Monday, 16 October 2017

Autumn is Here - Let's Nest!

The beautiful forest in Norfolk. Seriously, what could be better!?
Boy oh boy do I love this time of the year! One of the main reasons that I left Australia for cooler climes on the other side of the world was the seasons. Bless Oz but you can look out of a window in some places and January looks the same as July. 

Beeches are my favourite. It used to be oaks until I was more exposed to beech forests.
And the seasons are all swapped around - Christmas comes in the high summer and trust me when I say, very few people do the beach barbie thing. No we opt for a traditional roast with all the trimmings in the heat - one of the trimmings is flies.

I have always had a fascination with mushrooms in the wild!
Nasty. No, I want seasons and I want to live where things happen like they should. And now we have one of may favourite times of the year. Autumn!

Oh wow, what a pop of colour
My friends are doing nesty things making jam and chutney and foraging in the hedges for blackberries. Halloween is looming and I am itching to make a Halloween card and I have just the friend to give it to. Halloween is sadly not big over here in England but I still love the imagery.

I think that we have to agree that Norfolk is a bit nice :-) 
I have been making cards and crocheting at night in front of the fire and I have been thinking about warm toasty toes which brings me to felted slippers!

Not begging for Christmas....honest 😀
Now this is a great upcycle make so if you have a woollen jumper or can find one in a charity shop, all you have to do is to machine wash it on the hottest setting  with detergent and it will really shrink down. Throw a couple of tennis balls into the wash and that will help things along. This is the quickest way to make felt. And the hotter the wash the better!

Look at those colours!
I made mine from a beautiful scarf that my Mum made me. I loved the colours and the purest of wool but it really ate my neck. In the end, I had to give up wearing it. So I asked my Mum if she would mind if I made it into something else. Predictably she said yes so I started thinking about slippers.

If you do not have a jumper or a scarf, grab some felting wool (often called by the German name of Filtz wolle) and then either knit or crochet a giant rectangle. Remember that it will shrink a bit and you are better off to have some left over. Then felt your giant rectangle as described above.
This is a very simple pattern and here is the template that I designed. They are cut quite high on the instep because otherwise, they can slip off but don't worry, there is plenty of stretch.

The part of the upper where you put your foot in is cut deliberately small because it is easier and better practice to cut this to fit. It is easier than putting it back I found!
Measure your foot and have a play with the sizing. Please forgive me but I do not have a printer and everyone's feet are a little different anyway so the best way is to have a play and when the pattern fits your feet, it is the right size. This is what I do just in case the computer has done something awful to my sizing! I am a UK size 6 and these fit with some ease.

Looking more like a Norman helmet now!

My scarf wasn't very wide so I cut two uppers and joined them with a zig-zag stitch. If you have more room to work you could just cut on the fold if your fabric isn't too bulky.

My original design was cut too low on the instep so I redrew them higher up. You can cut lower though and because felt doesn't fray, it is up to you how low your go. I just cut an extra piece and secured it into the gap with some cross stitches. These slippers are very forgiving! I have drawn the pattern with the higher cut already there so that you don't have to guess.

Cut the foam interfacing a wee bit smaller than the the leather and wool sole layers. It looks a bit unsightly peeking out from the side of the soles when you are finished.

The soles were a mixture of leather on the bottom, some style-vil foam interfacing (Vlieseline) and then some wool felt for the inner lining.
You don't need to line the slipper itself.

Place the upper onto the sole and then sew the edge. Here again, the felt will not fray and it looks quite nice to have the edges exposed and unfinished. Just give them a trim.

I made a leather layered flower for the instep too- This is a lovely Sizzix die from Tim Holtz (Tattered Florals) and it cuts beautifully through the leather. 

You can see my Frankenstein style stitching where I made the instep higher too. Oh the joys of designing! Any other time, I might have just discarded the uppers but my Mum made me this scarf so every little bit was precious. At least it shows that most mistakes are fixable!

A snowflake button completed the picture.

So toasty toes now and Autumn can throw all of its beauty my way!
I am off to make Halloween cards now.

See you next time

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Halloween Cards

I love the idea of Halloween. I love the imagery and the colours and the fun. The only thing that I have trouble with is handing out huge amounts of candy to children - not because I am some sort of stingy scrooge. I just don't want to play any part in their health downfall. All that sugar scares me. Well at least that is in the spirit of ghosties and ghoulies! Halloween is supposed to be scary. I am just not sure if I have it right....

I love this time of year!

Well one thing that I am down with is Halloween card making! As my regulars will know, I am a sewist and I make bags and quilts most of the time. But I paint too and crochet. I love making jewellery and cards are my hobby. I have filled several scrapbooks and I like macrame. Okay, so I do a bit of everything. Except knitting. You do not need to see my knitting.

This post is all about the cards. And in particular, a bit of ink blending that I did on these two with Tim Holtz Distress Inks....

Cannot beat Halloween for card inspiration!

I love blending and I could do it all day. if my editors, to whom I owe work didn't have an opinion on it, I would indeed do it all day!

I used some darker silver glitter paper for the stars, And some stitching - it can be hard to put a border on a darker coloured card. Machine stitching to the rescue! And if it is too full on, tone it down with some ink.

These cards are mostly die cuts (thank you Sizzix) and some embellishments but this time, I really want to concentrate on the blending of the background itself.

Loving that glow!

I started with a piece of plain white card stock and some squeezed lemonade, wild honey, seedless preserves and black soot ink

I used a blending tool and loaded with squeezed lemonade and started in the centre, just slightly off the middle

go for a circular motion to get an airbrushed effect and never stop too long in the one place.

When I was happy with the yellow glow, I introduced wild honey to the edges and blended some more

Do be prepared to go back to the previous colour each time to help with a seamless blend.

You can go back into squeezed lemonade to keep it seamless too. Next came the seedless preserves, just a little at first and then a fair bit more

It is interesting at this point how the card still looks light. like daytime. But what happens when we add black....

I think that I will make a galaxy card out of this one. I can see a nebula there now...

I went in with black soot from the sides and then right up to the seedless preserves

Here again, you can go back to purple and blend.

And there we go! When you put the witch or the house over this, you will get an eerie glow. 
Splatter some white paint 'stars' to add texture to the background. i use DecoArt Americana Warm White

The house card is the same deal but swap out twisted citron for seedless preserves.

The moon is stamped onto glitter paper with an Altenew 'to The Moon' stamp set. It took several goes so use a stamping platform for best results.

I am going to work on another colour palette for Christmas now but first I have a mind to stencil a background or two. My Mother-in-law's birthday is coming up.....

Here is the Autumn inspired card that I made for my mother-in-law.

See you next time!

Friday, 8 September 2017

Did You Know........A New Challenge!

Just looking at my majorly large (again) pile of scraps and bits and wondering (again) what to do with them all and I got to of the piles is a trial pile of orphan quilt blocks where I tried out a design and then thought, nah...I would go mad if I had to make a whole quilt out of that!

Others are trial blocks where I thought, 'I love that but what about the colour...' and me being me, I could not throw the proto type away. And so they built up. Now it is ridiculous. Again.

I am obviously not going to change so my next thing is to find a way to use them.

Mats are useful so if you have some orphan blocks, don't think BIGGER, think smaller! You may be closer to some finished items than you think.
Idea number one is that any orphan quilt block can become a mat! I know right, how simple is that! Mats are useful. You can use them on the table as a mug rug, mismatched coasters, placemats, under vases and pot plants and as teensy mini quilts. Think dolly quilts for little people in your life.
Anyway, here is my first find in the scrap basket....

Really loved the way this mountain turned out but it was too small. That is the problem with designing. Win some and lose some. Even the losses can be made good though.
Now you will have to add some pieces. Today's example is one that I made to see if I could make  a wonky mountain for a larger project. Turned out that I could but the trial piece wasn't quite big enough. So I put it aside and started again.

Well it might not be big enough for a quilt or cushion but it is a perfect mug rug and you might not believe this but I don't have one of those!

I have auditioned some fabrics to go with it and then I started by adding one large neutral piece to the side of it and a black and white underneath.

Then I decided that this would not be a bound piece but a bagged out project. This meant that I had to hunt for a scrap of wadding (those build up too!).
Then I needed backing fabric. I put both of these together and then did the bagging out thing....

I trimmed next and clipped across the corners to reduce bulk.

Turned out and closed the gap. My choice of quilting this time was a channel quilt in concentric rectangles....

And you can now see the strip of monochrome underneath and the neutral on the side.
And I found a leather scrap and one of my beloved Chicago screws to make a hanging tab....

You will love these screws! One try and you will be addicted for life - no more bending rivets!
And we are now down one orphan block! These would make a great gift and the leather and brass detail brings it bang up to date.

Something else to consider too, have you thought about making your table setting more boho by making it deliberately mismatched? Seriously, instead of all the same (I hate repeating designs to make a set), consider one linking feature like shape or colour and then plough through the scraps.

Well back to the drawing board for the next one now. And I get to drink that coffee!
See you soon!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

#savingseptember - What's it all about?

Morning my lovelies! It is the first of September and the first of anything is a time for new beginnings. For me, this first is personal. So you might be asking why I have gone so public then? Good question. The answer is that I need everyone to keep me honest. Perhaps I had better explain.....

Y'all wouldn't be smiling if you knew how much I had spent this week!
My spending is getting out of hand. I told myself that in August it would slow up and then I find that I have bought 163 books IN ONE WEEK! I am told by people I trust that some people don't own that many in total. I have well over 16,000.

Using what I have is also important.
I have also bought craft supplies (for my work) and then just about anything else that I could get my mouse to click on (photographic props) and I am not enjoying it anymore.

Time to pay attention to what really matters.
I am easily addicted (that amount of books is not normal) and I want to find the strength to control this. Besides our house is not big enough.

Not every thing costs money #spendtime
My only saving grace is that nothing is bought on credit. Not. One. Thing. Believe me, debt is not the issue here. The fact that I can buy things does not mean that I should. In fact, part of the reason that I am sharing this is to illustrate that our go-to reaction of 'oh she must be in debt up to her eyeballs' isn't always true. I don't actually owe a penny to anyone in any form. 

Everything is 'needed' for work eh?
You might be wondering why I am stopping a pleasurable experience like shopping if I don't have a debt problem? As I said, debt is not the only issue. The problem is space. I have things on top of things. Under this thing is another thing. It is making me miserable because I cannot focus on one thing anymore. I have too much stuff and not enough room. When the fun stops, stop. I am stopping. 

Find something else to do...
So, September starts with a month long saving with a few rules. C'mon, you know me! There have to be rules!

Rule #1 - no spending of anything unnecessary. Yes it does sound obvious but I am reeeaaalll good at justifying.

Rule #2 - I must post an Instagram photo @craftyvamp every day of something that I already have and have stopped appreciating because I am waiting for the next parcel to arrive.

Rule #3 - report on Instagram each day on how I am going in less that 15 words (I don't want to bore you all to sobs).

Rule #4 - surprise myself by using what I already have and boy do I already have!

Rule #5 - this one is a no-brainer really...get rid of something. A lot of somethings. I am going to clean out the craft room first. I will sell some craft books (yes really) and I will be selling some fabric (uh-huh). The attic will be next and our local charities will be getting some early Christmas pressies.

And that's it!  Rule #1 may sound an easy get out clause but really, at the end of the day, I will only be cheating myself.

Trying to focus on something other than the money #simplethings

And what IS allowed is to save things to my personal wish list - that way, I can go through them at the end of the time and surprise myself at how much I actually throw away without buying. That will stop the impulse buying.

At least nothing is on credit!
Thank you for being on board with this. You will be seeing the three hashtags that I have chosen a lot this month #savingseptember, #spendtime and #simplethings

#needyouwithme could be another one.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Upcycled Photo Stands

I have been looking at my die cutter this time and wondering how we could achieve something great with cardboard (because I have cardboard) to display photos on shelves.

I really like those little wooden 'thingies' (sorry about the technical language!) where you slot the photo in the top and then they sit on a shelf. but there are a lot of them around and what if you want to recycle something and make the a bit different....

And, me, being me, there had to be a challenge and I wanted to make this an upcycled make too. Plus, not everyone wants to work with wood. I find it difficult actually. Don't laugh but cardboard is easier!

I have a lot of scraps of quite stiff chipboard from other things and these bits and pieces are too small to use in a larger make but too bit to throw away. You know that feeling I am sure.

So, that set me to thinking about what could be created.

Laminated photo stands! A little bit of paint and paper. And leather. And glitter fabric and....well you can see what I came up with.

And they are easy. You need a die cutter and some dies that will take the strain of some stiff materials and a dab of glue. 
I am using a Sizzix Big Shot and some cute dies which are flat on the bottom and will sit on a shelf.
If you haven't got a die cutter, don't worry. It is slower but you can find other things and cut around them. So long as the base is flat or you can make it flat, you are good to go!

This one started with a circle and then I made a flat base by cutting about a third off.
You need some chipboard or other thick cardboard (not corrugated box though. If your card is thinner, simply add more than six layers until it sits up securely.
You need a PVA glue or similar - anything which will handle paper is fine and perhaps something more specific for the leather one. I have used hot glue.
Also some paint and a brush. I have opted for DecoArt Americana Extreme Sheen metallic paint in 24 K gold.
For the fronts, choose leather scraps (available in mixed bags online) and pretty paper. I have some glitter fabric which also worked beautifully.

These little stands can actually be reversible so for example, leather goes on one side and paper on the other and then you can turn them around. It really is a versatile make - you can see what you can achieve with one simple idea and three variations. we go! Begin by choosing the die and then cutting 6 pieces from the cardboard....

The six pieces will be laminated together to create a shape that will stand up. You can add a couple more if it isn't stable enough.

Also cut two (one for the front and one for the back) from your leather or paper.

That leather doesn't look right....
That's better! Leather needs stitching!
Now glue the card pieces together with your PVA glue. Before you do though, this is the important part- glue the six pieces of cardboard together in two groups of three and allow them to dry with something heavy on them.
Trim the edges and make them as neat as possible and then paint the edges with a few coats of gold paint...

As you can see, no need to be über neat! You won't see these bits and it is much better to have good coverage on the edges.
Now, they will be joined to make one whole but only glue half way up this time. 
The reason for this is to provide a slot in which to put the photo.

I have put in a piece of paper so that you can see the rough idea of where the photo might go.
TIP: you can actually gently sand this chipboard to improve the edges. Do it outside though, it makes a  mess.

You can clearly see the slot for the photo once the stand is dry and the paper is removed.
They sit on a flat surface really well.
Finally, glue the leather  motif onto the front or the paper or whatever you think is nice.

The stitched leather looks much better than unstitched.
I have had some lovely Threaders Glitter fabric come across my desk just recently and I used that for one frame with great results.

The photo absolutely does not do it justice!
I love this stuff - it is everything that you want glitter fabric to be and in the UK you can get it here.

Okay and that is all there is too it! These make great gifts and stocking fillers for the upcoming you-know-what season (closer today than it was yesterday) and they sell well on craft fairs.

Off to print some photos now!

See you next time