Christmas stockings, snowmen and a pensive faced bunny……….

Christmas stocking for Constance

In between embroidering and sewing like a whirling dervish all ready for the big craft fair at The Assembly House in a fortnight’s time, I’ve also been sewing this Christmas stocking for a little girl called Constance and it’s now about to go off on it’s way to her mum to tuck away somewhere safe til Christmas Eve…….

Cutting out the motifs and then arranging the pieces of wool felt to see where they look best takes me back to when me and my sisters used to play with fuzzy felt……once I’m happy the pieces are pinned into position and then hand sewn into place…..it’s a bit fiddly but anyone who reads my blog knows I’m happy to work to work small and so fiddlesome is like my middle name.

Christmas stocking with snowman applique

The snowman is probably my favourite motif, his cheeks are sewn into place, his scarf is crocheted and his features are embroidered with tiny french knots…I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real snowman in a top hat, perhaps I should try one out with a bobble hat like we used to squish on top of the ones our dad used to help me and my sisters make when we were all very small.

A stocking for Anne

I’ve mentioned my friend Anne before, she’s a wonderful knitter and has helped me out over many a knitting drama, and my eyes nearly popped out when she said “oh there are times when I have to un-ravel a few rows…” I could hardly believe it. She’s lots of fun and although I’ve only known her for about 5 years she’s fast became one of my dearest friends.

A few years back she drove me off out into the Norfolk wilderness so I could do a craft fair (I don’t drive and so have to rely on public transport or the kindness of friends) and happened to mention that she’d never had a Christmas stocking growing up so I made a quiet note to myself and that year made her a stocking of her very own…..her face when we gave it to her was a picture, and it wasn’t reallly filled with anything pricey…a handful of quality street, a miniature Bailey’s, a couple of satsuamas, walnuts in the toe, chocolate coins, a bar of nice soap, a couple of small things I’d sewn….she laughed so much and took it with her to her dad’s for Christmas day….each year I ask for it back and it gets filled pretty much the same way, which is part of what I like about filling a stocking, it’s supposed to be old favourites, traditons, and I think they work better when they’re filled with simple gifts.

The gorgeous bunny who has become one of my Christmas stocking props was made by my friend Sasha, I’ve got a house filled with these often pensive looking little creatures (largest is some 4ft tall and my boyfriend didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when he came home and saw it)…..so this one really only comes out at Christmas….Sasha will be over at Holt on the 5th December at Glory Days where she’ll have a whole array of toys and bunting and cushions…then a couple of weeks later you’ll be able to find us both at the Christmas Clutter CIty on December 12th at Norwich Arts Centre.

a stocking for Chloe

And this stocking was part of a commission I had a couple of years ago from Chloe Owens (she creates the most incredible appliqued cushions and also has published two books about sewing)……there was a stocking for Chloe, one for her boyfriend and one for her cat Twiggy….which just goes to show that I’m really not the only one who thinks stockings aren’t just for children.

Looking at these pictures is really making me crave a mince pie…….

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An Encouraging Thunder award and a right old waffle…….

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Last week I had a lovely comment in my email box from one of my regular comentators Sharon (you can find her over at Creativity and Family) ….. she’s nominated me for an Encouraging Trumpet award which recognizes blogs that encourage and inspire. I was quite amazed as I know I talk a lot of old piffle at times, so to think at least someone thinks I’m inspirational has chuffed me to bits no end….thank you so much Sharon….often when I’m writng my posts about ambling over the marshes or de-tangling myself from hedgerows (all in search of crab apples or the glint of some ripe blackberries) I do think of you, your thoughtful comments to my misadventures in hedgesrows or coping with my cats windy bottom (he can empty a room pretty quickly) have often made me laugh in return x

Ideally the award is then passsed on to other blogs but as I’ve mentioned before the main blogs that I follow all seem to have been going for a fair while and are pretty busy people and I’d be….shrugging shouldrers as I’m trying to think of the right word….a bit nervous I think about approaching them….so instead, and I’m hoping this is okay to do, I thought I’d just write a piece about some of the blogs that I do love reading and then if you’ve not heard of them you can go and have a look for yourself and see why I like them so much….over the years my tastes have changed rather… sometimes blogs I love stop (yes I’m looking at you miss dottie angel…the instagram glimpse of what you are pottering about with isn’t enough..)…..sometimes my interests just change…I think my blog list at the side is a pretty small one and I like reading them all but these are my favourites of who I’ve been enjoying reading over the past year really…..

knitsonik book

First up is twins really….The Domestic Soundscape and Knitsonik are both written by the amazing Felicity (Felix) Ford….this woman has so much energy…she’s completely and utterly awesome.  The Domestic Soundscape covers a whole range of subjects, sometimes it’s something happy and nice for your tummy, sometimes her writing is poignant and makes me feel sad but always it’s wonderful to just stop with a cup of tea, and read what she’s posted…like making the perfect salted caramel tart, and what sounded to me like the best children’s birthday party of all time, and the wonderful and heartbreaking to read “the love“…..one of my favourite posts she wrote was about her relationship with her partner Mark ……and while I don’t care about celebrity ons and offs, reading about what are just lovely relationships just between people like you and me never fails to make me smile…..Mark often makes the sweetest comments on Felicity’s blogs and they never fail to either make me smile or laugh out loud…..(Shetland 0 Mark 1 a possible favourite)……Felicity’s Knitsonik is a slightly different read but is no less wonderful as it’s mostly about knitting and colour stranded knitting (or what I used to just call “Fair-isle” til I knew better)….if you’ve not been there please head over and listen to her sing a brilliant song about Shetland Wool ….or she’s writing about sound and textiles the history of textiles and wool… she’s totally one of my knitting heroines and her book Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook is such an inspirational treat…..When she really gets going then reading her posts can be so exciting, her enthusiasm comes across like some sort of exciting non stop page turner adventure story….at the end I often want to fan myself and go “phew”…..I’m still only beginning with my knitting but when one day I reach the lofty heights of attempting a fancy piece of coloured knitwear it will be with her book in my hand to guide and steer me true with my colour choices and combinations. Woooh, You Rock Felix.

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One of my favourite artists is Ann Wood…she lives in America and I’ve been reading her blog now for some years…it’s always a nice touch down and among pictures of what she’s working on (often including the didn’t work out quite rights) there’ll be pictures of bundles of beautiful old and worn textiles and walks in the woods…she’s also written some lovely tutorials and her print outs for paper horses and big tea cups are put together so nicely……the creatures that Annn creates don’t just happen, hours upon hours of work are involved, tweeaking patterns, making up testers, tinkering some more until what she creates is exactly what she was wanting….no giving up at the first attempt if something goes wrong….

A blog which I do always enjoy reading (but often I have to try and find it as it’s had a few name changes in the past) is Hetty Brown…..(up til very recently it was called The Woven Nest)….now this isn’t going to sound very complimentary but whatever “name” Sophie writes under reminds me somewhat of the smell of my cats tummy…warm, comfy, safe…a waft or too of weetabix in Bernard’s case, lavender and beeswax and Autumn apples in Sophie’s…whether she’s knitting socks or sewing frocks, making cake (her recipe for her grandad’s fruit cake one is so good, nice and simple and perfect with a mug of tea…..) it’s a nice quiet little oasis…a calm in a big sea of crazy…..a place where ideas have the peace and still time to develop.

eyelet twigs sampler

The other blog which I really like is the one from Kate Davies…..I like the way she writes so much, generally it’s about wool or knitting (I love her designs and am lucky enough to have a very kind friend who knitted me one of her pieces the other year…)…this shouldn’t define her blog but I think this is interesting to know, some years ago Kate had a stroke, she’s no age so this came completely out of the blue, at a time when I would think she’d be feeling completely wretched she kept pretty positve…rather than let it stop her from doing things she loved…knitting and plaiting her hair she learnt how to do these things again….the pictures of her riding her bike in a jumper she’s just finished knitting , beaming from ear to eat were so uplifting and positve…along with the knititng she writes about other textiles, and her dog Bruce, walks, planting things in her garden….just recently her and her partner Tom got married…the pictures were so full of warmth and happiness…no fake “Hello” magazine bling and forced smiles…even Bruce was there…..if you read my blog you’ll know I’ve pretty much just learnt to knit and Kate’s gorgeous and beautiful designs are part of the reason I’ve kept persevering because one day I want to cast off one of her yoke detailed tops, slip it over my head and think…I did this….

embroidery silk strands

The second part of the award is to write a piece about why I blog….if you had the time and patience to read my Liebster award post then I’m afraid you may be in for more waffle and such like though I’ll try hard to keep it as short as I can…..

Why I blog…..actually it’s not something I’ve really thought very much about.  Although I’ve been reading other people’s blogs for years I’ve only began writing my own over the past 2 and a bit years.  I didn’t start before because I didn’t know how to and always thought I might break the whole internet or something if I did something wrong.  I didn’t have a lot of computer access growing up and while I learnt to shop and look at cute cat videos on-line (cutest one being just here….and is the reason I’m not allowed kittens) I wasn’t able to do a whole lot more…., I’ve always been a bit frightened of them (the woman who turned into a computer in the Superman film is never that far away in my thoughts and I’m still rather wary of them….I always think I’m going to break something)…..I’m not very good with technical things (this makes my boyfriend despair as he writes computer programmes or does something like that and sighs when I ask how to do, what to him seems, something so easy….however in case you’re thinking “well he sounds like an absolute bounder, he isn’t he’s very lovely and has been so encouraging with my new found knitting prowess…and recommends my quilts and other work to friends all the while…once he even took in a selection of Valentine cards I’d made  when he worked in an office of all guys….he came home with just a couple of cards left and lots of money so lets give him a little cheer…horrah!!!)

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Another cheer should go to my youngest sister because if it wasn’t for her patience and ability to count up to ten and then some when I ask her dumb computer questions I still wouldn’t have a blog…….this is an example of how I don’t “get it”…a few years ago I rang her up as I was trying to download pictures from my camera onto my computer (it was the first time I’d tried to do this by myself)…and she slowly talked me through each step of the way..but then something went wrong…there were too many pictures to download….my sister asked “Well how many are there”……”One thousand, six hundred and eighty four* I replied…..you could almost hear her cup of tea get sprayed around her kitchen…..there was a pause and then she said, “Oh. WelI I think that’s a few too many for your computer to cope with at once, you’ll need to go through and delete some off the camera manually first I’m afraid”….. no exclamation of “seriously, are you a complete thicky” or “ughhhh uggghhh ughhhh” noises made at me down the phone…..she also helped me set up my website and edited loads of photos for my folksy shop as I didn’t know how to do that either……the day I sent her an email showing a variety of photos of some things that I’d made and had edited all by myself….brightening,cropping, bringing down the saturation (I was tending to go for the setting my Nanny used to have her television at where everyone is so orange they all look like an Oompa Loompa) and bringing up the temperature to a nice soft and warm hue, she rang me up and said how proud of me she was, it was the phone call equivalent of a big warm hug……so a huge huge Horrah for Becky.

bluebell bliss

Sorry for waffling……anyway so really my blog came about because I was already selling various things I had made (tea cosies, and notebook covers, baby blankets,hot water bottle cosies, brooches….cat toys*….things that were fabric based with hand worked embroidery and applique on them….I started selling them at local craft fairs and then in some shops around Norfolk and Suffolk and people used to ask if I had a website…then I did a business course and I was told “you must have a website and you need to get your name registered” so I registered my name (well my boyfriend did it for me) I still didn’t have a website…then my sister very patiently helped me get the website working (it’s held with a different company than one she was used to working with so it wasn’t the easiest of things for her to do but she never once got grumpy with me…instead I’d get asked if perhaps I thought it was time for a cup of tea …) …while she was working on the website she did say “look, you know next you’re going to have to do a blog…..” and I was rather hesitant because I didn’t know how to do it or what would I write……but we agreed to meet up again and patiently she went though helping me set up my blog….looking at themes and layouts and stuff that I was really rather overwhelmed by…. (you can understand now why she deserves that cheer).

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So the blog was set up and then what to write……it’s like an essay at school, being told to write about whatever you like….your mind suddenly goes all of a blank…where to begin or what to write….to start with I wrote about making Christmas Stockings and baby quilts as that is what I was doing at the time……it always seems very daft to be sitting out in the garden on a hot scorchy Summer day embroidering snowflakes or hand sewing tiny currants on Christmas pudding motifs…and it’s hard to feel Christmassy when the sun is all sun-shiney…at least come November I can play some Christmas music but in July or August I suspect that my neighbours would think I was off my trolley……and then I wrote about favourite things I like to use when I’m sewing as I often get asked about stuff like that when I do fairs…but pretty soon I started writing about other things…trying to get fit and working out to a Mister Motivator DVD and doing myself a bit of a mischief in the process, then our cat Bernard was poorly and he refused to wee in his tray so I stood out in my garden at something like 3 in the morning, with him on a little harness and lead, feeling every part a crazy cat lady…….

In case you’re wondering these are the things people seem to look at the most on my blog….

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I wrote a tutorial for making baby bibs…..this is something that gets heaps of people looking at, I used to make the bibs to sell but they were a bit timey to make if you are selling them, but I love making them as gifts for friends who have babies….it may seem a bit of a waste of time hand sewing the bibs but it doesn’t really take all that long over using a machine, I think hand sewing looks neater and the bibs do feel ever so soft…also the new mum and dad are like “really, you sewed this by hand”…and then they are so full of smiles that you’d go to “that much bother” for their baby….

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About this time I started making a quilt for myself…I’ve only made quilts in the past for other people even both my cats have had hand quilted quilts made from old shirts and a pair of my sister’s pyjama bottoms….and I’ve wrote about that quite a bit, share pictures of each of the hundred and some different tiny 6 inch blocks…I’ve still got a fair way to go with what I call my “dear ethel” quilt but just writing about it has really helped me see it better in my head. It also gave me the space to write down why I like handsewing patchwork and using up scraps….I know “slow sewing/lifestyles/whatever” seems to be all the range nowadays but myself I find it very hard to go fast….I’m okay for a few days, maybe a couple of weeks pre-Christmas fairs when I’m sewing almost every hour of the day, but even then most of the stitching is done by hand, and by that I mean with a needle and thread in my hand not using a sewing machine …(of which I do have two, I used to have three but in the Summer one bang pop whizzed and produced a smell and then lots of smoke began to waft out of it’s bottom.)…

nine patch star patchwork block

I like my fabrics to have a bit of a story behind them, a bit of meaning to them, even if it’s just  “I saw this in a shop and lost my heart to it” but more heart felt is the fabric I have that was left over from when my Nanny was too old/too frail to go up her stairs to bed anymore. All her bedlinen had been for a double bed so when she had a single bed moved into what had been her little front parlour, I took up the sewing machine from home and made her sheets smaller.

Some of the fabric was used to make her new pillowcases but the small offcuts and I took home, kept in a sewing basket…..it’s almost twenty years now since she died and I haven’t got much of it left, but I love using little pieces of it in things I make, each time I see just a scrap I’m filled with memories of her (bah…I’m getting all daft and teary now..)….fabric brought in unlimited quantities without a care in the world can’t make my heart ache the same way….and other scraps, brightly coloured pieces gifted from friends and family, left over snippets of fabric used in my first “proper” quilt, purple stars for a little girl who wanted so much to go to Hogwarts., blue floral prints from Alison who taught me to quilt……blogging has allowed me to give a voice to how I feel about all these….I get quite emotional about my quilts, they take me a fair while to sew as each stitch is sewn by hand, sometimes it’s hard to talk about them without getting a bit sentimental which if I’m just talking face to face makes me get all embarassed..it’s lovely having a space where I can stop typing (go blow my nose) and return a little better composed. I hope that makes sense.

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During one of my studio/work room tidy ups I found a whole load of Dresden plate patches I’d begun sewing over papers, and during a little stop for a quick cup of tea, I found myself sewing together some of the plate sections…before I knew it, piles of fabric were all over the floor and I’d started cutting out more sections (tidying up had pretty much gone out the window at this point)….I then went on to write up a few “how to do’s” or tutorials on how Imade my plates and sections….I really do like hand sewing, and yeah it is a bit more fiddly but I think the results can look so nice and it’s what gives me pleasure….I’ve probably gone a bit overboard with the amount of pictures explaining how I sew the fabric round the plate sections but sometimes if you don’t know how to do something then it’s nice to have every stage shown…..and different people do things differently…

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My favourite “quilting” pattern is the baptist fan pattern, it looks a lot more comlicated than what it is to do and I wrote a series of tutorials on how to do it the other year….this was probably my favourite tutorial I made…..I love the feel of hand quilting and I made a quilt a few years back for my boyfriends birthday….it was only a year late (which is very good going for me)…and at the end of each day when my quilting was done, I’d stroke my hands over the quilting ridges, the soft curves feeling like cordaroy ….textile pleasure for my fingertips…..it does take longer than the standard straight lines or diamonds and squares but the results are always worth it.

it looks like he is flying

Just before I started blogging I began making myself a crochet blanket ….like “dear ethel” I’ve written about it loads, from where I was inspired (oh Andamento I love your blanket so much), and where I found the nicest tutorial I found on making that particular pattern…..while the blanket isn’t quite finished (too many woolly tails still to sew in) we’re able to use it and generally it’s where we can find Bernard.

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So where at first I thought I was just going to write about pieces I was sewing or embroidering to sell,, I very soon started writing about things I was making for myself and then things I was baking or cooking in the kitchen…and then my camera started coming along on my walks and jaunts over the marshes and meadows behind our house…..I’m incrediby lucky to live on the very edge of a city but within a matter of minutes I’m in a field, on a good day there are cows….or blackberries waiting to be picked, chittering squirrels or sqwaking crows hop skip jumping along, Spring and Summer sees the meadows transformed in a yellow then pink coloured pastured, with a haze of meadowsweet and soft blue tufted vetch around the edges….Autumn and Winter are rather more bleak, but just being out of doors, well wrapped up in scarves and mittens, the cobwebs and mopes get blown away…..I enjoy writing and talking about where I live so much and I know that there are some people who read my blog who aren’t as able as they once were to get out and about so it’s nice to share what I am able to do and see…this includes picking wild fruits and berries from the hedgerows (where I’ve looked something like Catweazel as I come clambering out of a hedge, with twigs and tangles in my hair and clothes) and making jams and jellies and syrups…..

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(this is me made by my friend Beth Morrison..)

I’ve gone so far off subject….so why do I blog….to share, to have a place where I can write and record what I’m doing or making, whether it’s baking or stitching…or learning to knit…..once again a very big thank you to Sharon for the award….

*I can’t remember the exact figure but it was just under 2,000 pictures on my little camera…I’d just never deleated any.

Making baby bibs……. a tutorial

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These little baby bibs are really simple to make, they are hand sewn but you can just as easily sew them on a sewing machine.  I also like to make them using a soft brushed cotton or flannelette as I think it must be nice for a baby to have something so gentle around their faces.

 

Supplies 

Fabric,  one piece of patterned and one plain.

Sewing thread

Needles

Pins

Scissors

Snap Fasteners

 

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Draw a bib shape on to some paper (mine is 12 1/4 inches high by 9 1/2 inches wide), cut it out and then pin this shape to your fabric.  Draw around your template and cut out the front piece for your baby bib.  Now pin the template to the plain fabric and draw round like you did before and again cut out the fabric.

 

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Place one section of the snap fastener on the left hand side of the bib top (you want the snap fastener sewn on the right side of the fabric) and carefully hand sew into place.  I sew over 6 times between each set of holes.  And then sew the other piece of the snap fastener on the left hand side of the backing fabric (again on the right side of the fabric) ….this seems a bit “really, surely don’t you sew it on the right side of the backing fabric…..but if you lay your pieces together, wrong sides touching, and gently cross the top pieces over (like when they are round your little one’s neck) you can see that is exactly where the snap fasteners need to go.

 

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Place the two right sides of the bib facing together, and then pin all the way around the edge. Leave a 3 – 4 inch gap at one side.

 

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Back-stitch over a couple of times at the first stitch and then carefully sew a running stitch about an 1/8 of an inch all the way around the edge of the fabric, leaving a gap where you didn’t pin.  Secure your final stitch with a few back-stitches.  Normally I would have used a  white or a pale grey thread to blend in with the white cotton I have used on the back but have used green thread in the above example so that the stitches were easier to see.

 

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Carefully turn the bib inside out.  You may need to use a blunt ended knitting needle or a chop stick to ease out the bib “fingers” where the snap fasteners join together.

 

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Pin the gap in the side closed and then whip stitch the gap closed with a thread that blends in and won’t be noticeable.

 

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Now you need to pin all the way around the edge of the bib again, taking care to make sure the bib is fully turned out right up to the edge.

 

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Using a sharp needle and a thread that blends in nicely, top stitch all the way around the edge of the bib, ideally between a 1/16th and an 1/8th of an inch away from the edge.  (Top stitch is just like a running stitch that holds the two layers together and stops the edges rolling over.)

 

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Congratulations your baby bib is finished.

I know this seems a bit pfaffy, it’s just a baby bib, but these are seriously soft, and all the babies I’ve cuddled and bounced on my knee seem to love these.  Hand sewing them means the seam is as soft as the fabric.

I always seem to know someone who is having a baby, so over the years I have made dozens of these bibs.  This size in the tutorial is really for a new born baby,  they are also easy to make in a larger size of about 14 1/2 inches high and 11 1/2 inches wide. *  The little ones are really cute and will happily fit round dolls and teddy bears when they become too small for baby.

 

*A selection of bibs in different sizes in a variety of colours would make a lovely gift for a new baby.