Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Spring Fever

The sun has been trying its hardest to shine through the clouds today and we did get a few moments of beautiful low Spring sun this afternoon.  I also have my yellow tulips and tete a tete daffs to cheer me up.  They do make me smile.

The daffodils in particular are one of my favourites at this time of year.  They were a flower Dad loved too and they just seem like exquisite little trumpets of sunshine heralding the arrival of Spring through the damp black earth.  Hope in flower form.

So, what have I been up to since the dressing up marathon of last week?

I have been indulging in colours of all sorts lately in the studio and especially enjoying finishing off this Sunshine quilt.....

.....and photographing bags ready to go in the shop when it goes live. (Soon!)

I've also been collecting some more beautiful fabrics, which I will be making into bundles to go in the shop.  I'm so looking forward to this bit.  I LOVE fabric (you may have guessed) and I can't wait to share it with you.

I am preparing kits for my pixie houses, including everything you need from my stash of vintage fabrics, ribbons and buttons to make your very own little magical dwelling.

Last week I had the privilege of creating this one off doll for a little boy missing his Great Granddad very much.  This is just the sort of project I love.  I hope the doll brought a little comfort.

 Oh, and this little doll too.

I made this cushion for my lovely fried Lisa at The Fernery to sell in her on line auction in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.  Please have a look at all the amazing contributions by so many wonderful craftspeople, and have a peek at her beautiful creations too while you're there!

I've been making a few more of these cushions too, which will go in the shop as soon as I catch up with myself!

I've had a massive studio clear out too.  I want my Teeny Tiny Shed to be a place I love going to and it just wasn't - it had become a dumping ground.  So - I took my courage with me and cleared out over half its contents, including fabric, old sketchbooks - all sorts.  It was brutal, but necessary.  I now have a pretty little space that not only gives me the room to create, but also the mental space that it was lacking.  And I can find that elusive piece of fabric a lot easier now!

I find clarity and inspiration in those four walls now and I LOVE it. I did up my old sadly neglected chair too and gave her a new littleteawagon style cushion.  Love it.  And Thank you Jane for your ongoing inspirational blog, which was the final push towards me getting on with the clear out.  Without your beautiful workspace pictures to dream over, I would have given up in the middle of week 2, which would NOT have been pretty.  Believe me!

And doesn't it look pretty displaying one of my bags?  You see - I know it to be useful and I definitely believe it to be beautiful.


Just lastly, I wanted to wish my fantastic friend Liz of Farm on a Card a brilliant time at the Country Living Spring Fair tomorrow.  She's an amazing photographer and I hope the lovely people at the fair fall in love with her work as much as we all have round here. xx

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Boys and Dressing up

Having 5 boys, you may assume that there's not a whole lot of dressing up that goes on in our home.  You would think, perhaps that it's difficult to get boys enthusiastic about the idea of donning outfits.  Not so.

I guess when I knew there would be no fairy dresses and princesses in this house, I also believed that dressing up fun would be drastically reduced.

What I am finding, and this is just my personal experience, is that my boys LOVE creating and playing characters and they LOVE to have their imagination fuelled in this way.  My boys are quite physical creatures, and one in particular learns in a very kinesthetic way.  For him, dressing up as a character he is excited by brings a whole new dimension to learning - and it's FUN!

Right from when my eldest started school and it was his first World Book Day, I made a decision that if we were going to bring up boys who would try anything, go anywhere, be whatever they believed they could be, it would probably start with us being as enthusiastic and willing as possible to get in the spirit of things, and as far as dressing up goes that meant feeding off their imagination and getting as excited as they were.  Enthusiasm is infectious and I want the boys to catch it form us! I had a growing feeling that it was important to feed their imagination and feed off it in this way and give them "permission" to imagine for as long as possible.  I definitely didn't want to bring up boys that were "too cool" for that sort of thing. I know it sounds very grand, but it's been a HUGE part of our family life and the dressing up box grows and grows!  And hopefully by the time they are adults, they will have been instilled with a sense of fun and "get involved" attitude.

That's why, despite the 11.30pm grumbling I often do at this time of year, when the sewing machine gives up mid waistcoat construction and there is a list as long as my arm of costume components to finish (and ask anyone, I DO grumble!), I do try my best to go for it anyway!

I wish I could find the photo of Cadan skipping off to reception class dressed in a converted cardboard box on straps as "Lightening McQueen".  He looked so adorable.  Today he ran off to school as Frodo Baggins, utterly enthused by the whole thing and looking very much like the handsome young man he will unfurl into very soon.  These years are short and soon the enthusiasm of dressing up will develop into adult adventures.

A lot of you reading this are highly competent costume makers and a lot are starting out the fun journey of school dress up days , so I wanted to do a few links to other sites, which helped me put these costumes together.  Not because I'm an expert, not because I assume you don't know how to yourself, but because....well, because I appreciate it so much when other bloggers share things that help me out and well, it's good to share!

Eron's Anakin Skywalker costume involved some very uncomplicated making.  The Tunic top was made like a T-shirt top, but I just cut the front two panels into elongated triangles so that they would cross over.  they are secured with a safety pin on one side.  So, you lay the pieces right side together and sew the tops of the arms, then underneath the arms and down the sides.  If you want to finish it nicely, you can hem to sleeves and edges, but you could leave them raw if you're not too bothered about them lasting.  I try to make things to last usually, for two reasons; 1) children can push clothing to its limits, especially if it's intended to enhance play and  2)  they have numerous brothers who could wear the costume another day!  There's another source of patterns here.

To finish the costume I got some strips of lining fabric and secured them to the shoulders so they would hang in front and behind.  I found a cheap woolen scarf in the charity shop and cut it in half length ways, lining one half to go round his neck, as it was itchy, and the other half tied round his waist under the belt.    Completed with one leather glove (one of mine) and riding boots found in the charity shop too, and oh, the obligatory light sabre - one Jedi Knight ready for battle!

 Ben's wanted to go as Tom from the Beastquest series of books, which was a last minute decision on Tuesday evening after discovering the books during the school visit to the library in town.  Ben seems to have just discovered reading in a big way for himself, so a bit of reinforcement of that in costume form was a pleasure.  That's what it's all about after all.

His tunic was a larger version of this one and I literally poked some scissors through the fabric to make the holes for the fake leather cord. The shield and sword sheath are made from corrugated card.  I just cut the card with a scalpel and stuck the pieces down with PVA.  Then coated it all in watered down brown acrylic and then a very thin layer of gold paint.  The details are picked out using Glass paint out liner, which gives a slightly raised effect.  It's a handy thing to have and I use it for all sorts - see Cadan's brooch too!

The sword sheath was made using two pieces of corrugated card stuck together using gum strip - also a must have for dressing up construction.  It's the stuff artists use to stick down their water colour paper to a board when they are stretching it. It dries quickly and strong and can be painted over easily.  I finished it using some gross grain and split pins, which is also how the shield straps are made.

Cadan's costume was the most complicated - but he's a specifics kind of boy, so I knew he'd want the whole deal.  I found a lovely velvet jacket - which just happens to be my size (hmmm, how did that happen?) and will be mine when he's finished with it, decorated with a lovely corsage, maybe this one....

Anyway - I just turned the sleeves up inside a bit.  The cape is from this pattern - which is very easy.  I just made sure the hole was going to be big enough for his neck and adjusted the length a little.  I have finished the edges, but you don't have to.

His shirt is an ordinary white shirt, with the collar tacked down inside to give it a mandarin collar.  Loosely stitched so the shirt can be used again after.

The waistcoat is from this pattern.  I put some darts in at the front and back to make it a little more fitted.   Little tip here - darts are easier than you think. If you draw a line in chalk (doesn't even have to be dressmakers chalk - ordinary will do) and then fold along that line, you just sew a line that resembles a very thin petal folded in half either side of that line.....oh, I'll draw a picture!  The chalk is also handy, because you can "transfer" the dart from one piece to another.  For instance, to get the dart in the same place on outer and inner lining fabric.  Put one on top of the other and "pat" vigorously to transfer the chalk line.  Make sense?

I didn't bother with button holes - it has two press studs at the top to hold it together!

The pieces he was most excited about were the ring and the ivy brooch.  The ring I actually found, again in the charity shop, virtually as it was, but a chain with a piece of copper pipe, or a gold curtain ring would do just fine.

The ivy leaf brooch was cut, using scissors (very old ones, don't worry!) from some tin I had left over from another project, but I'm sure you could use some foil folded up a few times, or a piece of tin can - just be careful of the sharp edges.  I used jewelry making wire, quite a thick gauge so it would hold it's shape and some pliers to make the twisty bit.  Then there's a layer of green glass paint and that brilliant glass paint out liner.  The brooch back is attached using this glue - which believe me I have never found anything that sticks better and more reliably - as long as you leave it overnight to dry.  Another must have in the costume making supplies!

So, I know I'm not an expert by any means, but I thought I'd share.    I'd love to hear what you've just made for World Book Day too in the comments below - you could even link to a picture if you like.  I honestly don't know how I would do this without the internet, so keep sharing and spreading the handmade love people. xx

P.S.  Hope the sharing was helpful - I know there's lots of creative people who read this - and I hope I'm not teaching Grandma to suck eggs! xxx

P.P.S  Sorry about the numerous links!