Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New year, new leaves...

I can't believe that 2008 is nearly over already, it seems to have passed by so quickly.  This point in the year lends itself so naturally to being a time to reflect, and that's the thing about writing a blog, it's all here, in the archives, a years worth of posts.  As we've been doing a bit of traveling and visiting over christmas, we've also had time to have more of those conversations, you know, the ones where Mr LK opens the top of my head, asks a few questions and then waits for something profound to happen.  He's actually very good to talk to about the important stuff, I've often thought about sticking him online here for a web chat!  He'd certainly open up some interesting thoughts for anyone who feels they were a bit stuck in a rut creatively. 

Our conversation last night was mostly about the future, our future, the house's future, his future and the future of Lucykate Crafts.  There is a lot I don't know the answer to yet, but one thing I do know, is how lucky I am right now.  Lucky to have had, and still be having this time at home, with the children and the time to try out Lucykate Crafts.  It hasn't always been like this, for 12 years I was the main breadwinner, I returned to work when Lucy was only 5 months old, she was with a childminder from 8 til 5, every day.  Everything came to a head when she called me by our childminders name, and we all knew in an instant, things had to change.  And change it did, now Mr LK brings home the bacon, and given that he essentially has 3 jobs, my official post in this house is to look after the family, make sure everyone is fed, happy, and the toilet is clean!  Any time spent on Lucykate Crafts is a real luxury and a joy for me, something to savour and expand.  So, what is going to change here in 2009?  Well, I suppose if I write it down, then I have to stick to it, right?!  So here goes, plans for 2009,

1.  I think I'd like to re-design the blog layout and colour scheme
2.  Learn how to use the graphics software I have in order to design a range of patterns
3.  Launch a range of patterns both in paper and PDF format
4.  Bring together my ideas for a craft book and refine the whole concept
5.  Launch a more official web site to sit in conjunction with my blog
6.  But firstly, I really want to revisit the eye patch tutorial.  I get emails regularly from grateful parents, who after struggling to get their child to cooperate with patching, have made one of these.  It is about time I followed it up with some more detailed instructions for a boys version.

As always, after christmas, there is a pile of new reading material to get me started...,

I love the format of Anna Maria Horner's book, it's like a little folder, a pocket at the back for patterns and is spiral bound inside.  There is something about books like that, that call out and say 'pick me up, open the pages and sew'!  

We're off on another trip in the next few days, so no doubt our in car conversation will continue and help me continue to develop my ideas and aspirations for Lucykate Crafts.  But for now, it's knitting (sewing for me) club tonight, and I have absolutely nothing ready to take along.  No unfinished projects, no softies on the go, nothing!.  I'm tempted to just fling some fabric in a hoop, grab some thread and a needle and embroider up a little stitchette design made up as I go along, what do you think?!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry 'crafting' Christmas!

Well, it's almost here, and this year I have never been so relieved that I only had two presents to hand make.  I have been ill, and after three days in bed, am finally just beginning to come back to life.  If it wasn't flu, it was a pretty close second.  Both Lucy and Luke have had it as well, and are also luckily now on the mend, good job too as tomorrow is not only Christmas Eve.  Oh no, far more important than that..., 

it is Mr LK's birthday! (He'd like to point out he's not yet 40, just 39!)

Terrible day for a birthday, but still we manage to squeeze in a party, it is open house tomorrow afternoon for mince pies and mulled wine.

You are welcome to join us,

Merry Christmas from Lucykate Crafts...!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Meet...,

Marmalade,

and Rusty,

I had a yearning to make some softies, and this fabric was calling out to me from my stash,

it was a felted woollen skirt,

it's now Marmalade & Rusty!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Embroidery,

We are having an unexpected weekend at home, after packing the car at 9am this morning, and setting off for the Lake District to visit grandparents, we had to turn back, just 10 miles from home as Lucy threw up!  So, being a person who tries hard to always look on the bright side, I've spent the rest of the day doing all those little, lingering jobs round the house that I never get round to doing.  My tupperware cupboard is tidy, and Lucy's bedroom curtains now hang how they are supposed to.  This evenings job will be to make a start on the only 2 christmas presents I'm making this year, so it's a good job I got in a little flower practice earlier this week!

I'm actually really looking forward to these projects.  The flowers are totally made by hand...,

I love hand embroidery, there is something utterly fascinating about the way a needle and thread can turn a small amount of fabric and felt into something really special.  Not only that, it is both relaxing and theraputic to complete.

Which part of your crafting do you enjoy the most?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Flowers & stems...

...are what I've been fiddling around with this week.  In amongst all the frost we are having (no snow here, yet!) a little bit of light shone through which gave all these lovely shadows.

I'll be taking these with me tomorrow night to sew the flower heads on.  I've joined a knitting group who meet up in a local pub once a week, I am the rebel as, not being a knitter, I take hand sewing along instead.  It's been really nice to get out the house of an evening to go along with a bunch of other crafters for a glass of wine and a chat while you sew. 

On the subject of nature, we went to get our christmas tree on Saturday, which, as usual for us (we are great sufferers of what we call here in the UK, as 'sods law'!), didn't quite go to plan, just the usual, kids squabbling, lights don't work, kids squabbling, tree falls over, kids squabbling and so on...!  To lighten the mood, we sat down last night and indulged in the Adams family yearly christmas tradition, of watching National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.  Doesn't matter how many times I see that film, it still makes me howl with laughter!

A big thank you to all those who stopped by for the robin tutorial, the winner is (from the online random number generator) comment number 46, which is Erika, from Crazy Button, who, if you are also crazy about buttons, has a rather lovely blog header, go see!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Robin tutorial

Right, here we go, as voted for in the christmas tutorial poll, a little 'how to' for a christmas robin.  You will need -

 background fabric of your choice (I used a red spotty print)
circle of brown fabric, 5cm diameter (mine is from a felted jumper)
circle of background felt in a colour of your choice (I used yellow), 5cm diameter
circle of felt for backing in a colour of your choice (I used green), 9cm diameter
red felt
brown felt
small white bead
green, red, and dark brown embroidery thread (I used pearl cotton 8)
a small amount of stuffing
sewing needle
scissors
embroidery hoop (optional)
16cm of ribbon or a blank greetings card for displaying


(print out the templates so the piece of paper they are drawn on is 10cm across)

Place your chosen background fabric in the embroidery hoop (or you can just hold it in your hand if you prefer), position the smaller circle of felt centrally, and attach with a ring of running stitch in green embroidery thread.


Next, take the brown fabric circle, and sew running stitch all the way around, about 0.5cm in from the edge, place a little stuffing in the centre, and pull the thread to gather it into a ball, secure with a few stitches.


With the brown thread still attached, sew the ball shape into position centrally to your base.  Next, cut the red breast shape from the red felt, and place on the left hand side of the ball (widest part of the template goes towards the top), sew on with random straight stitches in the red embroidery thread.


Cut the tail feathers, wing and beak from the brown felt.  Attach the tail using the brown thread and a few stitches at the base, positioning them with the shorter one above the longer one, continue to add the wing and folded over beak.  Then embroider two legs for your robin.  The next bit is a little tricky, still using the brown thread, after you have completed the legs, bring the needle through the robins body to the position you want the eye.  Thread on the bead, pushing it all the way down to the base, then before sewing the needle back through the bead, wrap the thread around the needle 3 times so essentially what you are doing is anchoring the bead with a french knot.  Be careful when going through the knot and bead not to pull too hard and pull the knot through the hole, what you want is the knot to sit above the hole.  If it does pull through, if your bead hole is bigger than mine is, then just make your french knot larger by wrapping the thread round more times.


Now you are ready to add some wording in red if you want to...,


and finish off by cutting down your backing fabric to a 9cm diameter circle.  Place this on top of the remaining circle of felt which is the same size and join the 2 together with blanket stitch round the edge in green.  You can either attach a loop of ribbon to the top of your robin and make a christmas decoration, or stick it on to the front of a greetings card, it's up to you!


If you make one, please do join the Lucykate Crafts... pattern pieces Flickr group so I can see what you've made.
Happy stitching!

Monday, December 1, 2008

How to..., design a softie, step three,

To round up this series, I really just want to talk a bit about decoration, embellishing and finishing off a softie.  As my background is in embroidery, it is only natural that it appears in a lot of my work.  My all time favorite hand sewn stitches include blanket stitch, which I use mainly for edging.  It is an ideal stitch for joining layers of fabric together for things such as wings, as it protects the raw edge from fraying.  

Seeding, is another stitch I often use, for instance, on the egg (above).  I like stitching seeding in a mixture of colours as it gives a subtle, yet effective decorative finish.  Seeding also works very well when mixed with french knots (below).  The majority of my embroidery is done in pearl cotton, mainly in size 8, but I do sometimes use 5 (thicker) and 12 (thinner) too.

In my own work, I tend to favour buttons over beading as decoration, no reason other than it is just my personal preference.  I love using embroidery on softies as it adds another dimension to the whole design.  Appliqued patches can be added in a decorative way, making the stitching part of the whole design, as well as functional.  I hand sew the faces for all my softies and find, many a time, that I unpick the mouth in particular, quite a few times and redo it to get it right, facial expression is very important.

Some other designers who I would recommend looking at if you are wanting to add embroidery to your design are...

Mimi Kirchner, her work has some very intricate embroidery involved, Louise, from Prairie Mouse, whose hand embroidery (in fact, all of her sewing) is so amazingly neat, and this one is not totally about embroidery, but my all time favorite softie maker, Stephanie Congdon Barnes.

One major part of finishing off, particularly if you are making softies to sell is, what are you going to call it?  Softie?, Plush?,  I tend to shy away from the term 'soft toy'.  In the UK, in order to market something as a soft toy, it would really have to go through laboratory testing for health and safety.  The difficulty in this for me, is I vary the patterns I work from, they are continually developing, and every time the pattern changed, it would need to be retested.  Over the past year, I have totally readdressed, in my mind at least, how I view my design work.  I have wrangled over the fact that my natural style is kind of cute, which visually, tends to automatically bracket my softies as a toy.  I know now, that is not where I want to be, where I want to be is more ornamental, sculptural, decorative, dare I say it... art?!

Another word which could be used is 'Stuffed',
 
I am very excited to say that some of my softies and an interview appear in the first issue, out January 2009.  The magazine looks amazing with some fascinating work featured.

So that's it for softies for today, it's back to refereeing arguments over the playmobil advent calendar and deciding whether or not we persevere in the name of sharing, or give in and buy another so they have one each!