Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oh no! Technical problems...

Hello there loyal readers, I'm very sorry to say that due to computer problems (the poor computer has finally completely failed and the new computer will take a few weeks to arrive) I'm not going to be able to do any new posts here for a while.

Normal service will hopefully resume shortly...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday book review

"Essential Crochet: 30 irresistible projects for you and your home"
by Erika Knight
ISBN: 978-1844001651
UK crochet terms

This really is a lovely book with a good range of projects using a variety of techniques and materials. The layout and photography throughout this book is clear, simple and beautifully done making you want to flip through it with a nice cup of tea and dream of all the things you could make.

The crochet instructions at the start are well written and have some of the clearest photographs of how to work the stitches that I have ever seen. There is also instruction on how to work a Solomon's knot which is a technique that produces a net like fabric and is one that I haven't come across before.

The first section contains some basic patterns to get you started but all of these have an unusual twist to give them a professional look that you don't get with most beginner projects. The use of different materials like leather thonging to make a simple tote bag and finishing a simple scarf with an assortment of buttons is the key in how these finished projects look so good.

The other sections in this book contain projects in 4 different styles; timeless (think filet crochet and lacy edgings), contemporary, heirloom (some lovely baby items here), and vintage. There are some beautiful projects that are very tempting, though my favourite is the one using the Solomon's knot technique to create this beautiful gauzy net curtain that looks a little like a spider's web.

For new and more experienced crocheters I think this book would make a great addition to your personal library, however one word of caution - if you already have "Simple crochet" by Erika Knight then you may find that some of the ideas are quite similar and so it may be best to choose between the two.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mini tutorial: Glass painting

I thought it might be nice to try and do some quick tutorials for a few of the different crafts that I dabble in - who knows, it may encourage some of you to have a go at something new and perhaps find a new craft that you love :-)

So for my first Mini tutorial I've been busy with a little glass painting as I think this is a great craft to get into; the materials are relatively cheap and you can get some lovely results quickly with only a little practice.

1. Firstly you will need to gather your materials together:

- Glass paints in as many colours as you want (I recommend starting with a basic set of red, yellow & blue in paints that you can mix)
- Outliner paste (you can get a range of different colours - as a beginner black or lead effect is the most forgiving of mistakes)
- White spirit and the relevant solvent for the glass paint you are using
- Very fine paint brush
- Kitchen roll
- Item for painting

Most good craft shops will stock glass paints and outliner paste and you can also purchase them online (I've bought them from the UK based Lainesworld successfully before). You can either get paint that you just leave to dry or paint that becomes dishwasher safe after you've baked your finished item in the oven. I've only used the more common non-baking paint as most of my projects are for more decorative items that don't need much regular washing, if I was to paint glassware then I would probably consider it.

To start out with I would recommend seeing if you can find a sheet of acetate to practice painting on. You can put a sheet of white paper underneath it to make it easier to see what you are doing and because it is a nice flat surface you'll find the glass paint stays put nicely. After a bit of practice on acetate try painting up some jars from your recycling, if you can find jars with any flat faces (some of the posher jams come in cube like jars and are perfect for starting with) then be sure to have a go with these.

2. Prepare your glass for painting:

Remove any labels that may be there if you are recycling old jars by giving them a good soak in hot water before pealing them off. Using the white spirit give the glass a good wipe all over to remove any remaining glue traces as well as to get rid of any finger prints or other marks. Place your glass somewhere that it is secure (where it won't roll around) and be sure that you have good lighting so that you can easily see if you have applied enough paint.

3. Draw out your design:

While holding the outliner paste in a position that is comfortable for you (I hold the tube like a pen) squeeze very gently until the paste starts to come out of the nib and then bring it down to the glass. Try to hold the nib slightly away from the glass as you can smudge it easily with the nib as it comes out of the tube. The technique is a little like icing cakes and it can take a good bit of practice to get a nice finish with the paste. You want to end up with a neat raised line of paste around the edges of your design as the glass paint needs to stay within your outline.

If you make any mistakes while drawing out your design then you can easily wipe away the paste with a little kitchen roll dipped in white spirit. However, if that is tricky to do then you can also leave the paste to dry hard and then carefully cut and peal away the area with a sharp pen knife.

4. Painting the glass:

Leave the outline to dry for a couple of hours before beginning to paint - or use a hairdryer to harden the paste if you have less time. You can tell the paste is hard by giving it a gentle nudge with your finger nail to see if you leave a dent.

When painting with glass paints you want to fill the area that you have outlined with the paint in an even way. If you paint it to thinly then it will look streaky and the colours won't be as bright as they should be. If you paint it to thickly then the paint will drip over the edges of the outliner and go everywhere.

Start by carefully loading up your brush with paint and then dab a blob of paint into the centre of the area that you are trying to fill. Use the paint brush to push the paint into each of the edges and when the paint starts to be too thin get another brush load from the pot. If you are painting a curved edge then you will need to keep the item moving so the paint doesn't all drip to one side. Blow gently on your work as you go to help it dry quicker and once one area is dry enough that the paint no longer moves about you can start on the next area. Some people find using a hair dryer on a low setting to help speed this drying also helps.

Once you've painted all of your design then let the item dry for at least 4 hours before touching any of the painted areas, remembering to occasionally turn or move the item so that the paint doesn't get any drips forming while it dries.

Now sit back and admire your handiwork and be sure to show it off to anyone you can!

If you want to read more about glass painting then I highly recommend you finding a copy of "The glass painting book" by Jane Dunsterville (ISBN: 978-0715304280) - it's a great place to start and has all sorts of practical advice and tips in.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday book review

Christmas Crafts: Inspired by the Traditions of Scandinavia (Christmas)"Christmas crafts: Inspired by the traditions of Scandinavia"
ISBN: 978-1905825332

Apologies for the extremely un-seasonal timing of this latest book review, I did mean to write up a review for this book before Christmas but I got caught up in other preparations, and now the Library wants this back...

There are a lot of Christmas crafting books out there and most of them seem to be the same book with slightly different pictures, this books however does have some lovely ideas scattered through it and is very well presented. The focus seems to be more on overall finished style than on how you make each project, with lots of beautiful photos throughout the book to inspire your own individual craft style.

Most of the projects are quite simple and the instructions reflect this keeping the detail to a minimum and letting the photos do most of the guiding. Sometimes the projects are almost too simple to really be called projects, especially when you are looking at the sections which have flower arrangements in.

One such project would be the stocking advent calendar (see photo on left), the idea being that you sew presents into wrapping paper in a stocking shape and add numbers to show which day each should be opened. These can then be ripped into easily and look lovely all presented in a nice box at the beginning of December.

Another of my favourite projects would be this beautiful little snow castle made from sugar cubes. The instructions are that you simply glue the cubes directly to some cardboard tubes, and add glitter and other decorations to finish. Isn't it lovely?

This wouldn't be a book that I will be dashing out to buy any time soon, but I do love the photographs and if the nice people at the Library are still talking to me next year then I may well borrow it again then.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's in the bag!

Around Christmas time the wonderful Sew Mama Sew blog hosted another huge giveaway with tons of crafty blogs taking part. Lots of very generous blog authors take the time to host giveaways on their blogs and there were some really fantastic prizes up for grabs.

Even though I'm not a very lucky person I managed to win something - the lovely Green Bag Lady did a very generous giveaway of one finished bag as well as the materials to make another bag. She had 100 winners so I can imagine she must have been at her sewing machine for hours making up bags for this giveaway.

The bag on the left is the one that the Green Bag Lady made up for me and I just love the colours. This is the bag that I'm going to be giving away as my Mother in Law was quick to reserve it the minute it came through the door.

So with my first New Year's resolution in mind (conquer the sewing machine) I set to work on the material that I was sent. First off I had to figure out how to turn the iron on and set up the board (yes, you've guessed it, I don't do any of the ironing in this house) and then with my fabric pressed and cut ready I dusted off the sewing machine and had a go.

Surprisingly I encountered no real problems at all and with the help from the online video and instructions I whizzed through making this little bag as though I was some sort of pro. My sewing machine and I are now firm friends and I am seriously thinking about making up a batch of these bags for next year's Christmas presents (that's resolution #2 start Christmas preparation now and hopefully prevent the usual Christmas last minute panic).

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday magazine review

"The Art of Crochet" issue 1
ISSN: 1759 7250

While out trying to find thank you cards in WHSmiths my husband spotted this new Crochet title and as it was only 99p I thought it worth getting a copy to review for you all.

The Art of Crochet is another of those endless partworks that suck you in with a cheap first issue and free gifts and then before you know it you've subscribed and seem to be knee deep in ring binders and bits of hole punched paper...

The 'hook' (he he!) for this part work is making a crochet throw with a new ball of yarn each week, and at 120 squares in the throw you'll be buying this partwork for over 2 years before you've finished. The yarn you get is only a 26g ball - enough to make your square but very little else. At the full weekly price of £2.99 it really doesn't seem worth getting as the content to the partwork seems pretty basic with some not very original patterns, a new stitch each week and a quick page with tips and tricks.

The first issue is there to pull you in with a DVD that shows you the very basics (useful for visual learners - but remember there are loads of crochet videos online that are just as good), the two small balls of yarn (the practice ball of yarn is even smaller at only 6g!), a metal 4mm hook and the instructions for a scarf, some cushion covers and a mesh pattern top.

This isn't something I am going to buy again, and I'm slightly disappointed by how little you get as I worry that it will turn potential new crocheters away from a fantastic craft. If you want to learn to crochet there are lots of other ways to begin with loads of free resources on the web as well as some beautifully written books for beginners. This partwork is a very overpriced way of doing it and really doesn't offer anything special to help you.

Monday, January 4, 2010

What Santa brought us

This year it seems that I wasn't the only person trying to make handmade gifts for my friends and family, it turns out that my sister, sister in law and brother in law were all busy crafting away. Look at all the lovely things they made us!

From the top left going clockwise:

- bib for Sam (but I'm avoiding using it as Sam will only get it covered in food)
- pull along duck
- crochet ball with bell
- lavender sachet
- small & tiny totoro (the tiny totoro also has lavender in - lovely)
- tasty jam
- cute crochet flower brooch (mollie flowers)

As if all this wasn't enough my lovely sister also painted this for little Sam's room - isn't it just beautiful? I'm going to get it properly framed and hung in his room very soon and I know that it will become one of Sam's favourite things.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A late Ho ho ho!

Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers! Due to all the annual Christmas madness I've been very late in writing my roughly weekly posts which is a shame as I have lots of craftiness to share with you.

Now that Christmas is done for another year I can show you some of the things I had been busy working on but had to keep secret. First off are my Christmas cards of which I managed to make about 25 this year (not enough for everyone but it's a start). With a quick embossing lesson from my sister in law I was happy to find that embossing is a lovely and quick way to make some very attractive cards.

The trees on my cards are simply two stamped trees which have had the embossing powder sprinkled over them and then heated with a handy heating tool (a bit like a mini hair dryer) which gives a slightly raised surface and a bit of added shimmer from the glitter in the powder. The middle tree is a simple triangle crocheted from green thread and glued on with a star and trunk added in afterwards with green pen.

To go in my cards I made a batch of crochet star Christmas tree decorations - over 30 of them in fact, and these little lovely stars almost killed me. Though simple to make with a basic granny style hexagon as the centre and 5 triangles coming out from each side to make the points they each took about 1 and a half hours to make up, just weaving in the loose ends afterwards gave me callouses on my poor fingers! Once finished these stars had a quick soak in some white glue and water mix and left flat to dry so that they became nice and stiff.

Next I painted up a large batch of scented candles that I had bought at a very reasonable price from Ikea and with their apple and cinnamon scent were very Christmasy. Stupidly though I wrapped them all up before thinking to take a photo of them so all I can show you is a pile of some of them all nicely wrapped and waiting to be given away...

I still have one candle that I kept back for myself so if I get around to it I'll give it a quick once over with my glass paints to give you an idea of how lovely they looked.

Lastly I managed to find the time to make up some more of these great crochet slippers for some of the people who had admired the pair that I made for myself recently. The pattern is simple and you end up with a very comfy slipper that seems to fit well (at least it fits me and the other lucky three recipients that got the slippers pictured).

Phew! What a lot of crafting - I'm very glad that I did it but I really wished I had started much earlier as there was so much more that I wanted to make that I just didn't have the time to do. So in the spirit of making a start on some of next Christmas' crafting I've already taken down all our Christmas cards and cut them up for gift tags to go on next years presents. I'm also thinking I'll start to trying to make presents this very month so if you have any great ideas for Christmasy makes then let me know!