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September 2014

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Around the world blog hop!

September 29, 2014

I am a naughty blogger.  It’s very interesting (to me, at any rate) that I spend so little time writing here on my blog when, for so many years of my life, I’ve written constantly, whether it was business or study writing, fiction, poetry, or even blogging about writing – something I used to do several years ago, rather ironically!

I do seem to spend my time these days actually making things, or designing them, or learning how to make them, which I guess isn’t a bad thing, when that is how I’m attempting to make a living.  I do read a lot about other makers and their processes, but have never really thought through my own, never mind committed any of those thoughts to paper / screen.  So when the lovely and incredibly creative Manu of I ManuFatti tagged me to take part in the Around the world blog hop, I thought it’d be a good opportunity to do just that!

What am I working on?

Everything – all at once.  Seriously.  My head is ridiculous – there is a big tangle of thread, fabric, yarn, sequins and dreamy pictures of gorgeous things and cute animals in there.  I blame this to some extent on Pinterest, where I spend far too much time some days.  More of that later…

I almost always have at least one knitting project on the go at any one time.  At the moment, it’s this dreamily sparkling scarf, which I’m making in a quilted lattice stitch with Rowan’s Kidsilk Eclipse yarn – my new pash after the evil yarn discontinuer at Rowan wielded the axe over Kidsilk Glamour.

I first saw this knit stitch on the Purl Bee blog, where it was being used for a scarf but in a very different kind of yarn. I love that you can get so many different effects from knitting the same stitch by just changing the yarn, the size of your needles, the tension – pure alchemy!

I’m also working on a new cowl design using this stitch, but helplessly under it’s sparkly spell, I was desperate to see how it looked with this yarn and had to cast on the scarf first.

Deciding what to work on next is a daily struggle for me – there are just so many ideas and possibilities and not enough time!

I’m probably just over a third of the way through making the Eclipse scarf now and have promised myself that I will be making up the cowl design next.  I have some yummy Malabrigo Worsted Merino in ‘Simply Taupe’ to make that in (my shorthand name for this colourway is ‘Baileys’ – looks just like it!).  Here’s a peek at my swatch for it:

As well as a knitting project, I almost always have at least one crochet project on the hook at any one time…  I’ve just started a new wrap / shawl in my own ‘waves’ design using a beautiful silk and baby camel yarn in a glorious deep green, which the German dyers I buy this from have called ‘St Patrick’s Day Parade Gone Awry’:

I love their quirky colour names and some of the colours they create are just stunning.  Many of them are also variegated to some degree, which is something I love – adds such a lot of interest and life to a piece.  I’ve just put my order in for some new silks to make more shawls over the winter – look at these beauties!

You can find the dyers on Etsy – they have a couple of shops: DyeForYarn and DyeForWool.

Anyone who follows me on Facebook will know that I am also currently suffering from a bit of a zip obsession…  This all began when the lovely Leonor of Felt Buddies (trapped in her own current obsession with wool and knittingness) asked me if I could make her a project bag for her knitting.  She had a few essentials about the design – she quite liked the box shaped bags, it needed to use a certain fabric for the outer and it had to have a handle and a zip.  A zip?!  Up to this point I’d never tangled with zips except one time, not that long ago, when I decided to make an envelope clutch.  It turned out that the pointed zippered foldy over part of that design way past my sewing IQ!

If you’ve read any other posts on this blog, you will know about my troubled relationship with my £99 John Lewis sewing machine (John for short – when we’re on good terms).  Now we have actually been getting along a lot better since I treated him to new sewing feet (it turns out that many of our ‘tiffs’ were all my fault – using the wrong feet for the job etc.) – particularly the walking foot, which shed new light on our sewing adventures.  Anyway, I had bought him a zip foot and we had tried to use it on the clutch bag, but this exercise had ended in me quietly tucking the unzippered clutch bag pieces into a pile of fabric and refusing to look at them while I put one of John’s old feet back on and slipped on his cover…  Anyway, Leonor’s commission for the project bag was just what I needed to force me to face my demons.  I swear that John cringed when I brought out the zip foot again, but we got through it together and I made the bag Leonor wanted – plus another bonus one, just because I was so excited 🙂

So, introduced to the pleasures of zip insertion and top stitching, I got that darn clutch bag out of the fabric pile and finished it too – although it is far from perfect…  Would you look at that top stitching!  Lesson learned here – do NOT use heavyweight woven interfacing on heavy cotton canvas fabric – silly, just silly.  I adore these Echino fabrics though – just look at that shot of the open bag’s interior – like the inside of a wild pink petal fuelled crocodile’s mouth – ROAR!  Mmm, not sure if crocodiles roar…

And then, not satisfied with that, I started making lots of other zippered pouches in all kinds of sizes and in all kinds of fabrics.  I started with another envelope clutch in gold threaded denim and ginghams; but this time, I kept the foldy over part much more simple!

I’ve also made several simple zippered pouches, like this one in a cotton / linen blend Japanese style fabric:

My shop now has it’s very own bags and pouches section!  Thank you Leonor 🙂

So apart from the odd zippered pouch whenever inspiration and urge strikes me, I have several sewing projects on the go at the moment.  The first is a prize for a recent giveaway on my Facebook page to celebrate getting to 1,000 likes.  This was won by the very talented Sue Newlands of Clayton Bears, who makes the most adorable little collectible bears you have ever seen.  The prize was a £25 voucher to spend on anything I make and Sue’s chosen to have a zippered knitting pouch – talk about feeding my addiction!  I’ve started work on this but can’t share it with you just yet as I want it to be a complete surprise for Sue when she opens the parcel 🙂

My other current sewing project uses these lovely Tilda fabrics:

The pink lace isn’t part of the project – that was a very kind gift from the lovely ladies at Pretty Fabrics and Trims.  For this make, I’m going to be using lace, but it will be white broderie anglais for a subtle and thoroughly vintage look.  These fabrics are going to be made into a little pram quilt and pillow for Darcey – outrageously cute daughter of the lovely Nicci.  These are going into a gorgeous little wicker toy pram that Nicci’s bought for Darcey for her birthday, or maybe Christmas – I think when it’s gifted depends on how excited Nicci gets! 🙂

I love hand quilting almost as much as I love working with these pretty fabrics, so I consider it a treat to be making these.

Finally, I’ve just had a bulk order for some wool felt Christmas decorations from Jessica, a very good client across the pond who has had me making all kinds of Christmassy things for the new booth she’s opening in an antiques centre in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I am SO excited to see the pictures of her fully decorated booth when it’s done!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Now there’s a question!  I really don’t think I do have a genre – or maybe I have lots of genres?  I definitely don’t stick to one style in any genre either, although I guess you could say that I tend to lean towards the ‘pretty’ and feminine side more than anything…  Where I try to differentiate myself is in the quality of what I make and the care I take with each piece I create.  But having said that, plenty of other makers are the same as far as that’s concerned!

I can say that I always do everything to the very best of my ability, and where I don’t think I can make something to the standards I would want to make it, I’d rather refuse a commission than make something that was less than good in my own eyes.

As far as the genre of crochet is concerned, I’d like to think that my work there is quite different to the norm.  Whilst I can admire a good granny square as much as the next person, I try hard not to use those kinds of techniques in my own designs.  For one thing, other makers are far more proficient at that than I am and, for another thing, I think crochet is where I can express my own creativity best, given that I’m confident in a lot of the techniques.  I can’t explain quite how thrilling and freeing an experience it is to pick up a stick of wood with a hook on the end and a ball of yarn and KNOW that you can create something that exists nowhere but inside your own head.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making any claims to have done anything fabulous in the crochet design universe yet, but I love that I can make something wearable without ever looking at a pattern or a chart – like this shawl 🙂

The other area where I think I’m a BIT different is that I like to use hand rather than machine quilting in my makes, whether it’s a quilt or a Christmas stocking, or a nightdress case.  There are lots of other people out there hand quilting, but many more quilt by machine.  Using a machine is much more cost effective and means that you can sell quilted pieces at a lower price and attract more sales, but it’s more important to me to stick to my making ethos.

Quilting is an incredibly popular craft these days and I think it is such a shame that so many quilters seem to feel pressured to make a quilt in super quick time.  So many tutorials are about ‘speed piecing’ and how you can make a quilt in ‘no time’.  I know we all love a bit of instant gratification, but I feel sorry that many are missing out on the simple pleasure of the process of hand quilting, which for me is much more fulfilling simply because it feels more personal – nothing is more personal than using your hands.

Why do I create what I do?

This one is super easy – because I think it’s beautiful and I love beautiful things.  Of course whether things are beautiful or not is always subjective, but if you’re true to your own vision, you can’t fail to produce honest pieces that are well made, express your own views, and will be appreciated by others.

Having said that, I absolutely do have failures on a regular basis!  This is usually because my creative genius has been writing cheques my creative skills can’t cash – the clutch bag mentioned above is a great example of this.  I start out thinking about something that I like (often on Pinterest) and by slow degrees, I talk myself into the belief that “I can do that!”.  Invariably, I can’t – or at least not as well as my perfectionist streak insists I must!  But these are always very valuable adventures – I always learn something useful, even if it’s only: “handbag making is NOT for me” 🙂

My other major motivation is simply giving pleasure to the people you make the piece for.  Whilst it’s lovely when you make something and someone loves it and buys it, the commission process is definitely my favourite because it always involves a level of trust between the maker and the client and, at its best, is a genuine collaboration between you.  The client gets to know and like your work, recognises that you have a shared aesthetic with them and then they trust you to realise their vision or, if they don’t have any fixed ideas about what they want, to create something they’re going to love.  It sounds a bit happy clappy, but it is such a special feeling when it works well for you both.  I’m incredibly lucky to have several faithful clients who like what I do and trust me to make something for them or their loved ones that will give them pleasure.  What more can you ask for as a maker?

How does my creative process work?

As I alluded to earlier, it’s complicated…  I think a lot.  I think constantly.  I think too much.  The last of those statements is probably the most accurate.

I definitely can be a bit of a control freak and an anorak – both of which TOTALLY get in the way of being creative.  If you can’t let yourself be free, it is terribly difficult to be creative, so I have an ongoing inner dialogue where I tell myself to shut up on a regular basis.

I believe that we’re all quite contradictory in nature, although some people perhaps have more extreme contradictions to wrestle with?  All my school reports talked about me being lazy and a daydreamer – the truth was that I was frequently bored at school and longing to be off doing something that would be more exciting.  My absolute favourite thing to do up to the age of 13 was to run about the Yorkshire countryside pretending to be a horse, although I was always smart enough not to exhibit this behaviour in front of anyone other than fellow horse mad chums.  We had a few ‘strange’ kids at school who chose not to hide their true imaginative or creative sides and boy, did they suffer for it!

As I said before, my head is always jam packed full of ideas and images and I do find it quite a struggle to wrangle some of them into submission. These images are fed quite relentlessly by Pinterest, which is one of my very favourite places to while away half my life looking at kittens, bunnies, dresses, tutorials, funny / weird things and anything even remotely interesting to me for any reason whatsoever.  I’m up to 7,923 pins as at today, and still consider myself to be a rank beginner in the pinning world.  N-e-e-d m-o-r-e p-i-n-s…

What tends to happen is that I light on a particular idea or image and then become obsessive – as with the zips – until I’ve exorcised it.  It’s wonderful when this ends with me making something I’m happy with, but there are also several other alternative, less positive endings:

  • A total disaster with an ending – meaning that it really was a disaster and I won’t be doing that again
  • A total disaster with a future – meaning that it really was a disaster, but I haven’t given up on it entirely
  • A total disaster with a spin-off – meaning that I won’t do that again, but it has given me another idea to try out

All of the positive and negative endings are good to my mind – they all have the end result of getting the nagging thing out of my head so that I can move on to the next nagging thing.  The time taken for the whole process does differ massively – I will bang away at some ideas for years before I give up or succeed (I think they call that “closure”?).  I’m nothing if not pig headed 🙂

I’ve certainly seen an improvement in my creative process since I made my creative work my full time job.  My old salaried full time job was extremely structured and played to my control freak / anorak side in a big way so almost completely stifled my creative side.  I’ve been making this my (decidedly not salaried) ‘job’ for almost 2 years now, and I’m just starting to be able to let go a little.  Crikey I’m slow on the uptake!

Well, this really was quite a cathartic exercise for me, as well as being quite a long winded one…  I hope that it is an enjoyable experience for my three Blog Hop nominees who will be answering for themselves on their blogs next week in as many or as few words as they would like:

Felting, spinning and knitting artist supremo, Leonor of Felt Buddies & Co

Garden loving creator of the prettiest bunnies ever who, to me seems to live in a magic world in the Loire valley, Stephanie of Madame Millefeuilles

Needlework designer, fellow OU humanities graduate and woman of random passions, Maggie  of Maggie Gee Needlework Studio

I’m really looking forward to reading the blog hop contributions of these very talented, inspiring and interesting ladies during the week commencing 6th October, on their blogs.  Go girls! 🙂

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My first sleepover

September 20, 2014

Today, the crimson rabbit blog is acting host to a special maker collaboration between myself, Emma Redfern of Hole House and Becks of Tillytocki.  We’re all maker friends on Facebook and remembering our own first sleepovers fondly (and for Emma and Becks, thinking of their own daughters’ experiences), we decided to pool our skills to create a very special first sleepover collection  with our favourite Liberty Tana Lawn fabric, which we’re calling: ‘The Betsy Sleepover Collection’.

A little girl’s first sleepover can be a scary experience. It can also be tons of fun and very exciting! But it’s always special, and a real growing up milestone.

Whether your little girl is having her first sleepover with her grandparents or with friends, you’re going to want it to feel amazing so that it’s memorable for both of you. You’re also going to want her to feel comfortable and confident, so you don’t have to worry quite so much about her.

The preparation for that first sleepover is also a bit of a rite of passage for a little girl – what will I wear, what do I need to take with me, what do I put it all in?! You’ll make this fun for her and together, maybe you’ll pick out a pretty nightdress, fill her own little toiletries bag, and pop it into a special sleepover bag with her favourite bedtime storybook and softie.

Each of the pieces features one of Liberty’s most popular tana lawn prints, ‘Betsy’, in pink, which we’ve accented with white and cream coloured lawns, and a plain lilac linen / cotton blend fabric.

The main feature of The Betsy Sleepover is this beautiful bag by Emma of Hole House. The outer is softly padded and has four external slip pockets, which are lined with lilac linen / cotton, as is the inside of the bag, where there are two further zipped pockets, lined with fun Marnie Makes and Marisa and Creative Thursday prints. Clipped to its own tab inside the bag is a co-ordinating toiletries bag, lined with white vinyl (not pictured). There’s a pretty little birdie button detail on the back of the bag, four golden feet on the bottom, and a cute round wooden Hole House tag hangs from a purple leather lace on the soft purple leather handles. The bag outer measures 29cm tall (excluding the handles) by 39cm wide and 12.5cm deep, measured at the bottom.

Riding along in the bag and acting as confidence mascot, is Miss Emma Fox, who is wearing a hand stitched, pleated edge dress. Miss Emma is named for Emma Woodhouse, the heroine of Jane Austen’s novel, ‘Emma’ and she loves art and music, solving riddles, and matchmaking among her friends. Miss Emma is made by me (Debbie) to a Tilda pattern with quality cotton fabric and her postitionable arms and legs are attached with pretty heart shaped shell buttons. She stands 40cm tall and she is a decorative figure, rather than a CE approved toy. When not on a sleepover, she will happily sit on a shelf or chest in your little girl’s bedroom, and generally look pretty.

No sleepover is complete without your prettiest nightdress! This lovely lawn creation is by Becks of Tillytocki. The fabric is beautifully soft and luxurious and the nightdress has been made with carefully crafted French seams and lots of thoughtful detail. The Betsy print yolk is lined with the same print and has a sweet little button tie at the back and bow detail to the front. The Betsy print appears again as an edging to the softly gathered cream lawn body of the nightdress and it can be made in any size from age 6-12 months up to 12 years of age.

To complete the collection, there is a hand quilted and appliqued case for the nightdress, which is made by me. To make the outer and lining of the case, I’ve used the same lilac linen / cotton fabric that lines Emma’s bag, and I’ve softly hand quilted it with a toning cotton, in a diamond pattern. The little Betsy bed appliqued to the fold over part of the case is also hand quilted and the sheets and pillow are made with crisp white lawn. This applique bed is also a secret pocket for small hands – perfect if you need to squirrel away something small and special on your first sleepover! The case measures 26.6 x 21.6cm.

The Betsy Sleepover collection is for sale by auction, which opens at 9am on Sunday, 21st September 2014 and closes at 9pm on Thursday, 25th September.

We also want to take this opportunity to give something back to children in need and their families, and we will therefore be donating 15% of the winning bid value to the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity, who provide emotional and practical support to families who have a child with a life threatening or terminal illness.  The Trust relies on voluntary donations for almost all of its income.

To place your bid to buy all these lovely pieces, click the ‘Leave a Reply’ link below and enter the amount you would like to bid.

We will confirm the winning bid here on the blog and our individual Facebook pages, shortly after the auction closes and contact the winning bidder by email to organise payment.  Please note that postage will be charged at the Royal Mail’s standard rate for a medium parcel, 1st class, signed for.

There is a reserve minimum bid of £90, plus postage at £11 (Royal Mail’s standard 1st class, signed for service).  The auction is only open to UK bidders as the cost of postage overseas for this size of item would be prohibitive for the bidder.

Best of luck with your bidding and thanks so much for looking and reading!


Debbie, Emma and Becks

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