About SarahStar

I love making colourful things and working with textiles, especially crochet and patchwork and particularly in retro 1970s-style!  I also love being outdoors, growing things, and walking in the magical mid Wales countryside where I live.  

Mending my ways

There’s something lurking in the corner of my sewing room… something big and scary, that just keeps on growing… readers of a nervous disposition, look away now!That, dear friends, is my Mending & Alterations pile.  I know. But hey, I’m not alone in this, right?  I mean, who wants to replace zips and take up hems when you could be making felt caravans, or crocheting a funky cardie, or, or… doing the dishes…. anything else, really!

However: last week I put on my Brave Head and actually sorted through this humungous pile.  Some of my very favourite old clothes emerged, as well as some lovely things that have been passed on by friends, most just needing a bit of attention and then WhooHoo, I could be wearing them!  So in order to kick-start my Sew-Jo this year I’ve decided to get down to it and CLEAR THE PILE, one thing at a time.  I shall post my progress here to celebrate, and if you too are scared to look at your M&A Pile then I hope it will encourage you to take heart, join with me, and get stuck in!

So this first week I have tackled the ‘quick-hits’.  I figured it would be encouraging to start with simple jobs where it was obvious what needed doing and not too time-consuming to do it, then I could enjoy the reward of seeing things come off the pile and into my wardrobe…

This beautiful soft viscose skirt was passed on by a friend and just needed a few inches chopping off the bottom to make it me-sized.  It had a raw-edge finish rather than a hem originally, so a double round of zig-zag stitching was all it took and ta-dah – New skirt!

One of my very fave winter skirts, this black corduroy number suffered during my ‘Illness Expansion’ when I ripped the fabric around the zip trying to get into it.  A couple of strips of fusible interfacing and a bit of hand-sewing (and yes, a certain amount of weight loss since then!) and I’m so happy to be wearing it again.I picked up this T-shirt in a chazza because I loved the colour & the neckline, but it was too long on me.  I did a chop and thought I’d use Cosmic Lulu’s trusty decorative stretch stitch to turn up the hem (as seen here and here).  Alas, not all jerseys are created equal and it stretched out of shape horribly.  I switched to an overlock stitch but the damage was done and no amount of steam could save her…  Ah well: it cost £2 and it’s still wearable!Now for this week’s brain-teaser.  I love wearing this summer tunic/dress (bought years ago from Machynlleth’s premier chazza, affectionately known locally as ‘the Dog Shop’); however, due to the obscenely low neckline, it can only be worn with something underneath it.  Which means I seldom wear it, because who needs a vest when it’s actually warm, and who wants a summer top when it’s cold enought to need a vest??  You see my dilemma?  Also it has these weird unflattering ties that sit right under the bust.Solution: Cut the ties off, chop off the widest parts of them at each end & sew these together to make a fairly stable ‘modesty panel’, then catch-stitch this by hand to the base of the neckline.  It’s still low-cut but you can no longer see what make of bra I wear.  Result!What a great start – four things off the pile in an afternoon, and I’ve already worn two of them!  Not so scary after all, huh?

Wishing you all a ‘To Boldy Sew’ kinda weekend 🙂

2017: Unblogged!

It’s a fact: 2017 was not a year full of blogging for me.  But that happened for the Best Kind of Reasons!  Because as my health began to improve last year, I suddenly had Choices.

Back when I began this blog, staying home and crocheting on the sofa or maybe doing a short stint of sewing were very often my only choices.  Reading my favourite bloggers and creating a blog of my own was a way for me to still feel connected to the world and part of a community at a time when I was unable to work or socialise, or even go out much at all.  Gradually, as I learned to pace myself and manage my condition it became possible to factor in a few more activities, but I still had many, many days when ‘from the sofa’ was all I could do.

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But lots of things happened last year that helped me move from Illness to Recovery, and I began to find I had the energy to go out and Do Stuff again, without having to spend quite so much time on the sofa in between.  So, YAY – I have been DOING, and Enjoying, but this has often been an ‘either/or’ choice – either I spend my energy crocheting and sewing and blogging, or I spend it going out & doing stuff then resting and not doing anything whilst I recover.  It has been an amazing 12 months for me and I’ve done things that I’d begun to think would never be possible again –  not just the Big Stuff like moving house, but ordinary, day-to-day things like going on a shopping trip or to an evening class.

But I’ve missed sharing my Adventures here with you all and feeling part of this lovely blogging community that we have.  So now that I feel well enough to Do Stuff and write about it, I’d like to start the year by celebrating some of the Wonders I experienced in 2017 that didn’t make it on to the blog!  Beginning with…

BELLY DANCE!  Folks, I have ALWAYS wanted to be a belly dancer, ever since I was a little girl.  I started going to a local class toward the end of 2016, even though at that time I needed someone to drive me there & back and often had to sit out for a lot of the class, then spend 2 or even 3 days In Recovery afterwards.  But I absolutely LOVE it, I have made so many wonderful friends, had SO much fun, and discovered my Inner Dancing Diva!  Not only that but it gives me an excuse to make costumes and dress up: I mean, what’s not to love??  I’ve surprised myself by getting up in public and performing with our troupe and finding that I actually really enjoy it!

Rocking my me-made costume (Top row, far left) at my first ever performance :

In action, performing at an outdoor show last summer

Posing (far right) at our Monday night dance class (pics by Harry Mason, Alanya BellyDance)From Belly Dance to Barefoot dance.  I still need a chauffeur to help me here but I’ve been going to this magical Five Rhythms-inspired dance event most months, and what an amazing crowd of people I’ve met!  (Oh yeah, and I get to dress up some more)Our local weekly Meet & Make Craft group is just the warmest, most fun gang to be in and I couldn’t wish for a more supportive and creative group of friends, I feel SO lucky that this happens right here in our tiny town.YARNDALE!! Yes, I finally got to go, and I met my Crochet SHero Lucy from Attic 24 and visited the famous studio!  Again this was totally thanks to my lovely friends A. and H. (Stars of the Quilt Festival 2016) who looked after me all weekend and made it SO.MUCH.FUN.  Love you gals <3Headdresses!  I have been learning so much about felting, appliqué, and embroidery this last year and making headdresses has given me a platform with which to play with all these different techniques and incorporate all sorts of materials.  I have blogged a few of my finished ‘for sale’ makes, but not really shared the experimental ones I have had so much fun making (and wearing!) for myself along the way.I had a proper, whole week’s holiday in my beloved Glastonbury.  I got to go walking, met up with a friend for the day, visited the Tor and the Chalice Well Gardens, went dancing and even went out to an evening event (I never usually have any energy left by the evening!).  Absolute Magic. Kington Art & Craft Market stall with my lovely pal Delia!  It’s a LONG day and very tiring, but the camaraderie of our fellow stall-holders and the locals who visit us keeps us going, and I am so proud of the fact that we did this.  Another thing that felt impossible just 18 months ago.Crochet clothes!  This has been a Revelation to me – I’ve always envied folk who can knit because I love the idea of me-made jumpers and cardies.  From my first purple alpaca jumper, I was hooked!  I’m still learning as I go along and some things have turned out better than others, but I’ve already completed my first commissioned cardie and my winter wardrobe is looking much funkier this year.L-R: emerald merino jumper, lacy wool/sparkle mix shrug, lacy emerald top with hand-swen beaded fringe Yep, it’s been a wonderful year for me, and I’m feeling hopeful that my health has stabilised enough now that I will be able to continue to take on new projects and be even more creative in 2018.  And write about it all!  Thank you, as always for sharing my Adventures…

Wishing you all a very joyful, amazing year ahead – can’t wait to see what it brings 🙂

Cottage & Caravan pincushions!

Well, here we are in 2018!  I’ve already tidied my craft room, sorted through all my sewing patterns, and set myself some Makery Challenges for the coming year, how about you?

But before we sail forth into the NEW, I thought I’d share with you a couple of little felt fancies I made over the hols.  Both these funky little pincushions were presents for friends (obviously, my own pins live on a shabby, falling-apart thingy I bought YEARS ago) and I totally loved designing all the little details with each person in mind!  They are both made from wool felt/fabric and stuffed with 50% wool as well, which apparently is the best thing for keeping your pins sharp (yes I really MuST make one for myself!  And buy new pins!).First up is a Sue Spargo design, taken from her book Contemporary Folk (& post on Sue HERE).  I made this pretty much as per the pattern, but added a few of my own little extra touches.  The applique/embroidery is done on the individual pieces before you stitch the house together, so I wasn’t entirely sure how it would look until it was finishedAlso I was a bit pressed for time on this one, but if I make another I will definitely add some more embellishments!  That said, I’m rather pleased with the way the bead and sequin flowers turned outSo as well as doing all the applique by hand (no hot glue here!) I also stitched all my seams by hand as I wanted the whole thing to have that quirky, slightly off-kilter look.And finally I couldn’t resist adding a little needle-felted critter to the roof!So this was for a friend who’s just moved house.  But what about my friend who’s just moved into her new Dream Caravan?  I got my sketchpad out and came up with this!Yep, it’s the must-have accessory for retro-caravan-loving crafters everywhere!  I made it a bit dinkier than Pincushion Cottage and really went to town on the details.  I’m particularly pleased with the window curtains, made from some scraps of quilting fabric with iron-on interfacing on the back to stop the tiny little pieces from fraying as I sewed.The sequin flowers didn’t work so well on this one though, they look a bit triffid-like!Again, I did most of the embellishment before stitching the pieces together, except for the bunting which went on after the whole thing had been stitched and stuffed.  This is just tiny felt triangles sewed directly onto the body of the caravan.Oh I had SO MUCH FUN making this!  I even gave it a personalised number plate!I do need refine my caravan design a bit as it doesn’t quite sit flat, and I think I’d like to make the cottage a bit more like my faerie houses, but I will DEFINITELY be making more of these for my craft stall this summer!Wishing you all a Folky Felted weekend 🙂

Folk Art bird house feeder

When I moved into my new house a few months back, one of the lovely housewarming presents I received was a wooden bird-feeder shaped like a birdhouse, which came with a little set of paints to decorate it with.  However….Why stop there, I thought??  So first came one of the many tester pots I had left from decorating, to give it a nice base coat (it does say ‘for walls and ceilings’ on the pot, after all!).  Then I spent some Happy Time going through my fabric stash and cutting out various leaf and flower motifs.  I glued these on with watered down PVA glue and brushed some more over the top to seal them in placeAdd a little bit of splodgy freehand painting, then finally a coat of clear decopatch varnish, and: Ta-Dah! It’s the funkiest bird-restaurant in town!  And I am SO pleased that I finished varnishing it last night, because I woke up to about six inches of SNOW this morning!  So there was no time to admire my handiwork, it got filled with birdfood and taken out to join the other (less colourful) feeders first thing.The first patrons arrived less than five minutes later.  And then, as I was passing the window this afternoon I saw what I think was a GOLDFINCH!  The first one I’ve seen in this garden!  Very wonderful, and great to know that at least someone shares my taste in art…Wishing you all a very funky folk-arty weekend 🙂

 

Autumn & Winter in the new garden

It’s been very mild weather here this past week – up until today! – and I’ve been taking advantage of this to get on and do some clearing and planting in my new garden.  A couple of months back I made a little vid to record for posterity what it looked like ‘before’

Renovating this garden is such a BIG project that I’ve had to break it down into small chunks, so that I can get my head around it by planning and doing one little area at a time.  The first to get to the ‘Star Treatment’ were the two beds at the front of the house, which although rather weed-choked and neglected were probably the easiest place to start.

This week I’ve been planting fruit trees and getting the ‘framework’ plants in to the first of the top terraces out front.  Like much of the garden this area is covered in rather scrubby grass.  Using a no-dig approach my plan is to transform it into a mixed permaculture planting of fruit trees and bushes and flowering shrubs to provide food and forage for me, the birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators!

I’ve spent the last few days planting more trees and shrubs and getting a good mulch of compost around them all.  Yesterday I got the first of the cardboard layer down, and just in the nick of time because I woke up to snow this morning!!  So it’s been a cosy day indoors for me today – hopefully the trees are feeling equally cosy!

Wishing you all a very warm winter’s weekend 🙂

All the New Things

Wow, it really HAS been a long time since I posted on my little blog, hasn’t it??  SO much has happened this year, it’s been a bit of whirlwind to be honest and blogging has taken quite the back seat!  My creative life has moved into whole new areas in this last year and I’ve been having a wonderful time making new things, trying new ideas and meeting lots of lovely new people too.

So first off, I have moved house AGAIN!  I now have a wonderful, permanent home (for the first time in, err, EVER) with lots of space and my very own craft room, that I like to call my Playroom!  That’s it to the left of the front door. And as you can see, I also have a WHOLE new wilderness of a garden to tame!  In fact I have three – one at the front, one to the side, and the main one here at the back.  It was a bit of a wrench leaving my old garden behind I must admit.  I’m very glad of this little video I made of it a couple of months before I left to remind me how lovely it was, and also how quickly a garden can change – who remembers what my last one looked like when I arrived??

As you’ll know from my last few posts here, starting this summer I’ve been co-hosting a craft stall with BitsaTat by Delia at our local Arts & Crafts market every month.  It’s been a wonderful social thing to do and I’ve really enjoyed meeting lots of other makers and being part of the lively creative community that we are blessed with here in the Marches.We have a great craft group in our little town too, and every Wednesday afternoon you’ll find a bunch of us surrounded by yarn, fabric, threads, and tea (and often cake!) in our local cafe.  Over the summer we did a little ‘group project’ to make a display for the cafe, which was so much fun that we’re all agreed we need to do another!  You can see the finished results on our Facebook page, but here are some of my contributionsI’ve not been doing so much sewing this year, but still plenty of crochet and lots of felt creations!  Mainly in the form of headdresses and hair clips where I’ll use a mixture of wet felt and needle felted shapes and embelish these with embroidery, beads, applique, and all kinds of bits I’ve picked up in charity shops and car boots.  I absolutely love these creative journies, I never know quite how they’re going to turn out!We’re taking a break from the craft stall for the winter now and I’ve almost finished setting up my craft-space Playroom, so there should be a bit more time for blogging over the coming months.  I have crochet cardies to share with you, plus my latest obsession – felt and fabric beads!  Hope you’ll come and join me!

Wishing you all a colourful creative weekend 🙂

Lots of new makes for Kington Arts & Crafts Market!

Hello everyone!  Wow, have I been BUSY these last few weeks….  mainly making faerie houses and felt flower headdresses, ready for my first stall at Kington Arts & Crafts Market tomorrow!  This is a new joint-venture effort between me and my super-talented friend Delia (see Her Facebook page Bits A Tat for more info) and if all goes well, we shall be making it a regular monthly thing.  Fingers crossed!

It should be a lovely lively day tomorrow, with lots of fabulous hand-made and vintage treasures on sale plus street music provided by Nat Brewer.  9.30am til 3pm at the Market Hall, Kington HR5 3DP.  So do come along for a browse if you’re in the area, we’d love to see you!

But enough of that!!  You want to see the latest crazy funky headdresses, don’t  you?!  Ladies, gents & all between, I give you my July collection (modelled by my new glamorous assistant)…

The Purple Princess… Frida Flowers…The Deluxe Mermaid…and finally, The Little Mermaid clip (for those who don’t want to go ‘the full mermaid’)!Thank you, as always, for sharing my Creative Adventures with me!  Hope you enjoyed the pics.  Wishing you a lovely weekend one and all 🙂

Continuing garden transformation

The weather has been mostly warm and sunny for the past week (apart from today of course, because it’s a bank holiday here in the UK!) and I’ve been continuing with my Mission to transform my garden.  Just for reminders, here’s what it looked like when I moved in just over 2 years agoYep, the area filled with rubble to the left, between the two tree stumps, is the same as the one in the pic at the top!  This has been the final part of the garden to receive the Sarah Special, Organic Permaculture No-Budget treatment, mainly because it was literally a pile of refuse – rocks, rubble, builder’s plastic, and broken glass.  I’m not up to lots of heavy digging and had no means to import top soil, etc, which anyway is against my ‘zero budget’ principles!  So I’ve been pondering what to do with it for a long time.  Then a few weeks back whilst re-reading Graham Bell’s classic book ‘The Permaculture Garden’, I hit upon the solution!  And here, I’ve even made a little video to show you how I did it!

Pretty cool, huh?!  I am, of course, exceptionally chuffed!

Meanwhile the rest of the garden is busy transforming itself, now.  The flower bed that was one of the first beds I created back in 2015 has totally come into its own this year and is looking amazing.  Again, here’s what it looked like when I started:By planting mostly perennials, bulbs, and self-seeding annuals and keeping the planting dense to supress the weeds, I really haven’t done much of anything to it this year.  It got mulched with compost last autumn, a bit of a weeding in spring before the perennials had gotten into full growth, and a sprinkle of organic chicken manure pellets.  This is how it looks today!

Hope you enjoyed my little tour!  Wishing you a flowery, low-maintenance kinda week 🙂