Saturday, 31 December 2011

Last make of the year

Though it is not as if I made much during 2011 I thought I would end on a high.

It started with Secret Santa. My first thought was Cookies (said in that voice). Then, after reading Carol on UKCraftforum I had a rethink - thanks Carol.

So here I was and there was Carol, making pretty felt pictures.

So I grabbed my needle pen and some roving and started punching.

Ignore the threads, I wanted to show the shape as it came off the brush. Then I added a second colour to the middle and a couple of stamen things. I added a couple of beads, left them a little bit dangly so there would be a bit of movement, and finally added a button.

So now I have to decide what to do with it. I thought either a brooch or a hairslide!

I know I still need to tidy up the back of things, but I was focussing on not stabbing my fingers and not breaking the needles on the metal cookie cutter.

Sadly this is not upcycled or recycled, but I enjoyed it and it has given me some good ideas for easy embellishment of some soon to be crafted stuff.

I hope you like it, it was fun, quick and easy to do so I have no excuse now!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Ah ha!

Thanks to Annie and Lyn on UKcraftsforum for this link

A free e-book on how to manage your time!

I have downloaded it....  now I just need to make time to read it :)

I shall post back later.... another good excuse for not making anything!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

How to set aside time to craft...

Oh how hard that has been for me this year!

I spent all summer investigating, googling, collecting ideas in my onenote thingy and contemplating. Not to mention spending about £100 on my start up kit. Heart breaking really as I was simply re-purchasing all the bitses and bobses I used to own and use regularly.

I began to talk to my sewing machine, to draw up designs in my thought book (a posh little book cover bought years and years ago that has been patriently waiting for a purpose). I was all fired up and excited... then September came and, what with lesson planning, marking, Open days/Evenings, parent evenings and all the rest of it, I was glad OH was home to look after the chickens, I have had so little time.

I get home utterly shattered and, what with a dodgy back and CFS linked to 14 syllables of anaemia, I just flake out. And yes I know that isn't a good idea - my day job is sport science!!!

So... I am now planning 2 new things, craftuing time and getting fit and thinner time! Hopefully the exercise stuff will be in the mornings - a benefit of having chickens is you have to get up early. Craft stuff can be evenings and bits of the weekend.

But all of that means I have to do all of the day job within daylight hours - eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!

But I will, I will, I will........

Back to books

I love books and I love bags, so it was quite obvious that I would eventually succumb to this one. It has been in my Wishlist for a while: 24 "rockin' DIY projects"

Well, it starts most reassuringly
Use this book without caution. You have nothing to lose but your junk
 and then it has a Tool Key that even the most terrified beginner would be reassured by. The instructions are simple, accompanied by great piccies that really do illuminate the tricksy bits.

Then they include some inspirational bag makers with a single page 'look at me' that is probably not supposed to make you smile, but I did, cos they are all so enthusiastic (and young). The thought of making bags out of metal road signs or vinyl records (!!!!!!!!!!!!!) reduced me to sniggles that return whenever I open those pages!

But the patterns themselves are a doddle and the difficulty stars seem about right. I wanted the deconstructed tuxedo bag really as I have some great mens jackets that need a new lease of life. So when the book arrived I went straight to the Tux Redux.... my husband said he lost me for just over an hour!

As for making bags out of rubber bath mats.... I am sold, but can't see how it can be recycling when you buy the mats new!!

And I now know what to do when I see an umbrella collapsed in the street - take it home, wash it and make a fold up shopping bag out of it!!!

In short I am glad it was half price. I like the ideas, I think it is a great book for a beginner and I am certain I will use it as it has some work arounds I like the look of, including a great bag of ties, and I have quite a few of them, I can't resist buying them from charity shops!

So, score....

7/10   I think it is a great starter book and has some good ideas. I would recommend it to someone who has never reccyled or sewn before (it even has one bag that is stapled together!).


Saturday, 10 December 2011

Starting up

At first I wanted to get myself organised with whole ranges of stuff I wanted to make. "Stef's Stuff" was originally a frontrunner for my business name. But I had to rethink (with lots of help from UKCraftsforum). But I did come up with some range names that mean a lot to me. I looked up the meanings of my mother and grandmothers' names and thought about their personalities:

Lucy - could be flighty and bright (she always thought it was a tart's name). Patchworky stuff, anything multi-coloured, probably the felted stuff too!
Mabel - (which she used instead) I imagine as sepia tinted, vintage, retro stuff. I think this one would be good for the obviously recycled stuff.
Jenny means white wave... I don't think I could use that for my mixed bag of junk! But you never know! She did have a white streak in her otherwise jet black hair... I definitely need to think that through!
Patricia - blue and white, maybe jewellery from broken pottery, easy to do!
Winifred - celtic and complex would be the natural name for any wirework

So that was my original thought. As you can see there was no actual making of anything involved!

My first attempt to make something (yes, I have dabbled a little) was fusing plastic. It was supposed to be a brooch, but is too big - hey presto! a bag charm

I found all sorts of information, the best was Sara Bella based in Canada link

That's what sent me to the books on plastic fusing and looking at youtube, where I found Meilris link a simple demo of how to!

Craftzine link also has a fusing section, but some of that is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to much for me!

Other ideas for plastic bags include:
Plaiting into dog leads.
Baby bibs
Plant pot cover ups
Pen pots
Sandwich bags
Bow brooches

I could make bigger things but, having tried fusing lots of bags, I prefer smaller sections as big sheets look quite rumpled and iffy! But I may get better at it as I collect more bags and try out more options.

So that's my thoughts on plastics.... for the moment anyway.

I keep saying I am thinking...

It struck me that I use OneNote to keep all my thoughts in. Why don't I also use my blog? That way I would be able to post daily!!

So I shall.

I'm off now to organise the OneNote file and I'll pop back once I have had a proper sort out. Oh!! That's more prevarication though - "I'll just organise it all and then come back and post"! I may be a lost cause!

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Odd what happens when the real job kicks back in!

4th September was the day before term started and I haven't posted since. Nor have I crafted a thing!!

But I have found a new task... repairing colleagues jewellery! I have been inundated with broken pieces to mend and have been busily cannabilising my own junk stocks for jump rings etc.

Like an eejit I neglected to memorialise my efforts in print! But it has been eye blistering fun. I now know I need a magnifying light thingy!! I shall do a bit of research and post that here, as I get on with it. I feel a late crismas pressie looming!

I shall probably not get back here this year. But I have a corking New Year's Ressie.... make proper ME time! That will include weight loss, fitness levels and, most importantly of all, crafting time!!


Sunday, 4 September 2011

Badly cut bag

About a year ago I Freegled some material. It turned out to have a lot of those squares of material you see in upholsterers sample books. I cut out a lot: 10 x 4.5" squares and 32 x 4" squares.

The smaller squares will form the body and the larger ones the sides!

I will also need to make an outside pocket, handles and an inner bag.

All squares and the material that should form the inner bag (pale purple on the right). There is also a pre-cut strip of the same material that should make the handles.

The sides

The main body

So... to the machine!! Lets just hope I can remember how this is supposed to go! I have a nasty suspicion that I wasn't very accurate when cutting and I absolutely know my maths is awful, so it may not end up quite the size I anticipated! But it should be fun and I can make adjustments as I go - hopefully!

Some time later... (I can't believe it was 3 whole hours)

You can see that I wasn't very accurate with the cutting or the sewing for that matter!

I needle felted my initial to part of an old table mat that was then sewn on as a pocket.

Now I am having a rest... I need to work out how to sew the sides in. I think I should round off the bottom edge of the bottom square so I can pin it in more neatly! But that is going to have to wait! I need to stop and think, that and a glass of wine is calling.....

Of crochet, basting cotton and a magazine

I can't help it. I just can't settle on one thing to do, so I am trying out everything - and finishing nothing!!

Ages ago I bought myself the Chicks with Sticks knitting book (yes I shall review it soon). Oddly a younger colleague gave me their crochet book 2 days later. Her mum had been sent 2 copies in error by Amazon and she thought I'd like the spare one - I do!

Well, I found a crochet hook and some wool (don't ask, my stash is over 20 years old and not all of it started life as mine) and gave it a go!

I'm not sure I am cut out for it really! That loop thing you start with had me flummoxed for at least 5 minutes. I finally got my left hand to stop moving and my right hand to stop grabbing the wool and then....

... well I did the first chain and then went back along the loops to add a row and then got stuck! How do you continue?? Huh?!?! Then I realised I had sort of knitted the loops onto the needle - you don't do that in crochet it seems! So I unravelled it and started again and and again and again and again! I stopped when my eyes felt full of grit and my left hand ached like a big achey thing.

I went out this morning and bought a slightly bigger hook, I might have more of a chance of seeing the loops now :D

I also finally got round to buying some basting cotton! It has been a good excuse for long enough. Now I should get on with tacking together some of the stuff I cut out ages ago! Then I can sew it all up. So you see - no basting cotton = no completed projects. Clever aren't I??

I shall take some photos of the project as I go so you can see just how out of practice I am!

I also found a copy of Sew Eco (, it's a special issue that has lots of beginners tips. I bought it, I don't know why! It has some simple clothes alteration tips that I won't use as I don't own any of the clothes they alter and some odd stuff on making bags out of jeans - which I have been doing forever! So why I bought it I have no idea! I shan't be doing it again!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Yet another book

I've realised that now I am back at work I have ignored my blog - shocking!

But I have been cogitating and planning and thinking about making - again I prevaricate. But I love the planning stages and I have found out so much about the odd bits and pieces I used to do as a kid.

I was avidly reading lots of blogs, just allowing myself to wander through other peoples crafting lives without really looking where I was going. As I wandered I came across wire jewellery and I thought...

... I have some samples from the nice people at Wires, I could make something! Then I started looking further, yes, I have some pliers, I could make a mandrel out of various round things knocking around the house - result!

But did I? No! I carried on reading, plotting and planning and then realised I didn't really understand some of the terms I was reading. As a kid I would twist any old wire I found, hang something pretty off it and sell it at a school fayre! Now I know that I missed a few steps.

This was the result - yet another book!

It is a very pretty book and the basic techniques section is an absolute godsend. Nothing fancy but good pictures and simple instructions. I realised very quickly that I still need one vital piece of kit - a block of metal to temper the wire. But with 30 projects to look at I certainly found a few I can make from my existing stash - I may start with a ribbon bangle as I have some lovely lengths of material and ribbon that would look good caged in silver wire.

The projects are great, useable and, if you start with a bit of confidence, they don't look very hard. She even shows you how to cage your pet rock - a flashback to the 70s that I loved!

8/10 I am greedy, I would have loved 100 projects.

And because of that I found a great website link These lovely people send free patterns to your inbox. Some of this stuff is just wonderful, the spring flower earrings will be made soon, pictures to follow, I promise!

Friday, 29 July 2011

More books

Well, I still have 2 books that I ordered from The Book Depository to review. So here goes.

Jewelry Upcycled! This one is a definite keeper (despite the American spelling). I doubt I'll use it soon but it certainly gave me some food for thought. It starts with the usual tools etc and then goes on with chapters on metal things, nice forks; then plastic, more uses for cut up loyalty cards; then glass and ceramics, I'd forgotten about filing bits of broken pottery. Then it got a bit samey, fabric and leather, all seen before, e.g. T-shirt roses and felting sweaters. The last chapter was working with found stuff, like chopping up tins.

7/10 Great pictures, nice gallery at the end of each chapter. Best of all the combination of pictures and instructions ensure I want to make most of it, and believe I can!

Button Jewellery I knew I'd like this one. A small book with simple projects, each of which can be easily adapted. She shows just enough to make you believe it is all possible. The variety of findings and clear explanations of what each are and what difference they make to the piece are well worth reading.

8/10 Possibly not for someone who wants lots of reference material, but great for reminding an old lag about the possibilities and introducing me to new findings. I'd recommend this to anyone who loves buttons.

I spent an hour in Waterstones yesterday and decided to have a look at some of their books. Couldn't find the ones I was looking for (machine applique) but did find some interesting handmade/craft ones, one in particular caught my eye. So much so I brought it home with me.

Lovely things to make for girls of slender means Halfway through an almond croissant and I opened this one! OK, by the time I got to the last part (Winter) I was a little less enamoured, but the sheer enthusiasm of the woman is catching! There are few full patterns, then again she does tell you how to make them yourself and she gives suggestions for the very few you might want to buy! This book includes dresses, skirts, bags, necklaces, hats, repairs, headbands and a whole heap of other things that just make you go "Oooh!" I brought it home and spent a couple of hours matching projects to materials.

9/10 A bit more detail would have been good. Though I doubt the book would be as small and beautiful if she had added more! A definite must if you are new to making do or are, like me, a rusty returner.

Now..... how do I fit everything into a working day?? Problems, problems :)

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Scarf to Bag

Scarf (preferably lined)
Ball of string
Cottons: matching + contrasting
Sewing machine
Makes 2 - 3

1. Cut off one end of the scarf, to the depth required for the bag plus c.8cm for flaps.
2. Fold depth required plus 3cm.
3. Iron the 3cm extra down as inside flap (this shows the lining when opened but is hidden by outside flap when closed).
4. Iron top flap down.
5. Sew up each side of the bag, right way out, with matching cotton. Body of bag only, not the top flap.

1. Take 3 lengths of string, as long as you want the handle to be. I used the matching cotton.
2. Select zig zag stitch that is wide enough to pass over the width of one piece of string. I found that the button hole feature on my machine worked perfectly. Place one piece of string under the foot and sew. You will need to guide the string and it is possible to pull back a bit of you miss a bit!
3. Repeat for the other two pieces of string.
4. Change to a contrasting colour thread and select a wider zig zag stitch, I used an overhem stitch because it looked more random on the finished handle.
4. Sew the handle into the body of the bag. I chose to sew through both sides of the bag as I wanted to be sure it didn't pull the material. I put in 3 rows of matching stiches and then X'd it too!

I will need to re-think the placement of the handles and whether it needs a proper closure. The string ends up quite stiff. I may use ribbons and other odds and ends next time: sew over and twist as you go!

Jumper to Scarflet

OK, I will admit that I sewed the button holes in the wrong place, so I had to turn the scarflet round and add a third button to make it sit nicely on the neck. But I quite like it.

I felted a couple of jumpers I bought at the car boot sale. I had intended to make a matching set of a pair of wrist warmers, a hat and a scarflet from one jumper, possibly with a small bag/purse if I had enough of the neck left.

Sadly I got carried away and used the sleeve ends in the scarflet! Never mind. I'll get it right next time!

This one is 4" x 21". It is quite narrow. I might increase the size next time, 4.5" x 21" perhaps. I want it to sit inside the collar of a coat or under a jumper and just poke out keeping the neck warm. Yet more thinking, measuring and placing of patterns to make sure I get the most of a single jumper!

A Car Boot sort of day

Well, I know it will sound daft but I've only ever been to a couple of car boot sales before and never very early! I read about the Hempstead sale and emailed the markets officer asking if it would be OK to sell home crafted goods and she said yes - so this morning I went and had a look!

At 6.30 am I got into the car and drove off. It was a lovely morning and I had the top down, sunnies on and I was singing along to the summer car tape - all 80s, Bangles and similar sunny stuff.

When I got there it was a bit quiet, there are 2 other big do's on this weekend. So I had a slow wander and chatted to a couple of people. I was struck by the rudeness of a couple of blokes who were wandering round. Whenever they got to someone who was obviously having an attic clear out they said, very loudly "and that's crap"... odd I thought!

By 7.00 I was eating the nastiest bacon roll I have ever had, the coffee was OK though!

More people had arrived and I was transfixed watching the newly arrived stall holders getting mobbed. I am not going to cope with that very well!

I decided to follow the mob rather than join in. I said 'good morning' to everyone and commiserated on their mobbing. Every one of them helped me rummage through their stall for 100% wool things and one lady handed me a bowl of beads and bangles that I wasn't really looking for. She thought I could use them for decoration and sold the lot to me for a pound!

So I bought 6 woolly jumpers, a bowl of beads and bangles and a tray of seed pots (don't ask). I shall take photo's of what happened next.

When enough has happened I shall go and sell some. But I think I will need to think long and hard about how to manage being mobbed!

Bless the nice people....

... who take time to write the books that we then critique cos we could have done sooooooooooooooooo much better :)

I am such a chicken when it comes to trusting my own brain. I never used to be. But these days I seem to need to see what someone else has done before I start. So I grabbed some books that looked interesting. They turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag, here are the first two:

Upcycled Accessories: 25 projects using Repurposed Plastic
Well, it looks nice and starts with some handy tips on how to add prettiness to fused plastic - appliqueing more plastic, crayon shavings, permanent marker, tulle, collage of more plastic, plastic confetti, paint pens, acrylic paint, stamps and striping. All REALLY obvious but reassuring to read.

Then the projects!! Well, except for the use of striping (sewing together the offcuts of fused bags of different colours) and the little journal, it is all a bit disappointing. I hope my stuff looks better! The worst offender has to be the pinny made of fused plastic! Not in my kitchen or anywhere near the BBQ! No, perhaps the worst is the shower cap, or the slippers! No, the bucket hat.... oh I give in.

3/5 and only because of the first few pages and the fact that it was only a couple of quid!

Rubbish: Reuse your Refuse
Yes, very American! Apparently I may be a Refashionista!!!!

I may repurpose this book immediately. To be fair there are a couple of nice ideas, but the intro is too simplistic! Who knew you could find useful junk at jumble sales?

I loved the transistor earrings and the credit card cuff though. All those coffee shop loyalty cards will now have a new lease of life! And the small bag made out of a turtle neck jumper and a scarf was nice - very doable!

Sadly too much of this book relies on new material to complete the projects and a lot of the products are purely decorative - and I use that term very loosely!

2/5 as it wasn't as recycled as it should have been and the upcycling was limited - I don't think decorations count!

Still I have a couple of good ideas from these two and two more to read through!

My first make

So, I spent weeks looking at other people's work. Just what can you do with old plastic bags?

The answer seems to be "Just about anything you want to Stef!"

So I grabbed a bag, a button, a bit of material, a safety pin, some wire and a needle and cotton. The wire, a sample from a specialist supplier was the only new thing used, oh, and the thread!

I fused my first bag, not too hard, didn't smell much either. I cut some petally shapes and sewed the wire round the edges then sewed the button on. That was my first mistake!

I should have sewn the safety pin to the scrap material then sewed both it and the button on. It would still have covered the centre and wire ends back and front, but would have been much easier and looked neater! Hey ho! Next time!

It took 2 hours and is poorly stitched and a bit too messy, that and it is black and a bit too big for a brooch! I may use it as a bag charm and see what comments I get!

I think I will continue with jewellery and bag charms, they are quick and easy to make with ust a little bit of plastic. But I don't want to stick with that - I have other ideas that I want to explore!