Thursday, 27 October 2011

Felt Up Again!

I have been enjoying making the flower brooches and hanging hearts and have worn some of them to work, where they always attract comments.  Whether this is because people like them, or wonder what on earth I am doing with a couple of layers of felt pinned to me, I don't know!

Here are a few of the small flowers.  Each has a brooch back sewn in (not glued) for strength and are all hand cut and hand stitched:

The large ones are machine cut and would work well pinned to the bottom of a scarf, or the side of a hat

These hearts would look great hanging up somewhere, or maybe on a bunch of keys.  With colours this bright, you could never lose them in your handbag!!

Work in Progress

I have a number of WIP's, some half done, others done but not framed, and they are all stuffed into my craft bag (which is actually a bag for patchwork I'm told, but it holds everything in one place and it has a see through top so I can see what's in there!). There's even a few crochet yo-yo's in there that I might actually get round to doing something with one of these days.

Here they are:

Friday, 16 September 2011

Felt Up

Isn't felt wonderful? It's reminiscient of primary school when the only worry you had was getting your pencils back from the person who borrowed them. 

I've moved on from the pincushions and have been making things with felt.  It's such an easy medium to use. It doesn't fray, it comes in lovely colours and most things can be stitched in next to no time. I've made a variety of brooches and am starting on some keyrings.  I'll post pics when I get the chance. 

I spent last night in a comfortable chair, cutting out felt shapes and then picking and choosing which colours worked toegther and I now have a stack of paired-up shapes that are ready for stitching up. Perfect for something to do while the football is on TV!

I'm getting quite excited about the craft fair, although I noticed that their latest info sheet mentions that they don't want any more card or jewellery stalls, as they already have loads and need more variety.  Since my original product of choice was cros stitch cards, I'm rather glad I'm branching out, although I might have to not tell them I intend to bring brooches along with me!

I'm still unsure on pricing.  I wrote before about the 'penny per stitch' approach for cross stitch, but I also read this week of the '2.5 rule' where you total up the cost to make the item then multiply by 2.5 to arrive at a selling price.  I haven't done this on my projects, because with the exception of the felt bundle I bought last week, the materials have been knocking round the house for a number of years.  So I'm still getting to grips with that.

Hopefully the nerve thing won't come back. I've been enjoying my crafting lately and dread to think of not being able to create. All of what I like to do involves needlework, so when my right hand fingers flare up I'm pretty much stuck. As my Mum would say, "make hay while the sun shines" or to put it another way "make brooches while the hands are good"!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


I was meant to be cross stitching but have allowed myself to become sidetracked by another crafty make. 

It came about because I was thinking ahead to the craft fair and imagining how I would set up my table and display things.  i read a few blogs on the subject and a lot of people suggest using different heights in your display, so that people can see some stuff from the other side of the hall, rather than keep everything flat on the table.  At the same time I was looking for inspiration and found it in the tomato pincushion in my workbox.  I thought that if I made some pincushins then I could use the cupcake stands to display them.  Only not tomatoes ... pincushion cakes!

Anyway, they turn out to be quick and easy 'makes' and I was able to do six of them in about two hours. Not bad at all.  My dog took a bit of an interest in them and tried to take a bite out of one, which I'm taking as a compliment (although I might not be able to sell that one)!

I is rainy tonight and there is nothing on TV of note, so it's an evening with my embroidery hoop methinks. Happy days!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

I'm So Excited!

My decision, taken a few days ago, to try and sell some of my crafts, has inspired me to get creative.  This is good, because I now feel that I have a bit of a purpose.  The day job is good, I still feel that I make a positive contribution there, but it's becoming a place where it is difficult to be really creative.  Senior management appear to be hell bent on turning everyone into clones and I have a real problem with that.

But anyway, I have set myself a goal to create one item per evening and I must say that I have not been successful ... yet! I attempted to complete the initial 'A' intending to have it stitched, back-stitched and bordered, ready to insert into a card blank.  I got as far as completing the initial and am partially round the border.  This is largely due to family demands on my time.  So a few lessons learned are:

1. Commence stitching only when dinner has been eaten and the after dinner coffee has been made
2. Check teenager requirements for the evening. Is there rugby training? Does he require running to the latest party? Will he need help with college projects?
3. The dog MUST be fed first or else concentration will be broken by incessant whining. Drooling also not a friend to embroidery.

Then and only then should I make a start, because there is nothing worse than doing a few stitches and having to put your work down to do something else, then having to find your place in the pattern again.  I need a good solid amount of time in which to work.  If we had the space I would love a room of my own, where I could leave all my crafty things out and where I could sit and stitch for a couple of hours.  I would have an uber comfortable chair and leave the radio tuned to my favourite 80's station.  Bliss!

Anyway, I have also noted that a lot of time last night was spent unpicking a border that I started to stitch from memory, having used it lots of times on cards, only to find that it wouldn't work out symmetrically with my initial.  I ended up trawling through my designs to find a suitable border for my initial letter. So I have resolved to spend a few evening with graph paper and pencil, working out designs and borders so that I can just go ahead and stitch with speed and confidence and not have to work out a border on the fly. 

I'm also planning on setting aside one evening to make card bookmarks.  I have a tried and tested design and so plan to make many and just vary the colour.  I made these a few years ago for people in a calligraphy group I was a member of and they went down well. Easy peasy to make up so I should be able to stockpile quite a few in readiness.

Now, should I go back to crochet and stitch my granny squares into a blanket?  How many squares make up a blanket?  Not sure I have that many ....

To anyone reading this, have you ever attempted to sell your 'makes'?  I would be interested in hearing your experiences.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Selling Ones Wares

A friend of my husbands has recently gone into the cake making business and makes cupcakes and celebration cakes (if anyone would care to take a look her website is here:  Victoria Rose ) and I got to thinking that that would be a lovely thing to do full time.

I make a pretty good cupcake myself, it's the decorating that I particularly like though. Piping the swirls of buttercream and selecting the sprinkles, or maybe a sugarpaste flower or two, is very cathartic.  But even though Hubby thinks mine are good enough to sell commercially, I don't think I could.  I baked for a friends wedding last year; 29 cupcakes were required for a small wedding party, but since the cakes were to be driven up to Scotland, I needed to make 39 in case of accidents.  But to be able to provide 39 perfect little cupcakes I ended up baking about 60 of the little beggars!  The wedding theme was white and purple, so half had white frosting and purple flowers, with the other half had purple fosting and white flowers.  I iced the last one at around 3.30am and went to bed with fingers stained purple from the paste colouring and edible glitter smeared on my cheeks. The cakes looked beautiful, went down well and I was glad that I was able to contribute towards making my friends wedding a lovely day to remember ... but the experience also taught me that cake making, as a profession, is not my calling.

Cross stich however, now you're talking. I could happily do that all day and would absolutely love to have an embroidery shop where I could sit in the corner, quietly stitching, stopping only to serve customers wanting to buy floss, linens or other stitching related items. Oh and maybe to make the occasional cuppa.  Happy days indeed!

Of course there are more practical things to consider when running a business, but I thought that there's no reason why I couldn't do something locally - maybe I could sell some stitched cards at a local table sale or similar. So this is why last night, armed with my box of silks, I devised some small embroideries suitable for card blanks.  I have a selection of designs suitable for bookmarks and I thought of making a few keyrings too.  I found details of a table sale near me and my intention is to secure a pitch for December 3rd.  I'll be stitching like a mad woman from this evening on and aim to produce one item each evening.  That should give me enough items to display.  I also thought about  taking some of my other finished work and putting a sign up about taking commissions.  How much would one charge fpr a commission though? I read someones blog who suggested charging a penny a stitch, more if three quarter stitches were involed.  I think I will probably have a little think about what I would be willing to pay for the item and take it from there.

So I am very excited for my new venture.  I probably won't make much money from it, but it will be something I enjoy doing so ... result!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

An 'Ackworth' of my own?

I spent a lovely Saturday morning trawling stitching blogs and found the most amazing samplers in people's WIP. I was particularly impressed with the Mary Wigham samplers, having long wanted to do a large heirloom type sampler myself. Here's a picture of the sampler in case you are not familiar with it:

I found several people who departed from the suggested colourway and their versions looked lovely. The original was stitched in 1790 when there was not the vast array of colour choices available in silks that we enjoy now. So while there is varietion in colour, some of it looks muddy.  Then again, maybe the original colours were a lot brighter and better defined, it's just that age has robbed them of their glory?

I also found a few people who corrected the mistakes in the original pattern, producing a more symmetrical result.  Others kept the mistakes in, viewing them as charming rather than irritating.  I guess it depends on whether you believe you are stitching your own version, or a reproduction of an original.

I'm putting off starting my Mary Wigham until I decide in which camp I am.  I know that I am the sort of person who see's the mistakes, especially in patterns of such symmetry.  Slightly skewiff pictures irritate the life out of me, and I checked all our patterned mugs before purchase, for off-centre patterns and other design faults/blemishes.  So much so, that the ladies of the china department in Lewis' think I am nuts!  

I have made mistakes in my own stitching (who hasn't) which has me unpicking and grumbling, even when the mistake is so small that it could easily be incorporated into the pattern without too much bother.  So if I do start stitching this is will be a huge wrench to be deliberately doings things wrong.  But maybe that's a lesson I need to learn ...

Saturday, 30 July 2011

How Long?

Whilst clearing out the under stairs cupboard the other day, I found an unfinished piece that actually pre-dates my eighteen year old son.  I don't even think I was pregnant when I started it, so it must be nineteen maybe even twenty years old.  It was a birthday present from one of my friends and was a complete kit. I reckon it is about 80% completed, but sadly I no longer have the pattern or any of the silks. It needs a little wash and I'll post a pic tomorrow in case anyone passing by my blog might recognise it.  In the meantime here's always Google!

Merry Spring

Yes I know it's Summertime, but I am very excited to have actually finished a small cross stitch project.  It is the Very Merry Spring pattern that I was gifted by Lisa at Lisa's Stitching Addiction.  I used a variegated thread in shades of cream through to cherry and it looks lovely.  I managed it over three evenings, if my hands were not so painful it would have taken less, but I am delighted with it. xI will be off to the local gallery next week to find a nice frame for it. Will post a pic later.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

I Got RAK'D :-)

The most lovely thing happened to me yesterday.  I got a small envelope in the post with handwriting that I didn't recognise and from an area with which I have no connections.  In a sea of bills, circulars and pizza shop flyers, this was a welcome change.

Inside was a cross stitch chart that I was in the process of purchasing from another Blogger. I had got as far as providing my address details and had enquired about sending payment.  But here in the envelope was the chart!  I spotted a little card that said 'You've been RAK'd . Enjoy!" For anyone who doesn't know, this stands for Random Act of Kindness.

The lovely Lisa over at 'Lisa’s Stitching Addiction' blog had popped it in the post for me. How nice is that?! :-) Thank you so much Lisa, that was very kind of you indeed.

I am really looking forward to stitching it and when it is done and hanging on my wall, I can look at it and be reminded of when someone I know only through the exchange of a few posts on a shared hobby, did something really nice for me. :-)

Friday, 24 June 2011

RA It's Back

The problem with steroid injections, is that they eventually wear off.  Actually the bigger problem is that they fool you into forgetting that you ever had a problem in the first place.

After enjoying several months of pain-free mobility, my RA has returned with a vengeance.  I had a couple of twinges a week or two ago, one big flare up hat casued me to take time off work, but this week has been six days of pure agony.  My wrists and fingers have been swollen and sore, I have been unable to move so much as a little finger with excruciating, burning pains shooting up my arms.  My poor Hubby feels powerless since he can't do anything to make this better. He worries about my health and does try to keep me thinking positively.

So the last thing I have wanted to do this week has been to pick up a needle.  Of all the things that RA has stopped me or prevented me from doing, I think that taking away my ability to create has been the hardest to rationalise.

Today however, RA is taking a break.  I am able to get around, type, hold a cup of coffee without looking like I am using penguins flippers, so it's all good!  Just in time for the weekend, when I am set up for decorating the dining room! I might give some stitching a go tonight :-)

Thursday, 19 May 2011

So Many Others

Have spent a very pleasant hour mooching around various cross stitch blogs, seeing others' work in progress.  It has been truly inspiring to see what people end up doing with their finished projects.  I only ever put mine into frames although sometimes, when the design allows, I leave them in the hoop, put lace around it and simply add a hanging loop. 

Also, I find it hard to keep hold of any embroidery for long.  I always seem to be giving it away!  I started a spring sampler that had lovely flowers, butterflies and bees on it, intending it to hang in my hallway. But then a friend had a birthday coming up, so I changed the verse from being about spring, to: "A friend is like a flower in the garden of lfe" and it became her present.  Another time my Mum ended up with a 'Home is Where the Heart Is' picture, because everytime she came to my house, she would say how lovely it would look in her kitchen. I finally caved and put it in her bag one night when she was leaving.  The really funny thing is, while my Brother and I were clearing her house, I thought to myself that I should take the picture home and put it back in my hallway, when he asked if he could have it!! I told him that I would stitch him one of his own, but I think as a surprise, I will give him the other one too!

But now I see that embroideries can become cushions, needlebooks, etc I shall certainly be broadening my horizons.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Crafty Update

Been quiet for a while. Well not exactly quiet inasmuch as my life is concerned, just haven't been blogging. There's quite a lot going on right now: decorating, work worries, health matters, preparing Mum's house  for sale and somewhere in the midst of it all, our gorgeous son turned eighteen. Now I thought that once he reached that age that my worries for him would subside. I have found instead, that they are simply replaced by other, bigger, worries. I guess I will worry about him always.

I managed to get a nice pic of the embroidery that I started for my Brother and his wife, but had to put aside owing to crook fingers. The steroid injection definitely helped and I feel ready to pick it up again this week and crack on.  Here is what I have done so far:

Just a smidge over halfway :-)  And below is the pattern I am using.  The sharp of eye of you who also embroider, will no doubt recognise the pattern as one of Jo Verso's.  I have simply changed the colour of the flowers so that they represent daisies (for why this is significant, see earlier post) and put a heart in the middle instead of 'September'. 

And that's not all I have been up to! I got inspired by Mum's old button box.  This is an old biscuit tin where Mum kept all sorts of odd buttons.  Before any article of clothing was thrown away, it was stripped of it's buttons which were then squirrelled away in the tin.  I'm sure that Mum's of a certain age up and down the country have similar tins stashed away.  Occasionally Mum would buy new buttons, for she was quite a prolific knitter and these were added to the tin also. Every now and then she would rummage through the tin, extract a handful of buttons and apply them to whatever item she was knitting. Usually a cardigan for me. But mostly the buttons would keep me occupied for hours.  So many ways in which to sort them: colour, size, prettiness ... OK, you probably need to know that I was brought up in the late 60's/early 70's when we didn't have Xboxes, computers etc and the TV had three channels which didn't even go on air until around 5pm!

Anyway, Mum's button box is one of the things I decided to keep when we were clearing her house.  Now I think I am a little old now to play sorting games with the contents, but I thought that I should do something with them.  So I decided to sew them onto a bag. You're probably thinking this is a crazy idea.  My husband would agree with you.  But I liked the idea of having something unique which was also a reminder of Mum and of happy, more carefree times.

I spotted this bag in a charity shop in York. It's basic, but I liked the shape and since it is made of thin material it will be easy to stich on:

And here is the start of the 'buttoning':

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Tunnels and Light

So I went to see my specialist at the hospital the other week (I have Rheumatoid Arthritis).  Medication increased, the usual stuff about keping healthy and a shot of steroid.  Boy did that hurt! Worth it though becuase I know I will get a good couple of months relatively pain-free as a result.

And thank heavens for that, because I have been going to Zumba classes for the last few weeks, trying to regain some level of fitness.  I used to compete in ballroom and latin dancing and I love latin music, so I figured that this would be a great way to get some exercise in without it feeling like exercise. 

My first class was murder!

It was an hour of frenetic shimmying, mambo-ing, wriggling and lots of other things ending in -ing.  I gave in to the music, shook and shimmied my way through, then discovered that I could barely walk home. the next day was even worse. And the one after that. I walked like a zombie for about four days! It's a lot easier now, mostly because I am now going to a class at a proper dance school that has a properly sprung floor and the pace of the class is right for me.

My only problem now is that whilst I think I look good grooving about, the lady in the mirror bears absolutely no relation to the image of me I have in my head!  Ah well, at some point this year I hope this will change!

The pinched nerves turned out to be the ones running through the carpal tunnel in both wrists. My specialist expects that the increase in medication will take the swellings down.  I must say though that a week on from the steroid injection, I can hold a needle with less discomfort.  Still only able to embroider in short bursts but it's progress.

In any case, as I watch events in Japan unfold, I find that I can't moan about anything really.  I have family, a home, safe food and water. These are the things that are really important.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Making Slow Progress

The embroidery is not going well :(

A trapped or pinched nerve somewhere in my body is playing havoc with my fingers. They are tingly and feel numb, occasionally cold, and it's hard to grip anything for long, so I have had to embroider in short bursts only.  I have experimented with holding the embroidery hoop in different ways, but there is only one way to hold a needle!  It's more frustrating than anything else, because I really want to get this project finished and framed. If anyone is reading this and knows of a clever notion to address this problem please let me know.

It's also affecting other areas of my life.  The other week I couldn't get the lid off a jar of coffee, so I ended up drinking tea for a few days.  I hate being this helpless, so am pretending that I have purposefully switched to drinking tea as part of some New Year resolution to ease off on the daily full strength caffeine intake!

On a more positive note I remembered batteries for the camera, so will upload embroidery pics later.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Embroidery Project: Daisies

This may get emotional but if it does, then that's fine. I'm OK with that ...

My Mum passed away recently.  So recently in fact that I can still smell her in her house. She smells of Red Door perfume and Max Factor pressed powder and I think it's a comforting smell. It was during a visit from my Brother, while we were trying to find some legal documents, that we discovered a short poem in her safe.  No, the legal documents were not there (as one might have hoped), but this poem was.  It was a piece attributed to a lady called Nadine Stair and it is simply called 'I'd Pick More Daisies'

Now it turns out that this is a favourite piece of my Brother and he was quite taken aback to find it in Mum's safe. He read it at her funeral service and how he got through it is a mystery to me. As read by him it became profoundly clear that these words were a good edict by which to live.  I have taken them to heart and intend to make the most of the rest of my life, picking more daisies.

So how does this fit in with an embroidery project?  Well my Brother and his wife have decided to move house.  They are moving to a part of the country where they have long wanted to live and have taken the plunge and only gone and exchanged contracts!  They are ferrying furniture and soft furnishings and commencing the process of making someone else's house their home.  And I wanted to make them something to put in it.

I thought that something with daisies on would be fitting.  To remind them both that life is short and we go round once only, so we had better make the most of it, so I am stitching a daisy picture in counted cross stitch.

I have chosen a circular design and am about a third of the way through. I'll try to post a pic when I have remembered to buy new batteries for my camera!  It's a design I have stitched before, but not as white daisies and I have to say that had I stopped for a moment I probably would have chosen a dark linen on which to stitch, as stitching white on cream is doing my head in! But they look nice when the backstitch has been done.

Anyway, for those who may not be familiar with the piece, here it is below ...

If I had my life to live over, I'd try to make more mistakes next time. I would relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would be less hygienic. I would take more chances. 

I would make more trips. I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers and watch more sunsets. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones. You see, I am one of those people who live prophylactically and sanely and sensibly, hour after hour, day after day. 

Oh, I have had my moments and, if I had to do it over again, I'd have more of them. In fact, I'd try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead each day. I have been one of these people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had to do it over again, I would go places and do things and travel lighter than I have.

If I had to live my life over, I would start barefooted earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would play hooky more. I wouldn't make such good grades, except by accident. I would ride more merry-go-rounds.

I'd pick more daisies.

First Blog

OK so I decided to join the blogging masses and now find myself with this space on t'internet with which to fill.

What to blog about? How much of my life do I want to put up here for people to read, judge, eventually discard?

Let's start gently, say with a hobby and take it from there. Let's see how this evolves ....