Thursday, 29 March 2012
Here's the little autumn knit project I spoke about. Its the Norie slouchy beanie I came across wandering on Ravelry the other day (dangerous place that!).
A spur of the moment project I started it with a ball of Cleckheaton Alpaca/wool mix from the stash knowing I only had one ball and would have to find more. (I often buy a ball if it takes my fancy without any project in mind but I think I might need to start buying two at a time when I get this urge!) Luckily I tracked down the band which had come detached and found the wool online at blacksheep wool. Look what arrived in today's post!
I'm a bit haphazard with some things but I have a system that I'm pretty good at maintaining when it comes to wool labels - when I take the band off I tie a small length of the wool around the band and so I have a record of what ply, colour, dye batch, manufacturer it is. Do you do this? I often wonder how other people keep track.
This is my first time knitting from a lace chart and I've had to undo and reknit it again and again it seems. The first time I knit the lace band I didn't do my research and knitted from the top left corner of the chart down. I couldn't work out why it didn't have the nice lines in it like the pictures on Ravelry until I researched and found it turns out you knit from the bottom right up! But I bet you knew that!
Its much better the second time round, though I still made little mistakes and had to go back and forth which is frustrating. I have two more lace bands to go and I'm going to try to concentrate a bit closer for those!
Today's links for my creative space doesn't seem to be up just yet, but there's always lots to look at at ourcreativespaces.blogspot.com.
Wednesday, 28 March 2012
The light is changing here and there's a slight chill in the air. Its that in between time of t-shirts with slippers, long walks and lie ins, full blown roses and turning leaves.
Autumn is one of the nicest times in Sydney, though the contrast with our mild, rainy summer isn't as distinct this year, usually its a huge relief when the hot humid days turn crisp and bright. I love the autumn light that comes at this time, I've talked about it before. The garden seems suddenly lit with slanting shafts of light which dapple through the trees making everything look magical.
We are busy here, it seems like every day there's something on. This weekend sees the sport season start and our annual school fete (and Mr F's annual boys trip!) and then on Monday its our beautiful boys double birthday!
So we're all looking forward to Easter and some time to do nothing. I have a new knit on the needles, another autumn tradition, I'm just waiting for some more wool to arrive so I can finish it. Might have to start another while I wait!
Thursday, 22 March 2012
Still struggling with taking photos of myself in my new Tova shirts as you can see, but here's a quick shot in the bathroom mirror to give you an idea of how it looks! Its grey here today too, so apologies for not great photos all round.
I finished version two of the Wiksten Tova pattern in a black and white gingham over the weekend. The first green version was made as an XL (I know?) working from my chest measurement. Everything I read says the pattern runs fairly true and I didn't want it to be too tight but it was way too big. I've taken the sleeves off once and taken it in but I'd still prefer it narrower on the body so when I can get the enthusiasm I'm going to do that again. I'm going to put a little button on the placket too because the yoke sits too low and it can be a bit gapey.
At Suzy's advice I then tried a medium, first laying a non-stretch top over the pattern pieces as a guide. The fit is much better, though I think I need a little more space around the chest and shoulders, so the next one will be just slightly larger. I might try these instructions from Jenny herself in the Wiksten flickr group about altering the pattern. There will be another Tova, I love this pattern, so easy to wear and perfect for autumn. Its taught me a lot about top construction too, and I love how neat and well finished the different parts are too.
I didn't have quite enough fabric for the full sleeve length second time round, my fault for buying the fabric in two gos. But I like the sleeves shorter like this and I'll probably push the other sleeves up to this height anyway.
I think the trick with sewing for yourself is finding your shape and sizing and learning to sew for it. I'm just at the beginning of that process and quite happy experimenting. I think its quite an easy pattern, very well explained. The hardest part for me in the pattern sewing round the yoke at the start. I'd like to get better at that, hints welcome.
More spacey creatives here.
Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Before I read her interview I used to think the name Maxabella derived from Bron's larger than life personality and occasionally outspoken posts which often spark debate and comment. So it was a surprise to find out the real source of the name. Thinking about it though it makes a lot of sense, in light of this regular recognition of the importance of family and friendship.
I love Bron's writing style and I was excited to read of her recent big decision to leave her job in the corporate advertising world. Here's hoping this gives her even more time to write. I'm sure I'm not the only one who loves her natural style and wonderful sense of humour and looks forward to reading more.
Bron doesn't see herself as particularly crafty but her kid's parties are always original and inspiring, from Harry Potter to rainbow themes they always look like great fun! Her series of party posts are full of ideas and she's collected together inspiration from other sources too, so if you are looking for ideas for your own parties make sure you visit.
Bron is a generous blogging friend who regularly reads and comments around the bloggy world. Its been fun to read her interview answers and learn a little more about this popular blogger and I hope you enjoy learning more. Thanks again Bron for being part of Show & Tell :-)
I wish I could do something clever enough to warrant the opening of a shop ...
1. Can you give us a short description of your blog/style/work
My blog is like a person. It's me. A good rant gets things out, but being quiet is better sometimes too. Creative, thoughtful and honest living.
2. Why blog? How did you start?
My sisters are both bloggers (www.lifeinapinkfibro.blogspot.com and www.pilesofwashing.blogspot.com) and they started first. I totally didn't get why you needed to have a blog but after a while I saw the joy of community that blogging brought to them and I got started myself. Since then I have just delighted in getting to write something just about every day and I find myself relying more and more on the wonderful spirit of the blogging community.
3. Workspace - studio or kitchen table?
I have a studio space in the lurky downstairs of our house. It floods whenever it rains and there is the faint sniff of damp permanently. I am probably risking my life every time I enter the place, but enter I must. Here I write and draw and paint and cut and glue and imagine.
4. Blog/Shop name, where does it come from?
My children's names... Max, Arabella and Lottie.
5. Favourite media to work in?
Anything that involves gluing. I can't stop gluing. Paper crafts are therefore right in. But then, the more I blog the more I find myself drawn to graphic design. Poor glue and paper...
6. Ambitions/future directions/future projects/medium you'd like to try?
I have been threatening to learn sewing for about 10 years now. My friend came around and fixed my sewing machine a month ago and... that was a month ago. I just want to make a skirt. My MIL is an amazing seamstress and she has offered to teach me but, you know, that would involve long sessions hanging out with my MIL. She's lovely, but she's Italian and bossy. I think I'll stick to flower press tutorials!
7. Are you neat and organised or, ahem, creatively messy?
I am a bizarre mix of both. I am like an almost-finished quilt - structured, organised but a bit rough around the edges. And definitely lots to work on!
8. Favourite handmade, handcrafted item you own not made by you.
It's a little thing, but I love it. My key fob chain by Mira Narnie. It is the most practical thing and a little bit of lovely in my every day.
9. Favourite food/recipe?
Right now we are obsessed with Pea and Ham soup at our place. This recipe, but with yellow split peas instead of green. The kids know it as 'ham soup' as I don't want them finding out about the pea thing.
10. Favourite colour?
Pink. It took me 30 years to admit that.
11. Star sign?
Leo, but I honestly couldn't be bothered with all that stuff.
12. Favourite place, landscape (not necessarily Australian)?
I travelled the world for four years with my husband before we married. My head is so full of so many wondrous sights that my mind often gets tired for looking.
13. Any tricks for juggling life/work/family with creative pursuits?
Bring creativity into all you do - live with passion and imagination. My favourite thing to do is go on excursions to the park, beach or bush to look at and collect things to inspire us together. Otherwise, late at night, when only the owls are awake, there is a humming down in the damp depths of our home...
14. Favourite artists, artisans, crafters, writers?
I'll stick with crafters as there are way too many of all categories to write down right now. Maya, Brenda , Jen, Kirsty and Jessica, and Susie, of course!
15. Your favourite thing you've made/written/done.
This is my favourite post, ever: http://maxabellaloves.blogspot.com.au/2011/03/that-peace-of-paper.html This was my favourite party to create. http://maxabellaloves.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/harry-potter-parties-on-at-seven.html
16. Three words to describe yourself?
Brave, bit bonkers.
17. What do you like to do besides creating?
Write. Always writing. If I have that, I have me.
Monday, 19 March 2012
I don't usually feature my kids on the blog, but I can't resist sharing their current projects.
Miss A is starting her second year on the Best Buddies program at her school, where she mentors a lovely intellectually disabled student and helps her to adapt to the challenges of high school. Best Buddies recently had a film making day at Fox Studios and Miss A and her buddy's team have won one of three prizes and their film will be shown at a local cinema! We went to a meeting on Friday with the Best Buddies people where they raved about her school's chapter of this program in which Miss A is Vice President.
And then on Saturday we had thirty people here shaving and dyeing eight boys for the World's Greatest Shave! The ten year old boys all did something radical to their hair. Mr D (who put the team together and is the team captain, photo above) is now completely bald (!) and his brother Mr J has bright blue hair. They and their friends formed a team to raise money to support the Leukemia Foundation and kids and adults with blood cancers.
A workmate of one of the shavers Mum's is on a clinical trial funded by the Leukemia Foundation after living for the last four years with Leukemia. She is an example of how the $2500 they have raised can help. The boys made the local paper last week when they busked to make money for their team at a local shopping centre.
We didn't push the kids into any of this, but rather they came home and told us that they were doing it. Which is why I'm so very proud of them.
Okay that's all, I promise. Thanks for listening :-)
(Oh and Mr F celebrated his birthday on Friday amongst all that, here's the cake his lovely daughter made him and the cakes my mate made for the shaving gig!)
Show & Tell is back tomorrow, and I'm featuring a wonderful local blogger, someone who has recently taken a big leap careerwise. Can you guess who I mean? Check in tomorrow and see if you're right!
Thursday, 15 March 2012
I promised sewing pics and here is a pic of last weeks making, a long overdue batch of doily and filigree cushions. These cushions are all in the shop. There is only one of each for the moment though, and its often a while between sewing days, so be quick if you want to nab one.
The Tova top pics will have to wait because a. I'm not good at taking photos of myself, I did try and they are all blurry, and b. I'm not happy yet with the fit, I'm going to take the sleeves off and take it in a bit more I think. Its a great pattern though and I'll be making another soon, in a smaller size!
More creatives here.
Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Despite the fact I'd been to Spotlight* just last week, I was delighted to see they were having a massive 30% off sale this week. I'd taken a couple of phone pics of fabrics while I was there (partly for a series I'm running on instagram called #patternaday) and there were a couple of prints I was kicking myself for not picking up at the time.
As you can see they were expecting me and had signs up already! I was quite restrained though, and funnily enough the fabrics I chose were quite inexpensive to start with, but it felt very satisfying to get them at two thirds the normal price. But I couldn't resist a couple of embroidery colours which were on special already from this amazing wall of thread (which is actually three times what's shown!) and some zips for my stash. These fabrics will hopefully become a top, a skirt, binding for my other baby quilt and maybe another top. The fat quarters were about $1 with the discount so I had to grab them too.
I'll show you my recent sewings tomorrow. I've been having a bit of a blitz on sewing recently and enjoying it, mostly. I'm taking my time and seeing my skills improving little by little.
*Spotlight is the massive discount fabric, yarn, craft and homewares chain in Australia. Most people have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it, though there also seems to be a consensus that we are getting better fabrics and more choice these days and it really is a one stop shop. What do you think?
Thursday, 8 March 2012
Flower Press was asked a while ago to attend the local council's International Women's Day function tonight which features innovative local businesses (and me!) and some really inspirational speakers. Of course I've left my organising a bit late and as Murphy's Law would have it woke up at 5am with a fever. But in true woman's style I am dosed up with panadol and very nearly organised, with a few new cushions sewn up, tea towels folded, cards wrapped and fabric cut! I'm sharing a table with my friend Lauren so I'll have some moral support if I feel too dreadful.
During the week I managed to contrive a 'work' trip to the local Spotlight for zips and might have come home with a few metres of different fabrics to audition for my new Wiksten Tova pattern (which I downloaded this week). This great African/Pacific/William Morris design is the current frontrunner. I've been wanting to buy this pattern for a long time but baulked at the shipping. Thanks Suzy for the heads up on the digital version.
For many more creative women go here, Happy International Women's Day everyone!
Wednesday, 7 March 2012
I'm so spoilt, I got the best mail on Monday, two parcels of treasure that I'd bought recently on Etsy.
Both contained special handmade pieces that I have been admiring for ages, and have the added quality of being handmade by longtime, creative bloggy friends of mine. I love having pieces around me like that.
The first contained this amazing crocheted cushion made by Kylie Hunt who I've featured here before. Kylie has opened an Etsy shop selling these fabulous cushions which have to be seen (and felt) to be really appreciated. When I read she was having a cost price sale on cushions to make way for standard sizing I snapped up this triangled sausage cushion I'd had my eye on! There are a couple left if you want one of your own. Have a look at her blog too to see her great new ripple and chevron designs.
Lisa Stubbs (obviously a long lost cousin!) is a wonderfully talented artist from the UK that I've known a while too. Last year she was diagnosed with cancer and journeyed with great spirit through treatment and, well I'll let her tell you:
This is one of my first screen prints after my treatment for breast cancer and 'Mr Blue bird on my shoulder' is how I feel now at the end of my treatment, and Mr Blue bird just won't stop singing, fab!
All moneys from the sale of this greeting card goes towards My 3 Volcano Challenge cancer Trek, raising funds for Yorkshire cancer centre, Reg. Charity No. 1075308. The moneys raised will go towards special medical equipment, research and development in cancer and patient care and support. You can visit my Just giving page at www.justgiving.com/lisaBvolcanotrek and see my progress, inspiration and training on my blog www.lilsonnysky.blogspot.com
I've loved her blue bird for a long while, he always makes me smile and inspires me to find the wonderful in my day, and so I was delighted to buy this card to support her in her plan to climb three volcanoes for her local cancer charity. My print is on my wall now and I've bought extras to give away to friends and family. Get your own blue bird and see some of Lisa's other beautiful work here in Lisa's Etsy shop.
Friday, 2 March 2012
A few people asked for the details for making my baby quilt and I'm happy to share my simple design so here's a simple baby quilt tutorial. You could easily make it smaller or larger, I just cut squares till I was happy with my size (abt 95 x 78cm finished dimensions). Luckily I took some photos along the way too. I'm a beginning quilter, just learning, and I remember when I started I found it hard to find the basic information for the entire process together in one place so I've tried to explain each step in simple terms.
I'd love it if it inspired others of you to take the plunge and make your first quilt. I think a baby quilt is a good place to start! There are so many wonderful resources all over the net so please use this as a starting point and take advantage of more experienced folks to fill in the blanks.
To make a quilt you must have fabric, a ruler, scissors and thread, but there is also some equipment which makes the process much easier, more accurate and less stressful. I love these tools and use them all the time now. They were a great one off investment. n.b. In the quilting world inches rule!
• Rotary cutter - I have a 45mm Olfa rotary cutter with a retractable blade.
• Clear perspex Quilting ruler - My ruler is a SewEasy 6 x 24 inch quilting ruler.
• Cutting Mat - InFocus 90 x 60 cm but you could get by with a smaller size.
• Quarter of an inch foot for your sewing machine.
• Walking foot for your sewing machine.
• Quilting pins (curved safety pins).
Step 1. Choose fabrics
It sounds so simple but this is the really creative part of the process and the most fun. Lay the fabrics out together till you have a good mix. Combine large, small and medium format prints. Don't go too matchy as this can come out bland, choose some bolder fabrics to shake it up.
I've used a lot of different patterns here (about 32 different designs in 63 squares). Some are repeated up to three times, and others just once. You could easily work with less and repeat them more, though remember, with a quilt like this you don't need a lot of fabric for a square so its a great stash/scrap buster. I topped up my stash with a raid on the Remnants Warehouse's fat quarter packs before I started.
There are so many sources for fabric, this one combines designer quilting cottons, vintage and repurposed linens, cheap Spotlight cottons and flannels, linen/cotton screenprints, swapped and gifted fabrics and a few of my own Flower Press designs.
Step 2. Cut your squares
Cut out 4 inch squares. For this quilt I've used 63 squares, 7 columns x 9 rows. As you can see I put a marking on my ruler so I could find my measure quickly each time.
As I said before a rotary cutter, ruler and cutting mat are going to make this process quicker and easier, your squares will line up perfectly later on too and you will also enjoy the whole process a lot more. If you don't have these and you're doing it on a budget then maybe make a template of the square and mark with pencil on the wrong side of your fabric and cut out with scissors. Iron crumpled fabrics before cutting.
Here is a simple video showing cutting technique for longer strips (which you'll be doing later) it illustrates well how to cut fabric and how to make sure you are cutting with the grain of the fabric. Start with a strip and cut your squares off it.
As the video says you can work with unwashed fabrics. A lot of quilters do and its so much easier and less time consuming than washing and ironing each piece first. If I were using 100% linen I'd wash that first though as it can shrink quite a lot.
If your pieces are too small to cut this way, or you have no selvedge just find the grain and try to cut in line with that. Grain is not so important with small pieces.
Once you have your squares, lay them out next to each other. I love this part and I do it as I cut the pieces, it really inspires you to keep going! In the final layout I tried to alternate the green/blue with the pink, to give the quilt contrast. Where I have repeated fabrics I try and keep them out of the same column or rows. It doesn't always work, I'm sure they sneak back when I'm not looking. Take photos of your layouts as this gives you a good overview of the overall effect.
4. Sewing strips
Once you have your layout finalised then do take a photo. It will be good reference for later when you are putting the squares and columns together.
Collect up the first column of squares, lay each square on top of each other in a pile so you sew them together in the right order at the machine.
Using your quarter of an inch foot (do get one, I love this foot, it makes things sooo much easier) sew each square to the next one with a quarter inch seam until you have a long strip of nine squares. A quarter of an inch is the standard seam for all quilt sewing. It seems narrow the first time but it makes a neat finish.
Get the next column, pile them up and sew them in order. Complete all seven columns. You're doing great :-) Trim your seams.
Step 5. Ironing seams
When you have your strips sewn you are going to iron the seams both towards one side. Importantly you are going to alternate the way you iron them. The first strip will be ironed all to the left, the next to the right and onwards. This helps when you are joining the strips because it helps you butt the fabrics up against each other.
Step 6. Pin the strips together and sew
One you have all your strips ironed you are going to line the first two up and pin them together lining up the seams of the blocks so they match and you get neat corners. This is important and worth taking time over. Put two strips right sides together (and make sure you are joining them on the proper edge) hold the two sides together near a seam and rub them back and forward gently until you feel them butt up against eachother. The two ironed seams will fit perfectly because you've ironed them different directions
Pin near each matching seam then sew the two strips together with a quarter inch seam, backstitching at each end to secure. Add each strip the same way till you have the whole quilt top. Hooray, doesn't it look great!
Trim your seams. Iron your quilt top on the back so it sits flat, trying not to overlap seams.
Step 7. Border
I've given my quilt a white border. This enhances the colours and also gives you a bigger top with less work. My border is 3 and a half inches wide. Cut four strips from white quilter's cotton for the four sides. Attach the short sides first, sewing a quarter inch seam to join. Trim the edges to line up with the quilt top and then attach the longer pieces, sew and trim to size. Trim your seams.
Step 8. Batting
Using a piece of batting slightly larger than your quilt. Allow an inch extra all round at least. I wanted to use some smaller pieces so I sewed them together using this great tutorial.
If you are using a self binding then read the self binding tutorial in step 10. (I trimmed the batting at this stage by attaching it to the top and trimming it to overlap by one quarter inch around the edge before I added backing. I found this easier than trying to trim it with the backing on.
Step 9. Backing
Choose a piece of fabric for the backing fabric. I love flannel for this as its so soft. I was lucky enough to find some cheap patterned flannels at Lincraft a while ago and this green spot was in my stash. Here it is after quilting.
If you are self binding make sure you leave an overhang on the backing of one and a half inches. I cut mine larger and then trimmed it to size with my ruler and cutter. Here is the great tutorial I found which explains the process: http://www.ludlowquiltandsew.co.uk/articles-newsletters/self-binding-quilts/
Step 10. Make a Quilt sandwich
This is when the snazzy Quilting safety pins come into their own. Lay your backing fabric down on a smooth surface right side down. Lay your batting over the top, smooth it down well.
Finally lay your quilt top down right side up. Smooth these three layers well and start pinning them together from the centre out. You can tape each layer down to keep them taut if you want. This is more important with a larger quilt. I turned mine over every so often to check it wasn't bunching up.
Keep your pins away from the parts of the quilt you will be quilting or take them later as you sew.
Step 11. Quilt
I use a walking foot for quilting, it sews more smoothly over all the layers and helps pull the fabric through so it doesn't bunch up. I used straight lines for my quilting, using the edge of the squares as a guide. I sewed all the short sides first on both sides of the seam, and then on one side of each seam down the length. I sewed to the edge of the white border on the top and backstitched so the stitches didn't show on my self binding. A Hera marker which leaves a creased sewing guide is a good cheap addition to the sewing kit and leaves markings which come out.
Step 12. Self bind the quilt
I'm going to direct you back to the tutorial for this one I mentioned above.
I pinned my binding and then sewed with the machine. You can handsew but I'm impatient like that. I used the edge as guide and did two rows of stitching to make it secure.
The tutorial shows you how to mitre the edges but I could not make this work. Mine are folded.
Of course you can also make your own binding and sew that on, that looks great too. I direct you to all the wonderful tutorials about that elsewhere.
And so you are done. Stand back and admire your quilt. Congratulations. There are few craft projects as satisfying as a handmade quilt. Hooray!