Tuesday, 31 January 2012

January round-up

If you read my post at the start of January (Thoughts on New Year), you will know that, rather than setting resolutions for 2012, I have chosen a word to be my focus for the year.

My word for 2012 is organised.

Anyone who knows me well will realise how much of a challenge this word poses: I am a bit of a scatter-brain, a terrible hoarder and an incorrigible procrastinator. How, exactly, are you supposed to change the habits of a lifetime?

With small, baby steps.

I have found some really good advice out there on the web: from professionals who help people overcome clutter and chaos (especially Rachel Papworth of Green and Tidy), as well as from others struggling along the same path.

So, now that January is drawing to a close, I thought I'd write a report of progress so far. 

One of the first things I did was to set up a diary and calendar for the New Year and so far they are both still in use (a big thing for me - diaries usually last about 3 weeks!). I have also completed my first self-assessment tax return this month (a daunting job that I was finding it far too easy to procrastinate about!). I have to send out a big thank you to my lovely friend Alida for helping me to see that starting this task would not be so bad, but that putting it off would have serious consequences!

I have also spent a lot of time sorting my craft stash (Oh, for the love of... boxes!) which has been very successful.

I have added two sets of drawers to hold bits and pieces, which means that I can now access all these things really easily. I am loving having just one thing in a box (so that I don't have to move all the card to get at the felt, for example) and the shelves, though full, are accessible and easily kept tidy.

So even though the space is small I feel I have made good use of it all (the space in the top photo inspired me to acquire the second set of shelves - the gap was the perfect size!). 

The decluttering/tidying mission has extended to the rest of the house but you don't really want to know about that right now! Suffice it to say that so far this year I have made:
2 trips to the Sort-It Centre (aka tip!) 
2 bags to the charity shop
Box of bits and pieces ready to sell
A pile of shirts etc that I will make into a scrap quilt

And I haven't even ventured into the spare room yet...

I am actually feeling quite proud of myself and hope that, if I can keep the momentum up, some of the new routines I am establishing will become automatic.

Next month, I intend to get back to crafting. I am hoping to set up an on-line craft shop in February as another outlet for my creations. I also need to buy some new shelves.

So there are just a few things on the to-do list for next month already!

How are you doing with your resolutions so far? Have you managed to keep them?

Saturday, 28 January 2012

TAST Challenge Week 4 - Cretan stitch

Week 4 has sped by again with more complications than I would have liked, but I have, at least, finally completed my sample. This sample fills my first piece of linen...

As there were fewer variations to work through, I managed to experiment a little with the stitch. I enjoyed this one - this stitch has given me a few ideas to work on when I get a spare minute!

I started off well but soon got a bit bogged down with the basic stitch. It reminds me a little of ribs and a backbone!

I liked the look of the basic stitch but it wouldn't have made a very inspiring sample so I had a go at a version with a wavy 'backbone' before realising I could also cross the 'ribs', make them meet and make them more random...

Wavy spine
Angled ribs and meeting ribs

1) Ribs meeting, 2) Irregular ribs 3) Crossed ribs 4) Interlocking ribs

 I enjoyed playing with this stitch a little and must make time to experiment further.

I have had a chance to look through everyone's work, at last, and would like to share a couple of my favourites: beautiful colours at over ArtWhiz and such intricate stitching from

Sunday, 22 January 2012

TAST Challenge week 3 - Feather stitch

When I realised that this week would give me another opportunity to practise Feather stitch, I was excited that I'd be able to be a bit more creative with it. Unfortunately, this week has afforded me even less time to sew somehow so I have only had time to complete the week 3 sample...

... and a very simple stitch picture...


As you can see, I have made it into a miniature pillow. The fish scales are feather stitches with details added in backstitch. The seaweed is in irregular feather stitch. 


I have added a length of ribbon, around the edge of the pillow, held down by closed feather stitch. I rather like the effect of this (although it's hard to keep neat) and it hides the seams nicely. I intend to add some essential oil to make a perfume sachet for the wardrobe.

This small stitch picture has taught me something about myself. Although happy to create pictures built up from geometric patterns, I am far less comfortable creating free-form pictures. That is why this picture is so simple. I really struggled to allow the picture to develop naturally: I felt strangely out of control. So I think that I shall make more time to create stitch pictures in an effort to allow myself relax into the process.

There are some lovely interpretations of this stitch. Connie has used a beautiful combination of colours on her fabric postcard. Isabelle has created a stitch picture that is simultaneously natural and regular. I also love the delicate beauty of Chris' mandala.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Meet the bears... Benny

There has been a strange shortage of bears on here recently, so this month I'd like to introduce you to Benny...

Benny is, I think, my favourite bear creation to date...

  ... not least because he caused me so many problems! He started life as a plain bear because I really couldn't figure out what to do with him. 

I have found some photos of the pre-Benny bear and I hope this one illustrates the problem....

Pre-Benny bear looked grumpy! You can't deny that, can you? The down-turned arms, the dark fur, the slightly-too-big nose, the down-turned mouth all shout 'grumpy'. I tried a bow: still grumpy. I tried flowers which just made things worse. So I was stumped. I was a bit concerned that I'd hit a wall: that he'd just be "the little grumpy bear" forever. So for a while he sat in his box and bothered me... 

And then one day, for some reason, I was thinking about costumes for bears. And it hit me. I knew exactly which costume this bear would like. But where does one start, when the decision has been made to make a bee costume for a 5cm bear?

I started with the jumper. With cross stitch needles for knitting needles and two strands of embroidery cotton, I set about knitting him a tiny, stripey jumper. 

The little jumper came out well and, once joined at the back, is a nice, snug fit.

Next the costume needed some wings. At this time I didn't know that you can actually buy miniature fairy wings, so I set about improvising. I didn't have any jewellery wire or anything fine enough for the task but I did have some of those plastic ties that come free with food bags... Once these had been stripped of their plastic coatings, they were perfect! They were pliable enough to bend into shape, yet robust enough to hold that shape while being wrapped with gold metallic thread!


The "lacy" effect was created by carefully knotting the thread. I think I was aiming at a sort of loose crochet effect (but since I hadn't taught myself to crochet at this point, this is the closest I could get!).


Of course, no bee costume would be complete without a headband with a couple of googly hearts attached! Consequently, another food tie was de-wired to create the springs and, after shaping them around a coctail stick, tiny felt hearts were added to the ends.

The bee costume is complete and Benny is born. Was it fiddly? Yes, soooo fiddly I almost gave up several times. Am I mad? Sometimes I suspect that I am. Would I ever do it again? No, not if I can help it!

Benny is certainly one-of-a-kind and he is no longer a grumpy little bear. He is perfectly content with his outfit and wouldn't change it for the world.

I think he was worth the extra work, don't you?

Benny will be staying in my collection as I would be very upset to part with him. If you would like to see more of my bears visit my website, my Folksy or WowThankYou shop.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

TAST Challenge week 2 - Buttonhole stitch

So here we are, week 2 of the Pintangle "Take a stitch Tuesday" challenge. This week the stitch to be learned is Buttonhole stitch.

Once again, I have worked a tiny square of linen, 4.2cm x 6.3cm (1 5/8" x 2.5"), and tried to fit as many variations into the space as possible.

I think I have done quite well! You will see I have worked examples of the following stitches:

Buttonhole stitch: top row, with curved base; lower row, with straight base

Crossed Buttonhole

Closed Buttonhole

Buttonhole Wheel

Rosette of Thorns

Bonnet stitch

Up and Down Buttonhole

Feather stitch

Up and Down Feather

Closed Feather stitch

I have been very inspired by all the lovely work that has been produced so far; it is amazing how differently people can interpret and use such simple stitches! I love the beautiful simplicity of the work of Miriam at Borduurblog and Mon Paradis Mes Tresors. The colours of Luiz Vaz's work are strikingly beautiful and Marjolein's flowers make me very envious!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Oh, for the love of... boxes!

One week into January and I have been working hard on getting organised. I spent the early part of the week organising paperwork - not one of my favourite pastimes (which is, I suppose, why it gets left for so long) - and have therefore amassed a small mountain of shredded paper. 

A slightly more interesting task has entertained me since. I have been trying to organise my craft stash. Or perhaps that should be "reorganise"? Anyway, it has involved spending money; it has involved the purchase of some rather nice boxes.

Somehow attractive boxes make tidying more bearable, just like pretty stationery encourages me to write. 

So with six new boxes to fill it was time for a bit of a play. Organising my craft supplies is a bit like completing a puzzle when the pieces from five jigsaws are all jumbled up together. There are always pieces that don't seem to fit anywhere, there are far too many possible combinations and the process tends to make more mess than it clears! 

However, some progress has at last been made: ...

 ... there are labelled boxes for felt, fabric, paper and card...

 ... three containers of beads...

... and a box of glue. 

I also have a box of items ready for sale, a box of linen fabrics and a box of boxes (that sounds odd: they are small presentation boxes for the bears). 

This process has taught me a few things:
1) I would love everything to have a place 
2) Number 1. is going to be a very difficult undertaking 
3) I am going to need more pretty boxes 
4) I do NOT need more glue!

I am pleased to be making progress, however small the steps, and now need to decide where to go next in order to maintain the momentum...

Thursday, 5 January 2012

TAST Challenge week 1 - Fly stitch

Before Christmas I signed up for Sharon B's Take a Stitch Challenge. Every Tuesday throughout 2012 she will post a different stitch to be tried. Participants then experiment with the stitch and post their work on blogs, Flickr or StitchinFingers. The first stitch is Fly stitch and here is my work so far:

I originally cut a piece of linen 12.8 x 8.4cm (5 x 3.25in) which I fully intended to fill with practice flies...

... but as you can see I only managed to fill a quarter of the sheet! 

In that space I managed to work all of these variations:

Fly stitch

Reversed Fly stitch

Fly stitch snowflake

Closed Fly stitch feather

I do have a tendency to work small!

I am hoping to do a larger, more decorative project using fly stitch over the weekend. I think I will continue to do only small samples of each new stitch on the linen (unless the stitch requires more space, of course) and compile the sheets in a book of some kind. 

If you want to see how other people have used the fly stitch this week visit my favourites so far: La Bastidane and Adventures in Thread
Edited 08/01/12 to add Magpies Laundry

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