you progress.

Keep rolling until the ball feels really firm. You will need to leave it for several hours to fully dry out. Here are my finished examples - with the larger one I started with the same size piece of roving and just added layers as the ball became firm so that it should be solid all the way through.

My daughter loved joining in on this activity - a great idea for a rainy day craft. I was very impressed with her finished leaf and flower - I tried to recreate this myself but couldn't make anything that was as impressive!!

There are lots of tutorials for making felt balls. I came across this one recently which seems a fairly unique way to create felt from Meg@Megacrafty at http://www.megacrafty.com/2011/09/tip-easy-way-to-make-felted-balls.html. It sounded too good to be true but having tried it out it definitely works!!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

My new favourite pick n mix...

Its a new year, and 14 days in already....

For many this is the time of year that they focus on the diet - cutting out all those christmas treats and indulgences so I realised it was a good thing that my personal favourite pick n mix selection is not the usual cinema-queue sugar rush but this - a selection of new beads and buttons

I love choosing individual beads and adding them into the pot, but it is getting them home and looking at them all laid out that I really enjoy.  Now I just need to start making things to use them with. These beaded blanket stitch hearts were the first completed project using some of the tiny beads in my new selection

I dont usually make New Years Resolutions personally but I have decided to make one for PepperPot - to restart blogging and make it a regular activity. I guess it will be really obvious if I stick to this one or not!