Sunday, 30 October 2011

What is it about Owls?

The world currently seems to under siege by them! What is it that's made the marketing gurus suddenly decide that everyone needs an owl in their life? Of course, I love them......... But........yesterday in town, I was amazed that every single shop I went into was selling an owl of some shape, size or form. Clothing, blankets, mugs, bags, purses - you name it, it will have been owl-ized!

My daughter fell in love with some stuffed owls, which were pretty but cheap-labour produced in Thailand and being sold at an extortionate price. (as were most things)

So.......... Guess what I was up to last night?

It's a no-brainer really!

A little bit wonky, but not bad for a first owly attempt. I cut a leg off a pair of old jeans for the body, and attacked the scrap bag for the rest. I didn't cut or pin anything, simply laid scraps on top - marked sewing line with air erasable marker and then machined around with a tiny zig zag stitch.... cutting away the excess with appliqué scissors. His eyes make him look a bit zombified, but needs must..... they were the only two large buttons I could find the same!

To allow him to stand up, I put a couple of tucks on the bottom edge, then gathered it all in tightly after stuffing. I finished the bottom with an oval of felt hand sewn into place. My version may be naive, but Sophie was delighted. She was so wrapped up in X Factor last night, she didn't realise I was making it. I even had a little go at machine embroidery on the back:

It looks as though it's been written left-handed, but it is at least readable!

I think I may have caught the owly bug! There's at least 1 or 2 more to issue forth yet..... Owl be seeing you again soon.

Silent Sunday

Friday, 28 October 2011

My "Sophie" Bag - in Winter guise

Hoorah!  I've finished something this week........... honestly I'm so slow at making things.  Actually that's come out sounding wrong.  I'm not so slow at the making, rather than being pathetic at sitting down to concentrate to start with.  Once in my sewing chair, I can whizz through an item in no time.
So many diversions.  Twitter - you have a lot to answer for!

Here we are anyway...... let me introduce my ever-popular "Sophie" bag in her new Winter guise.  This version is in a beautifully soft 100% wool plaid in a bright zingy cerise/forest green/deep grey combo.  I fell in love with the fabric as soon as I saw it.  Didn't love the price quite so much - by golly, but wool is expensive!  Couldn't resist it though, I'm a sucker for cerise, and the funky plaid was calling my name.  Didn't realise until I started flicking through some magazines that plaid seems to be "in" this season - I'm not a follower of fashion at all.  (more a follower of anything I can fit into).

I've lined the bag with cerise corduroy, and there's a big room pocket inside.  I've gone across the edge of the tuck line with a feature ribbed ribbon all the way around for a touch of brightness, and used the same in the centre of the fob.  The bag is interlined with 4 layers of fleece.  This gives the bag a lovely puffy appearance, whilst being lightweight and ensuring it keeps it's form well.  In the photo there is nothing in the bag, and yet it still hangs beautifully.

The handles are strong and sturdy, and very comfortable to hold.  The length is just right to wear over a shoulder, or drape across a bent arm.  It's also not too long that I can't walk along without worrying about it trailing on the ground.

I love making this bag.  I've made so many since my original design, that I can now cut one out without referring to anything.  As with all my Cajame Originals, I never make the same colourway twice.  I'm keeping this one as it is so me!  I've added a gathered flower rosette with a corduroy covered button as the centre (as I've only just discovered that I really enjoy making them).  With the last little scrap remaining from my half metre of precious wool I managed to squeeze in a little tie to dangle from the fob.

And at some point, I WILL get the pattern down in PDF form for download!

I will always be pleased to make up this bag as a custom order - in any colourway whatsoever.  It works equally well in quilting cottons, upholstery fabrics, or in this case suit-grade dressmaking fabric.  I simply adjust the weight of the interlining to suit, and ensure the bag has sufficient substance to hang properly.

Did you notice the mitts I'm wearing?


Shame on you, it's only taken me two years to finish them! (admittedly I found them in the bottom of my work-basket half-finished - which is very much the story of my life).  Let's take a closer peek;
These cosy lilac wrist-warmers are the result of an argument between my husband, a cashmere jumper and the washing machine.  No guesses as to who won!  The jumper that emerged would have fitted a four year old.  However, all was not lost!  I used the body to make a peg bag, and cut off the sleeves to make these therefore wasting nothing at all.  I simply turned the top of the sleeve over to make an asymmetric cuff.  Next I cut a small slit next to the seam line to make thumb holes - and then went all the way around the edges in blanket stitch using a double thickness of a pretty variegated wool sock yarn.  Ever one to fiddle about with things, I added some little wool knots, and tied on a selection of vintage buttons in random places.  I'm yet to decide what to do with these.  Do I keep them or put them in my Folksy shop?  Would anyone want them I wonder?...... I know they're a bit quirky.

I think I'll finish today's post by including a couple of recent photos. 
 I absolutely love this coat (I'm a huge fan of all things Goth), but it's the sort of thing that looks jolly peculiar in Cornwall.  I hardly ever have the opportunity to wear it, but grabbed the chance to don it when we went to see Vampire Rocks in Truro last week.  What a fab show it was..... do go along if you see it at a theatre near you.  If you love rock music, you'll love the show.
And here I am with my precious little Phoebe.  Shame she moved.... but it was the only pic half decent of me.

So there we are for today.  My latest make, and the latest me.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

My Memories - Digital Scrapbooking is very useful!

Some time ago I was approached by My Memories and asked if I would review their software on my blog.  At the time I was rather baffled, as although I'm a big photography fan I've never felt the need to do digital scrap booking of any kind.  Still...... the software came free, and I've never been one to turn down the offer of a freebie - so I said "Thank you very much".

I forgot all about it for quite a while, until I realised my blog was looking incredibly dull and I was in need of a decent header.  After fiddling about pathetically in Photoshop and Paint for ages to no avail, I suddenly spied the My Memories shortcut on my desktop and clicked on it.  I'm so glad I did.  Without it I would have had to resort to paying someone to make me one!  Sometimes I get so annoyed with myself......... (I'm artistic and have plenty of ideas, but transferring these through the medium of a computer mouse is frankly pathetic).  Now armed with a good basic supply of digital images, I was soon messing about happily.  The header that now adorns my blog was made totally using the software.
 Of course, as my blog is mostly sewing based, I required some sewing themed embellishments.  I purchased two digital "packs" in order to obtain the items I needed.  This cost me approximately £5, and once purchased, the packs were available to download immediately to my computer.

The software is easy to use.  Every time you create something, you open an "album" in which you have a choice of three templates -  a portrait, landscape or square page.  Simply give the album a name and you are ready to create the same as you would in a Word document.  There are a multitude of "papers" to choose from.  Adding text and embellishments is very simple.  Once added, an item can be manipulated with ease until it looks exactly the way you want it to.  Of course, as this software is designed for scrap-booking it is possible to add your own photographs.

Whilst I am never likely to use the software for what it's intended, it's already proved an invaluable creative tool...... for both my blog, and in other printing applications.  I've used the software to create brochures and to print fabric sheets, and I know it's a programme I will return to again and again in the future.
Wherever your interests lie, you are bound to find digital elements to suit.  A quick search of the My Memories site, and you will discover thousands of themes available for sale.  As well as the pages to purchase, there are also a wealth of free items to download.  So far, I haven't found the need to purchase any more "kits" - as I have of course made full use of all the free ones on offer!
 As well as a sewing themed header, I've also created one for my "writing" blog.  (Shame I've yet to write anything to put in it - but I'll get there eventually!)
 Once you have purchased the software, any further kits you purchase are added to the library for future use.  The only drawback I have found so far, is that all the elements are stored under the "kit" title - so it does take a little searching through to find exactly what you are looking for.  Other than that, I can't find any fault with the programme, and am more than happy to recommend it to others.

I received a tweet this morning from autumnmiss2011 asking how I made my blog header.  Thank you Gill for asking; you reminded me that I hadn't blogged about the software yet! Slapped wrist.  After a quick mess-about, I've produced a possible header for Gill, including an uploaded photograph as an example of what can be achieved in a short time:
I'm sure you'll agree that it looks quite professional.  I had to keep the background white, as the photo of the chickens was on a white background.  I could have used a "kit" with chickens in - but that meant buying it.  Of course not!  To create this header I've used a combination of several "kits", including a few elements from the one that I purchased.  Creating something like this is enjoyable and straightforward, as it is quite easy to grasp the techniques required.  If you do find yourself stuck with something, there are good tutorials on the site, together with an array of examples of what may be achieved.

Welcome to the Family! from Lisa Jurrens on Vimeo.

Of course, I haven't ended up with a scrapbook page as intended.  Instead, once happy with what I've created.......... it's a simple process of saving the page as a j.peg image and storing in my picture files.  Then a quick whizz into Paint to crop and re size to the required size and the creation is ready to use.

Together with all the elements that make up any kit, there are also ready made pages for instant use.  Many of these are quite lovely and are absolutely perfect for last minute gifts.

The purchase price of the My Memories Digital Scrapbooking Suite direct from their website is just under 40 dollars.  Now, without knowing about the programme - I would never have considered purchasing it.  However - knowing how helpful it is to me after trying it out, I would say it has been a good investment.

I can think of so many instances when I will use this software.  Absolutely perfect for blog art, fabric printing, cards, gift tags - oh let's face it - just about any collage of pictures and art that you want to print.  You know what - I bet it would also be jolly lovely used as it was intended in the first place - be great for photo albums! :)

Great offer!  If after reading this post you are interested in purchasing the programme, copy and paste this promotional code for a great discount -  

(Please note - This unique code ONLY valid for My Memories Suite v)
To enter site - CLICK HERE 

By using the code you will receive a discount of 10 dollars off the purchase price.  In addition, once you've purchased, you receive a further $10 dollars to spend in the online store (this should be ample to purchase 2 kits, and give you plenty of designing material to work with).  So for (at today's exchange rate) just under £19 you will be all ready to create your own digital loveliness with ease.

Downloading the software is simple and straightforward as with anything else direct from the net.  Initially I had a few problems as the programme is US based, and it didn't like my UK address.  A quick email to the company revealed a glitch in their programming which they were aware of, and may well have been rectified by now.  I overcame it by changing the address to the My Memories company address at their suggestion - and voila - it worked perfectly.

The vintage magic of The Graphics Fairy

I've just realised that I've never let you know about the fabulous blog that is "The Graphics Fairy"
"The Graphics Fairy" .
I was so delighted when I discovered this cornucopia of vintage loveliness.  It's far too lovely to keep to myself.  The blog is run by Karen, and has amassed a huge following (and no wonder).  If you're anything like me and fond of all things vintage, you'll fall instantly in love and add it to your list of blogs to follow straight away.

Get ready to lose yourself in all the free to use clip art.  Be warned, you may be in there some time - there's so much to choose from!  I'm including a few snippets below to show you the sort of thing to expect......
 Isn't she adorable?  And where is she when I need her?
 Such a cheeky little miss! (I'm sure she's thinking something naughty!)
 Time to do some printing?
 I love, Love, LOVE Mason Jars
 Flower Fairy loveliness
 Historical and very toile-de-jouy (if that's spelt right it's a miracle!)
 Simply adorable
 Beautiful and serene
This one reminds me of my little madam

All the scraps featured on the site are vintage, and as such are royalty free.  This means they are available to download and use freely for whatever you like.  For me, it's a great source for my little fabric printing experiments.  I adore vintage..... something about the style, the colour of the printing, old photographs - I don't know what it is, but it always makes me feel good.

Do click on the link and pop over and have a shufty - it's really quite lovely!

Here it is again, to save scrolling to the top - CLICK HERE

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Hooked on Crochet

a simple heart pattern - two make a lovely little gift bag.  I made this one for an online swap
 There's something about crochet that I absolutely adore.  For me it beats knitting hands-down.  I can do both, but I'd much rather be following a crochet pattern.  I suppose the first thing that comes to mind when you mention crochet is a granny-square blanket - surely everyone can remember there being one in the family at some time or other.  The perfect "use-up-your-yarn" project, that can be made with hardly any concentration whilst sitting watching the television.  Oh - but crochet can be so much more!

You can achieve so much with just the basic stitches, and it's really easy to pick up.  Once you have grasped single, double and treble crochet - you have all the stitches you need to make a wide variety of items.
A basic blanket (I made for the dog basket) - so simple to do
If you've always wanted to try crochet, but been baffled by any books you've looked at - I suggest the best way is to sit beside someone and follow what they're doing.  If you don't know anyone who crochets, then take a look at YouTube as there are lots of "how to" videos to learn from.  Here's one I've found -
Once you've made a basic granny square, and got the tension right - you can attempt just about anything!

For those of us in the UK, one of the trickiest things to remember is that US patterns are different.  Although the stitches are exactly the same, we call them different things.  A double crochet in the UK, or vice-versa! (I can never remember) It often catches me out.  As many of the lovely crochet books available in the UK today are written by US authors, it always pays to check before starting.
a simple wool yarn bowl (before felting on a hot wash in the machine)
There are so many patterns to choose from - hats, mittens, garments, scarves, shawls, soft toys, makes for the home.......  endless possibilities!   Good places to look online are on Ravelry (a wealth of patterns on this marvelous site for yarn fans with many free or at minimal cost to download - you may need to join, but it's free and rather fantastic).  After you've lost yourself in there, another good site is Lion Brand Yarn where all the patterns are free.
Okay.... so I look like Frank Spencer is this hat, but it was lovely and warm!  I used three strands of different colour yarn together for this (one was a fancy one with sequins in), and made the pattern up as I went along.  This for me is a big plus for crochet, it is surprisingly easy to make your own pattern as you go along.
 This cap was made from a pattern (looks complicated but was quite simple to grasp).  Again for this I used 3 strands together, this time from the same variegated wool yarn.  Once finished I had a ball of the yarn left over, so decided to make myself some mittens.  I made up the pattern as I went along, and by some miracle managed to make two the same!  I wish I'd written it down though, as I can't remember what I did.
I think my most successful pattern was for an online challenge that I took part in on Ravelry.  I had an idea in my head of a 3D basket of flowers.  Again, I made up the pattern as I went along.  For the flower basket, I crocheted in coarse string..... absolute hell on the fingers, but nonetheless very basket-like.  After padding it out a little with toy filling, I filled the basket with violets and leaves in soft cotton yarn.
Recently thanks to Pinterest I've rekindled my crochet fire a little.  My fingers are now itching to start hooking again.  I've still got bags of yarn lurking somewhere.  Before I finish, let me share with you a few of the best makes I've found.......
This gorgeous cowl is from an Annie's Attic pattern book.  I've followed one of her patterns before and it was a delightful make.  I definitely feel one of these coming on before winter is out.
These dinky little Mary Janes have to be the cutest crochet pattern for baby shoes I've ever come across.  They're adorable..... would be super quick to do, and the pattern is available as a PDF from Etsy
I'm in love with this scarf - it's so delicate and pretty.  I found it here - by Sophie Digard
I want, want, want one of these!  Would be easy to make, but goodness only knows what size hook you need - or how many strands of yarn together.  May need to take a mortgage out first!  Sadly I can't post a link for this amazing make, as whoever posted it originally to Pinterest didn't include one - grrrrrrr.
What a gorgeous bag.  Isn't it perfect?  Don't be daunted by bobbles, there rather fun to do.  Mind you, there's a lot of work in this bag - and knowing me, I'd snag it on something first trip out!  I shall worship from afar.  From eclectic gypsyland (I think)
This gem of a blanket is simply divine.  I love everything about it.  The pattern and the colours of the yarn are just beautiful.  The pattern for this is simple, and I know I could follow it by looking at the photo.  It's the sewing together of all the little hexies that puts me off!  I loathe that bit.  From MiA Inspiration on Flickr
Finally, a real hum-dinger of a make.  I think it's fantastic.  I do wonder what on earth possessed the maker to choose white yarn as background?  Surely this has been designed to never be sat in?  I would love to have a chair like this in my home, but sadly the cat would make it her life's work to destroy it as soon as possible.  It is a dream of a crochet make - beautiful to look at, and shabby-chic perfection.  From a foreign blog post which I can't begin to decipher.... good luck!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Dreaming of Woo

A darling jumbo button created especially for @Jeeberella from Twitter - after reading a tweety plea for something owly.

I had one jumbo button left from my trip to New England last year, and I'm rather pleased with the result.  A pretty candy colour print for the button, the embroidery is done using Perle 12 thread on a piece of calico. 

Monday, 10 October 2011

Phoebe's "Colla-flower"

This morning I have been mostly messing about with some scraps of fabric, and I've made another cute little flower to attach to Phoebe's collar -

Simple to make and all sewn by hand - I've used a scrap of fabric taken from a little girl's summer dress for the petals (car boot 50p find).  The centre of the flower is a self-cover button in the same fabric.  The flower is backed with a circle of wool felt stitched securely, and then a little piece of velcro has been added so that it will wrap around Phoebe's collar and hold firmly in place.

It looks really pretty, and I only wish my "model" would stay still and pose for a photo.  No hope! 

I have managed to catch her sleeping though.  It's such a simple way to give a boring (pink - of course!) collar a bit of bling!

Not that Phoebe gives a hoot about her flower, but she certainly has no idea it's there and it doesn't bother her in the slightest.  When we were out yesterday she was wearing one on her collar, and several people stopped me and asked me where I got it from.

Somehow I can see me making more of these!  Expect to see "Colla-flowers" in my folksy Cajame shop soon - an essential accessory for the WAGgy tail about town!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Christmas Crafting In No Time - A book review for Popular Crafts Magazine

This week I was delighted to receive a book to review for the Popular Crafts Magazine. 

With the lovely weather we've been having, it seemed totally surreal to be sunbathing whilst reading a book on Christmas crafts from cover to cover.  Whilst the review will be in the December issue of the magazine, I'm told I can share it with you in advance.  This way, I get to show you some lovely photo's of the makes too!

After reading this post, why not pop over to the Popular Crafts website.  It's a great site, with lots of features, a crafting forum and a book club.  It's free to join, plus, if you join the book club where this and many other books are reviewed each month - you get the opportunity to purchase at a specially discounted rate.  Got to be worth a couple of minutes tapping away!

Christmas Crafting In No Time
by Clare Youngs
(Cico Books) 

50 step-by-step projects and inspirational ideas.

If you would like to enjoy a home-made Christmas this year, then this could be a handy book to add to your collection.

Christmas Crafting In No Time is a delightful and eclectic mix of paper-craft, cookery, sewing, and other crafts based on designs from around the world.  In amidst the old-fashioned charm, there is a heavy hint of Scandinavian style evident, as well as Russian dolls and Mexican horses!  Though a Christmas book, many of the makes are suitable for throughout the year, as they are not things we would normally associate with the festive season.
Folksy heart - made from air-dry clay
A charming advent calendar to sew
The book is a pleasure to read.  Well laid out, with lots of glorious photography and well-written instructions for each of the 50 projects.  All the projects are fairly simple, (a few almost astonishingly so) and require a minimum of materials to complete.  The paper-crafts include an angel for the tree, Scandinavian horses, a curled heart for the window, and garlands.  Many of these only need plain white paper and though very simple, look very elegant.  There are tree decorations to make; these include papier-mâché baubles,  with hanging fish and owls to sew.  You may like to bake the snowflake cookies to hang on the branches.
A selection of little owls to hang
Not sure what these mice have to do with Christmas - but aren't they lovely?
For sewing fans, there are several ideas to choose from.  Amongst others; a folksy advent calendar, girl and boy mice dolls, and possibly my favourite make - a pretty naive snowflake design to embroider onto a throw.  I also find myself utterly charmed by the embossed clay hearts made from air-dry clay, and the Jin Candle Holders.  These are primitive style horses made from embossed tin, and they look delightful.  One recipe that transported me straight back to childhood, and probably the reason for my fillings - Sugar Mice!  I have to make some of those - made me smile as soon as I saw the photo.
I really love these tin horses - can be made using thick foil roasting tins
Extremely simple - but nonetheless adorable wrapping suggestions
To sum up, I would say that this book will appeal to those who want a quick, easy crafting fix, and enjoy the naive, folksy, Scandinavian style.  There are makes for the tree, for the home, and for gifts - and not just for Christmas!  Whilst seasoned crafters will probably find the projects too basic on the whole, the book does follow through with it's title - In No Time, and they may possibly discover a new idea or two.  Personally, I think Christmas Crafting In No Time is a great purchase for a family with craft loving children of any age, as I would estimate about half the projects would be perfectly at home in a children's book.   As a mum of 3, I know that my children could have handled most things with the minimum of help - and (always very handy) if it went wrong, I would have been able to salvage it!

I can so remember the excitement of buying a sugar mouse as a child!

One of the simple festive recipes

My favourite - I'm loving this snowflake throw

I do hope you find this review useful.  Don't you think these projects are simply charming?  As I mentioned before, why not pop over to the Popular Crafts website and become a member.  It's quick and free to join, and if you sign up to the book club, you can benefit from the following offer:-

Christmas Crafting in No Time by Clare Youngs is published by CICO Books at £14.99, pb, and available from all good bookshops or call 01256-302699 quoting GLR6DJ to purchase a copy at the special price of £12.99 including free p&p*.  Visit

*This offer is for members of the Popular Crafts magazine Book Club only.