Winter crochet projects

Brr, I don’t know about you but it’s FREEZING here in the Marches at the moment!  This morning the water in the top of my rain barrel was frozen solid, and it didn’t thaw out all day.  Times like these, the best place to be is snuggled on the sofa with some cosy winter crochet projects.  And since it is properly cold now, my creative thoughts seem to be rather pre-occupied with making things to keep me warm!

Remember about a year ago, when I started an Attic 24 Cosy Stripe blanket project for myself?  And then I saw this lovely version with a granny square border and was inspired to do something similar?  Uh-huh…  Well, it took me about 2 months to crochet the blanket, and I am STILL working on the border!  In fact I Lost the Will with this project over the summer, but recently I’ve picked it up again and have now made what I HOPE is all the granny squares, so maybe it will even be finished and on my bed before the year is out, who knows…?!somanysquaresNow, another past project with which I Lost The Will was my first attempt at crocheted clothing – the granny square ENORMO-CARDIE, way back in Feb 2014.  It’s taken me quite a while to get over that particular disaster, but I thought I’d have another go, this time at a nice simple jumper.  And it’s coming along rather well, as you can see!  Watch this space for a WhooHoo any day now!purplealpaca1

Right, that’s it – the sofa is beckoning…

Wishing you all a very warm & cosy week 🙂

Adventures in Appliqué: Sue Spargo online class

booksI’ve become more than a little obsessed with Folk Art quilts this year!  Wendy Williams, Kim McLean and Sue Spargo are among my favourite quilt artists (see my Pinterest board for more) – I love their quirky, colourful designs and the way they combine different techniques, using combinations of patchwork, appliqué, embroidery, embellishment and quilting.  A few months back I treated myself to books by Sue and Wendy, with the intention of Having a Go.  However, as mentioned in previous Adventures, my first foray into the world of hand-sewn appliqué was less than brilliant!

Whilst browsing the recent Craftsy course sale however, I discovered there’s one with Sue Spargo herself!  It’s all about hand stitching, using embroidery techniques to embellish and add texture to appliqué work.  I’ve never done one of these online courses before, but this one is very well put together and presented in well-shot, quality videos (no they’re not paying me, I really did think it was good!).  I’ll admit to having to pause and repeat LOTS of times for certain things, and I certainly needed plenty of practice, but the instructions were very clear and you could see exactly what was what.  https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/18/50/35/1850356b455a62a01bd51d3f85a38737.jpg

Unlike some of the other Craftsy courses this one focuses on just one main project, a ‘sampler’ appliqué panel using Sue’s butterfly design.  Having gathered myself some lovely threads and fabrics (I even had a go at making some of my own felt – see bottom left of the pic below), I launched straight into a smaller version of the butterflies!materialsFirst mistake: I didn’t zig-zag around the edge of my wool base fabric and it soon began to fray horribly!  As you can see from this bit of butterfly detail, there wasn’t much edge left by the time I got it under control… you’d have thought I’d learned my lesson last time, huh??wholeyellowbeforemiddleSue’s layering technique begins with a wool fabric background to which toning fabrics are added for texture; she then hand stitches wool felt appliqué shapes in contrasting colours on top.  Further layers of fabrics, wool, embroidery, beads, etc are added onto the appliqué to give further dimension and texture.  So this butterfly wing, for example, has a layer of (non-wool) felt in purple, a hand-turned greeny-yellow cotton on top of that, then circle of purple velvet on top of that; then I’ve used embroidery silks, perle cotton, and a sparkly purple heavy acrylic thread to do the various bits of embroidery.  It was so brilliant, watching these little butterflies build up from plain shapes, taking on more and more character as I added the different elements!  Here’s  more of Mr PurplepurplelowerwingdetailwholepurplefinishedThis pink & orange beauty was my first butterfly, and as you can see my stitches got neater as I went around the outside edge from right to left,wholepinkfinishedand also as I worked my way up through the layers!  By the time I came to do the last little details on the inner circle of this wing (a Palestrina knot edging and some Drizzle stitches) I felt like I was starting getting the hang of things!pinkwingdetailAnd here’s the rest of Miss YellowI’m particularly chuffed with the emboridery on the centre body of this one!wholeyellowfinishedIt was a such a gorgeous project to work on, and I loved playing around with all the different fabrics, beads, and threads.  I’ll admit that some of the stitches on the course I really couldn’t get the hang of, and a couple didn’t interest me that much so I didn’t bother with them.  I also made myself a little ‘stitch reference’ guide to keep on my laptop – I did find it a bit of a pain having to go back to the video every time I needed to remind myself of any tiny thing.  A couple of other people had commented about this too, so maybe Craftsy will include a stitch guide in future. stitchindex I made mine into a mini-sampler, and it was a handy piece to use as practice for quilting through the wool fabric. flowercardquilted To be honest, I didn’t think it added much to it and the fabric didn’t hold up that well.  In fact I was umming and aahing about whether to quilt the finished butterfiles at all….

You see, by this time I had spent many, many MANY hours on this little sampler, and it had turned out so much lovelier than I had ever expected …finishedunquilted…that I wished I had used a better quality fabric for the background, plus I was a bit scared that it would fall apart completely if I machine quilted it!  But as it stood I thought the background looked a bit tatty.  So after much pondering, I decided I would HAND QUILT it.  Yes, my Hand Stitching Confidence really has improved thanks to this course!  I also found this video tutorial by Sarah Fielke very helpful.  quiltingdetail1wholepiecequilted Much better!  I really think the quilting has ‘lifted’ the whole thing.  So all that was left now, was to add a binding.  And before you say anything, yes, I could do with a whole other course on that!  But here it is, anyway, the result of several weeks’ worth of stitching…finito2WHOO-HOO!!  I LOVE it!  It’s so colourful and sparkly and tactile!  And apart from the Emergency Unravelling Prevention zig-zag round the edges, EVERY bit was sewn by hand!  So I have definitely achieved my aim, of improving my hand-sewing skills.  Yay!  Plus I have a VERY groovy thing to hang in my living room!

So there we are, that concludes my recent Adventures in Appliqué – thanks for coming along!  Now the nights have gotten all long and dark and cold, it’s back in front of the DVDs with some crochet in the evenings for me…

Wishing you all a funky folk-art kinda week 🙂

 

Adventures in Appliqué: Phoenix Rising

finishedphoenixHello Lovely Blogosphere folk!  Oh, I have been trying to write some posts to share with you for weeks, but ever since the Kington Show last month I’ve been in a bit of a ‘creative slump’ it seems.  I spent so much time and effort crocheting and making things for the stall in the run-up to the show that I’ve felt like I needed a bit of a break – or a change at least.  The thing I most enjoyed making for the show was our Phoenix Crafts appliqué banner, and if you follow me on Pinterest you’ll probably have noticed I’ve become a bit obsessed with appliqué lately!

I’d had the idea for Mr Phoenix in my head for quite a while, and had been gathering fabrics and threads from far and wide (the main two came from this lovely shop in Devizes way back during my hols in July!).  As with the Psychedelephant Quilt I was using quilting cottons, so I ironed fusible interfacing to the back of them to prevent fraying.  At least, that was the theory…  Once I’d drawn the basic design I made freezer paper templates for the larger pieces, then cut & pinned these into place.designingI then began hand-stitching the ‘flame-feathers’ into place using fine embroidery threads and small running stitches.  My intention was to make a raw-edge appliqué that I would then machine to the background.  Once the main feathers were on, I cut a lot of the smaller pieces freehand, fitting them against my template.  As you can see, I played around with a few different fabrics for the feathers but in the end I went with red and purple, adding some gauzy gold over this to give it some extra sparkle.piecingThe raw-edge technique worked fairly well for this part of the process, but when I came to do the gold details on the head and crest, the pieces of gauze were so tiny they began to disintegrate!  I ended up using tiny whip-stitches instead and it took forever!  I realised at this point that if I want to do more of this stuff, a serious brushing up on my hand-sewing and embroidery skills is needed… (more on that in a minute)!readytomachineBut at last, the hand-stitching was done and I pinned Mr Phoenix into place on my background fabric, a lovely pale orange cotton given to me by my mum, with a backing tissue underneath.  I had a play with some different stitches on the machine and decided that a tiny satin stitch would prevent the fabric from fraying but still enable me to maneouvre around all those detailed edges without obscuring them.  I hit problems straight away as everything started moving around too much, so I had to ditch the pins and hand-baste the applique to the background instead.stitchtestingSee how neatly that satin stich goes around the curves along the bottom piece of my stitch tests above? Oh, if ONLY I had known what awaited me…botchedwingcloseupThe first wing section seemed to go OK when I was machining it, but when I took it out, I thought at first my stitches must have failed to catch in the edge of the fabric.  I painstakingly unpicked several sections and did them again.  Only when the same thing happened again did I realise the terrible truth: the edge of the fabric was disintegrating as soon as the needle touched it!!  You can see on both the top and bottom pink/orange sections of the wing where I had to stitch over them twice, making an horrible lumpy mess.  Even then, I had to go back and catch some of it under by hand as it began to come apart before I was through stitching!closeupmachinestitchingThe tail feathers ended up being such a mess that I gave up on using the machine at all.  I cut some more pieces from the gold gauze and stitched them on by hand to hide the worst of it!  After all that effort, I must admit I was disappointed.  I’d used bondaweb on the psychedelephant quilt and had no problems machining around the cotton at all, so I can only conclude that it was either the interfacing I used, or that the batik fabric in particular was just not very good quality.

HOWEVER, I am happy to report that the finished piece really doesn’t look half bad – as long as you don’t look too close!dsc00130The banner made a great focal point for our stall at the Show and I had some nice compliments, too – always a boost!  I have plans to make a patchwork border for it at some point and maybe add a few more bits and pices. dsc00134Making this was definitely a Learning Curve, and I really did enjoy the process – despite that Sinking Feeling when I started machining!  But it’s encouraged me to go off and do an online course to learn some new techniques, which I’m LOVING and will be ready to share with you soon!

Til then, wishing you all a flamin’ good weekend 🙂

Kington Show: Highs and Lows

dsc00139HIGH!  We got our stalls and workshop area all set up in time, everything was labelled, Mr Phoenix was finished (more on him soon), and it all looked gorgeous!

LOW… I nearly didn’t get there at all, because I went to the wrong gate first and the guy wouldn’t let me turn round to get to the right one 100 yards down the road, but sent me on a 4 mile detour down narrow country lanes instead, resulting in me nearly colliding with a landrover, skidding and only just managing to avoid ending up in a ditch…

dsc00137dsc00135HIGH! We had a good spot in the Horticulture Marquee and our stalls looked great; lots of visitors, lots of interest, and we met some lovely people!

LOW… actual sales were on the disappointing side…

dsc00134LOW…Cy: This is a nice demo granny square you’ve made Sar, shame it’s not the pattern I asked you to put on the handout though

Sarah: This IS the pattern I’ve put on the handout

Cy: I’ve never seen this pattern before in my life…meteachingdsc00146HIGH! It didn’t matter!  She learned it over a cup of tea, we had a fantastic bunch of people turn up for both workshops and we soon had them all hooking away!  Herefordshire now has a slew of new crocheters!pincushionsLOW… competition was stiff in the Pincushion category, and my little macaroon (top left) came nowhere…dsc00142secondprizeHIGH! Quilting category entries were pretty scarce this year.  I won second prize!  And £2!! Oh, I LoVE our local show!

And, overall HIGH! because it was such a great day, we met so many nice folk and there was a brilliant atmosphere.  Thank you to Cy for being fabulous, to Boo who invited us to come and do the workshops, to all our lovely workshoppers (we hope you’re happily crocheting away at home!) and to everyone who worked so hard to make it all happen.  dsc00140I am now officially Collapsed in A Heap…

Wishing you all a HIGHs-far-outweighing-the-LOWs kinda week! 🙂

 

Free Crochet Workshops at the Kington Show!

crochetworkshopadHelllooo!  As mentioned a while ago, I have some EXCITING NEWS about an upcoming event.  The event is the annual Kington Show on 10 September, and the news is that Cosmic Crochet has teamed up with TradRad Crafts and we will be launching our new partner venture, Phoenix Crafts, with some FREE beginner’s crochet workshops at the show!

Not only that: we will have a fabulous stall full of lovely yarny and crafty goodies for sale, some of which you can see on display here in my front window (there has to be some advantage to living on a busy street, right??).  The stall will be open all afternoon in the main marquee, and the workshop sessions begin at 1.30pm and 3pm.

We will be making simple granny squares, and there will be lots of yarn, hooks, and handouts available so you don’t need to bring anything but yourself!  Any squares you don’t want to keep will be worked up into blanket squares and donated to the African charity KAS (see this post).

So if you live in the Herefordshire/Powys/Marches area (or feel like visiting), do come along and have a go at some crochet, or just pop by and say hello.  We should be fairly easy to spot, providing I can get this little project finished in time!phoenixinprogressWishing you all a flamin’ good week 🙂

The Festival of Quilts at Birmingham NEC

compass quiltOh. My. WORD.  I’ve just been to Patchwork Heaven!!  And it’s in Birmingham – who knew??

Last weekend me and my lovely craftsy friends took ourselves for a Grand Day Out to the annual Festival of Quilts at the NEC.  The show is organised by The Quilter’s Guild, and it’s the biggest in Europe.  And, people, I can tell you – it was HUGE!!  I mean, just VAST!  We were there pretty much all day and I don’t think we even got round half of it.

Our initial strategy of working forwards from the back of the hall was soon foiled by the Kaffe Fassett Quilt Collection.  As we paused to admire the vintage and modern handiwork on display, who should appear but the man himself!  And THEN, the curator came over to us and said, ‘Kaffe will be giving a guided talk about the quilts in a minute ladies, if you’d like to join us?’.  WOULD WE?!?Kaffe1I must apologise in advance for the quality of photos in this post: not sure if it was me or my ancient, failing camera, but many of them came out very blurry.  BUT – the gorgeousness of the quilts shines through, I think!  This is my fave of Kaffe’s own quilts, with some details of the beautiful machine quilting (though he admitted to us that he doesn’t do much of the actual quilting himself these days!)Kaffe2Kaffequiltdetail1Kaffequiltdetail2Colour-tastic or what?

Next we were drawn to the City & Guilds students’ showcase, and this display really caught my eye.  The giant orange opens up and holds a cook-pot, but it’s quilted into ‘orange segments’ inside as well – wonderful!orangecookbagThe Quilter’s Guild competiton quilts, numbering into the hundreds, formed the main part of the display. There were stunning examples of every technique imaginable, from traditionally pieced blocks and hand-applique to very modern free-form machine quilting.  I  personally love quilts that use a mixture of piecing, applique and hand and machine work.  Here are a few I found particularly inspiring, especially the beautifully worked details:colourpanelscolourpanelsdetailblockquiltblockquiltdetail1blockquiltdetail2AnniversaryQuiltdetail2AnniversaryQuiltdetail1The theme for this year’s Guild Challenge was ‘On the Beach’ and it was great to see all the different interpretations and designs people had come up with, and such a huge variety of quilt styles:165BeachExtravaganza184GoldFootOntheBeach1153PebblesontheBeachNow, let’s talk about COLOUR, shall we??  Here are some eye-poppers for you (the last one is entitled ‘Pretty Hippy’ – it’s my kinda quilt!):83PainttheTownAnyColourMiniquilt259PrettyHippySo of course as with any competition, there has to be a Best in Show.  However, I’m not going to give you the actual quilt that won Best in Show.  Nope.  We decided we’d each choose our own!  So, this one came close second for me.  We all loved the design and the details, especially the really original use of silhouttes as a border.  Sadly after so many quilts, I’ve forgotten the maker/title – sorry!  But here’s me and H. admiring it (sewists note, H. is wearing her fab self-made Washi dress!):Me&HelenBut the hands-down winner for me, was the spectacular Magical Mermaid’s Caslte quilt by Claudia Pfeil.  I absolutely adored this quilt – the design, the colours, the exquisite hand-stitched and painted details.  Apparently she used 30,000 Swarovski crystals in it!  mermaidcastledetailMy pics of this quilt were some of the last taken on the day, and by this time both me and the camera were past our best.  When I uploaded them I was distraught to find all were blurry and out of focus.  But I SO wanted to show it to you, that I emailed Claudia hereself and she very kindly sent me these two lovely photos to share with you – craftsy folk really are the loveliest!  So here it is in its entirety, plus a super sharp detail shot.  My personal Best in Show:Magical Mermaids Castle by Claudia PfeilMagical Mermaids Castle CP detailIt was a very magical day indeed, and there was a lot of picnicking, browsing, fabric shopping, and laughing in there as well!  We saw so much creativity and met such lovely people, and came away with bags of fabric and inspiration.  A HUGE big hug and thanks to my friends A. & H. for making it happen and for sharing it with me.  Can’t wait til next year!Wishing you all a very Magical Mermaidy week! 🙂

Macaroons & Mini-drawstring bags

Well hellooooo!  Wow, these summer months are flying by and I don’t know about you but I seem to have been very BUSY the last few weeks!  Mostly with nice things, like going camping and visiting friends and family, but still, it all goes by so fast.

Crochet is one of my best forms of relaxing and unwinding, so whenever I’m dashing about I like to take my favourite hook and a small bag of scrap yarns with me and make some pleasing little things.  This summer I’ve been loving these gorgeous Macaroon pincusions by Lilla Björn crochet.  Named ‘cos they look like little cakeys, good enough to eat (but no calories)!  They’re made using overlay crochet, which I think gives them an intricate, almost tapestry-like appearance.  However this pattern & tutorial are brilliantly easy to follow – it’s actually much simpler than it looks!  In fact as soon as I’d gotten the hang of it, I adapted it to make a mini-drawstring bag using the same technique.  Yummy or what?!pinkcaramelsSo yummy that I made a bunch on a recent weekend with friends and then gave them all away, so I only have a couple left to show you…!minibagsI’m back home for a few weeks now, apart from a day-trip jolly to the Birmingham Festival of Quilts this weekend (and yes I am FIZZING with anticipation!) with a couple of my lovely craftsy pals.  I’ve got lots of making to do, and some exciting news to share with you about an upcoming  event: more on this VERY SOON….allmacsMeanwhile, wishing you all a delightfully sweet week 🙂

My back yard

backyardafter1I haven’t written much about my garden this year, I know, but it’s still coming along and I’ve gradually been reclaiming it from the weeds and rubbish left behind by previous tenants.

Lately I’ve been on a Mission to brighten up my back yard (not least because it’s the best spot for taking those sewing-selfie-pics to share here with you!).  This little space leads from the alley by my back door through to my garden and also, in the higgledy-piggeldy world of 18th century cottages, is an Access for my neighbours’ garden.  This is what it looked like when I moved inbackyardbefore1Not exactly welcoming, I think you’ll agree!  So I began to gradually tidy it up, replanted the hanging basket with geranium cuttings and cheapie things from Aldi, and installed a big rainwater butt given to me by some friends who were moving.backyardbasketyardclearingI began to move a few plants in, although only one section gets any sun and I have to keep most of it clear as a thoroughfare.  What I really wanted, though, was a big ‘planter’ that I could fill with colourful scented annuals to make a bold, bright splashbackyardbetI saw some wooden ones at the garden centre recently – priced nearly £50!! This is roughly ten times my usual ‘makeover’ budget!  So one morning a couple of weeks ago, the rain held off long enough for me to construct this rather ‘rustic’ affair from bits of wood left over from making the second compost bin.  This wood was actually given to me by my neighbours, so I thought it would be nice to use it for something they’d see and get a smile from as they passed by.planterbuildingI planted it up with sweet peas and love-in-a-mist grown from seed, and made a wigwam of sticks for things to climb up.  Total cost: packet of woodscrews £1.20, 2 half packets of seeds £2.00, half a grow-bag mixed with garden compost £1.75 = £4.95!  Not bad, eh?  Here it is just plantedplanterplantedA week or so later and It’s all growing up nicely, hopefully soon to be full of flowers and wafting scent across the yardbackyardafter2Next step is to persuade my landlady to get the back wall painted for next year, and my mum has given me some planters to put up on it.  Goodbye dull, grotty old space: Hello cheerful, perfumed oasis!backyardafter3aWishing you all a bright & colourful week 🙂