Where growing, making & good living come together

Turning a box file into a sewing kit, pff too easy

Posted by on Monday 1 April 2013 in making | 1 comment

Since most of April will be taken up with dramatic shenanigans, I decided that I should try to clear some things from my “WANT TO MAKE!!!” crafty to-do list during our short break over Easter. I found five small projects that I thought I could achieve in that time, as well as wanting to finish my big project from March (a big granny square blanket) and to block & frame some of embroidery/needlework projects from over the winter.

This was my first to-do – one driven by practical need rather than just creative want.

I bought a bulk load of cotton thread off the internet last week – it worked out about 30p per 500m reel rather than about three or four times that if I was buying them individually. I got them to replenish my very rundown sewing kit – I had run out of black thread, how does that even happens?! it’s like running out of teabags! – and I suspect they’ll last me years and years, as my last lot did. There are far too many reels to fit in my normal little sewing kit though so I decided one of my projects should be making a new sewing box – ooh, I thought, I could felt something, or sew something, or build something or adapt a vintage vanity case or something, it’ll be fun! Then after a few joyeous moments of running through the creative and fun ideas in my head, I realised a boring box file would be perfect for them.


I reclaimed an old file from some even older paperwork and I made some dividers out of scrap cardboard. The most time consuming bit was deciding how to arrange the colours ;) It was almost too easy – so much for having lots of creative, fun adventures making something! At least it was a freebie though.


It actually works pretty well – it’s easily portable and storable, and I can see all the colours in one go. The dividers, even with a bit of blu tac to stop them slipping down, aren’t strong enough to hold the reels in place when it’s upright and open, but they are fine when it’s closed. I can store related things in the other half of the box and I’m thinking of glueing some stiff cloth to the inside of the lid to hold needles and possibly add some little elastic loops for holding other tools.

It’s Day 5 of my break now and as well as a trip to Southport on Saturday, I’ve been doing various other things: I’ve doing some experimental crochet stuff (though not as much as I’d like due to sore hands, boo), some (machine) sewing on card and some embroidery. The first two haven’t gone quite as well as I’d hoped but lessons learnt etc, and I guess I’d be moaning about them being too easy if they had been a success ;) The embroidery is of a row of tomato plants, heavy with fruit – wishful-thinking stitching: the snow will melt and I will be able to garden soon, I will, I will!

Have you had any time for making things recently? If so, what have you been up to?

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Catching up with my crafting

Posted by on Saturday 23 March 2013 in making | 3 comments

2012 was my year that didn’t happen. A combination of circumstances and mood meant I achieved very little all year. It bummed me out until I just accepted it, and in comparison 2013 has been chipper and wonderfully productive.

I did a lot of embroidery and other hand-sewing in January and February – an combination of kits (to learn new skillz) and my own designs. This month has been crochet-tastic (I’m working on a big double-bed size blanket – 31 squares down, 23 to go) and I’ve also done some wet felting with resists. All Lily cares about though are the cushions I’ve made for us her.

I started them yesterday then ran out of thread so finished them today. Both days had intended to be garden days as I’ve got a whole bunch of seeds that need to be started ASAP but the eight inches of snow out there is getting in the way somewhat. I remember this week last year, sowing lots of seeds in the mini heatwave then watching them either rot in the soil or succumb to damping off when the weather turned again in April. I’ve not got anything tender on the go in the greenhouse/outside just yet though so this snow will delay things but hopefully won’t kill off much.

In case anyone is interested, the cushion covers are made from an Ikea fabric, Lappljung Randig, which is a lot nicer in person than it is on the web — and it should be because £8/metre isn’t super cheap. It’s a heavy cotton though, and it coordinates well with our grey sofa, and not just because both are covered in dog hair. (Lil is on her blue sofa in the office in the picture.) I bought the fabric back in February, on our usual Valentine’s Day visit to Ikea (it’s so quiet!) but as I nearly cut off the tip of my index finger the following morning, I couldn’t sew them until now. Two related #pro-tips:

Cushion sewing #pro-tip: Remember to open the zip before you finish stitching the final edge, else, annoyingly fiddly.

Cooking #pro-tip: Sharp, fast-spinning stick blender blades are SHARP and FAST-SPINNING.

I’ve got a strip of fabric left over, about 45cm wide and 2 metres long — I think we’ve got enough cushions now (if Lily shares) so I’m trying to think of ideas for it. I might get some fat quarters to coordinate with the colourful stripes and make a little lap quilt. That’ll have to wait its turn on the project list – I’ve got a year of craft ideas to work off first! (Speaking of which, I’ve been on Pinterest for ages for Recycle This but only just started Pinning non-recycling things – I’m louisaparry on there.)

What have you been up to?

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Swirly ear warmer

Posted by on Thursday 29 November 2012 in crochet & knitting, making | 0 comments

No more cold ears while dog walking for me – I made myself an ear warmer band from an abandoned half-finished beanie this afternoon.

I’ve got an ear-flapped woolly hat for really cold days but this is small enough to fit in my pocket (for days when I’m not sure if I need it) and under my hood (for when it’s raining).

I wrote a little more waffle about it on my personal stuff-and-nonsense blog – it looks brown over there, yellowy over here, it really is an odd sludge colour but if my ears are warm, I don’t care ;)

Have you made yourself anything to keep the chill at bay this winter?

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More WIPs – some wet felting

Posted by on Friday 5 October 2012 in making | 0 comments

In my effort to get back both into the habit of blogging and the habit of making fun stuff, I’ve spent the afternoon wet felting.

I felted various misc knitted things over the years but I had an urge to try my hand at felt artwork over the summer, after falling in love with Marmalade Rose‘s meadow pictures. Click on that link to Fiona’s site and gaze in wonder at the header picture, and all the other ones down the side – really gorgeous work. The mother/daughter combo rosiepink also make lovely stuff.

Anyway, armed with those fabulous pictures in my head and the leftovers from a “Moorland” inspired mixed colour pack of wool roving, I sketched them felted a small woodland scene in July. I’ve done about half a dozen other little pieces since then, but that first one was my favourite/the best. Even accounting for my limited artistic talents and felting-newbie clumsiness, they’ve all just looked … fuzzy and untextured compared to other people’s work. Then today, I realised that’s because the “embroidered” or “embellished” bit isn’t an optional add-on, it’s key! So did I spend the afternoon sewing and embellishing the old pictures? No, I felted some new ones ;)

I did flowery one (close up shot above) and then, wanting to work on something a little more specific, attempted a stylised picture of Staithes (a close-up/partial pic below – it’s supposed to be the Cowbar side, as viewed from the beach, if anyone knows the village). As with, ahem, all my other half finished things I’ve posted about this week, I’ll post proper full pictures when they’re finished – all embroidered and embellished. I think I’ll need to trial-and-error a lot of stuff on that side of things – quite glad I’ve got a few “meh” felts to practise on ;)

I still think know I have a helluva lot to learn about the felting process too actually. I think I’m still being too gentle and as with drawing/painting, there is a communication issue between what my head commands and what my hands produce. I’ve been making small pieces – about A4 size, so I can do all the wet stuff in an old turkey roasting tin – to not overface myself/waste excess materials but I think that’s half the problem – I find it hard to command the roving to do intricate stuff. Still though, I’ll press on!

Have you tried felting, either after knitting/crocheting the wool or using loose strands of roving like this? If so, any tips to share with a newbie? :)

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A bargain retro craft-supply cabinet

Posted by on Wednesday 27 June 2012 in house, making | 3 comments

It’s been a bit of an odd week – Monday started with a smear test (never a terribly pleasant thing), yesterday started with three dead chickens and today has started with me lugging half a tonne of woodchips down three full flights of stairs, ready to into the nearly renovated chicken run.

But it’s had its good points too – some 11 year olds declared they liked me yesterday, my sore throat is finally waning after a month and my lost purse has been found (I thankfully dropped it at the theatre, rather than on the street or anywhere else). And I also got a fab new cabinet for all my craft supplies! (Well, some of them!)

There is a strange space on our upstairs landing: not Bermuda Triangle strange but a strange space all the same. It was originally the house’s tiny bathroom, until the loft was converted and someone decided to replace the bath with a set of stairs (the bathroom is now in what was once a bedroom). What we’ve been left with is a space about 6ft square, a bulge in a corridor really.

The last people to own the house had a desk in it and used it as a small office. They grandly called it a study and we sometimes still jokingly call it “the study” (with inverted commas), and imagined putting a nice chair in there, for quiet reading in the afternoon/evening sunshine, away from the bustle of the rest of the house. It has though been used as a dumping ground – all the bathroom stuff ended up in there last year, things en route to the attic room (our spare room where I keep a lot of my craft stuff) often have a rest break there for a month or two, and things heading to charity shops usually pause a while in there too. It was a bit depressing really – make the house feel untidier than it is, and it’s already pretty untidy.

Anyway, I’ve been keeping an eye out on eBay for a bargainacious new-to-us sideboard for the dining room and last week it occurred to me that a little sideboard-esque cabinet might be the answer for the “study” too. This newly renovated retro one popped up last week and luckily for me, no one else was interested in it so I got it for a good price – bought & delivered for considerably less than my meagre budget for it.

The two wooden doors have been painted — a lot better job than I could manage — and the glass fronted shelves have new light fittings in them – I obviously won’t use them while I’ve got crafty stuff in there but maybe we’ll use it for something light-able in the future. The little top cupboard is divided for filing so I’ve used it for filing cross-stitch/tapestry canvases by type/thread count. Between those dividers and the glass doors, it’s nice and easy to see what I’ve got “in stock”.

Everything in there now had previously been piled up/in bags on the floor in there so while it may seem cluttery to some people, it’s a very big step forward for me! It’s made that room so much more usable and pleasant – it’s no longer a blight on that floor.

My next job – when I’ve finished all the other jobs elsewhere in the house… – is to replace the three narrow shelves above the cabinet with stronger/wider ones that run the whole length of the wall instead of strangely stopping a foot short, then the boxes on the floor can go on the shelves, and I can get/make a nice low window seat — a perfect little crafting space. I think my first craft project in there might be to make a rug to cover up the carpet ;)

Have you had an eBay (or other) bargains recently? Do you have a dedicated space for your craft supplies?

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Soap-making questions – can you help?

Posted by on Monday 30 January 2012 in soap | 10 comments

Two people have asked me soap-making questions on Twitter this afternoon and I thought I’d post them over here as well because I know that not everyone is a Twit.

Firstly, Clare of Three Beautiful Things asked:

Do you have any soap cutting tips, please? I’ve just bought a large block and don’t want it to crumble when I slice it.

I couldn’t help with this one – my soap is still a little soft when I cut it so crumbling isn’t an issue. When my first batch was a bit harder, it did crumble a bit under the knife but I just accepted the rough edged soap bars and collected the crumbles for use as laundry/household soap. Any advice to avoid the crumbles in the first place though?

@AlisonJFews replied:

Don’t know about cutting it, but need a really good soap supplies website. With the one I chose, you had to spend £25 + a time!

And again, I couldn’t help! The soap I’ve made has always been from supermarket supplies and I’ve used misc things as moulds so I’ve not had to use any soap making supplies websites for specialist oils, fats or what-have-you.

For people like me who like to use what’s easily on hand, Sharon of SmithyCraft sent us this link for working out how much lye to use – thanks Sharon.

Has anyone else got any advice/ideas for the other questions?

(By the way, this has reminded me that I’ve been sent a soapmaking ebook to read and review – I’ll get that done this week!)

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