Sunday, 16 December 2012

Quick and Easy Quilted Latte Jacket Tutorial - Handmade Christmas

Whilst a major coffee chain may be avoiding paying taxes in this country, why not craft your own Latte experience by making these sweet little Latte Jackets as Christmas presents?

There are some wonderful seasonal fabrics out there and these jackets take very little yardage - I managed to get 6 jackets sewn together out of 4 contrasting FQs, some wadding and a handful of buttons so it's all quite economical. I bought this fabric from the wonderful Ray Stitch in Angel, a great fabric shopping experience - take a friend and enjoy their wonderful food and coffee served as the fabric is cut and wrapped (beautifully) for you.
I bought the glasses from my local Wilko at £1.75 each but it could be worth scouring the charity shops for similar kinds.

First make a paper pattern from your glass, this can be fiddly - also not all latte glasses are created equal, I made an earlier prototype for a glass that was slightly bigger with the handle more central. It's all trial and error ... so Make It Up.

Use a basic quilting technique of sandwiching wadding between a backing fabric and contrasting top fabric using the paper pattern as your guide. You don't need to worry about adding a seam allowance as the raw edges on the jacket will be finished with 'tape' cut from fabric - or bias binding if you prefer.

I transfered a simple sunburst design onto the top fabric with tailor's chalk as a guide for my quilting - you can of course use a freehand technique which would be great on patterned fabrics following the design - see my phone case tutorial here for inspiration.

I followed the chalk design on my fabric sandwich, this holds the jacket pieces together. 

I cut a length  of contrasting fabric 1 inch wide for edging. I could have cut the fabric on the bias in order to make own bias binding - this makes edging curves a little easier, but the jacket design isn't that intricate and straight tape worked fine.

Sew the tape to the edges of the jacket, right sides together on the top piece - in four strips, don't try and edge the whole quilt with one strip turning corners, it's easier to do it in stages. Fold the edging over to the back side of the quilted jacket and hand sew in place with invisible stitches. Tuck the corners in neatly as you go to finish off.

Choose a couple of buttons and make an elastic loop with some round cord elastic. I simply hooked the elastic loop round the buttons to keep the jacket on the glass.

Now fill the glass with Christmas goodies and parcel up with packet of good coffee for the caffeine addict in your life - or hot chocolate for the younger less wired members of your family!

Monday, 3 December 2012

November Round-Up - OR - I can't stop making handcrafted crochet card boxes!

November has turned into a bit of a making frenzy as I've road-tested a few things as possible Christmas makes.
There was my Big Sister’s birthday crochet card box, I started with some vintage birthday postcards and whipped them into shape.

It's touching that these cards had a series of messages on the reverse inscribed from the past - one beau sent his lover a card regularly over the war years from 1939 onwards, I do hope they got together in the end. 

And if the inside of your box doesn't hold secrets from the past, you can add a touch of vintage interest by recycling old newspapers as I did for this lovely ...

Note picot edging on the lid, my crochet skills are growing. Instructions on how to create these beauties can be found in a post I did a few years back here and guess what, it's my most visited page - people love crochet boxes.

Box made, there was the annual trip to Derbyshire for Big Sister's November 5th birthday bash at Darwin Forest Country Park at Darley Moor. They stage the most amazing bonfire and firework display every year in a beautiful pine forest setting and it does make a change from the old East End.

Door to the Wishing Tree
Wishes tied to the wishing tree

Bib Big Sis carved this beauty
And yes - the trip always ends with a Domino Tournament.

Next up is an idea I've brewing for Latte Jackets, with inspiration from Thimbleanna's beautiful embroidered mug cozy that she blogged about here.

I turned my hand to a Poinsettia corsage as it's one of my favourite plants - a bit of a knit, felt and some beading. Great to pin to a dark winter coat or I may wear it in my hair.

Finally I had to have a go at making a Pom Pom Angel as seen here on Laura's blog SheDraws. Laura's dancing dolly pegs are decently clothed my D pointed out to me - my angel is *naked* up top. I need to draw some boobs or add a corset I think.

Laura has made some lovely wooden decorations this year - check them out on her blog

I'm currently gathering together Xmas tat from charity shops with the idea of creating another retro wreath to add to the Pink Flamingos that will be the centrepiece for my garden tub display!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Making Compulsions

I love to harness the good feeling I get from crafting and share it with others, it’s one of the reasons I write this blog. I like to keep a record of the things I’ve made – the challenges I’ve overcome and the buzz of actually completing something. 

I don’t worry too much about not blogging enough or how many followers I have – my only remit is to blog what I make or write about aspects of making and thrifting that have been good fun, like vintage fairs and markets.

And now in that subtle way the world works where everything is suddenly painted with the synchronicity brush, I’m aware there are quite a few groups in existence whose focus is on the well-being of crafting. There are groups where the focus is direct causation like Stitchlinks whose founder Betsan has explored the benefits of knitting and the relief from long term pain, Significant Seams use the health benefits of sewing to build community ties and support the vulnerable and disadvantaged, Out Of The Dark run a scheme whereby vulnerable young people learn craft skills in order to upcycle furniture into fabulous new pieces.

I’ve also stumbled across a Creating Wellbeing workshop recently, held at The Create Place (Bethnal Green E2 9PJ) where people can craft together and use the process to bolster their mental health.
I shared my experience of crafting keeping me sane with Katie Peters who runs the Creating Wellbeing sessions in the hope of passing something on. We clicked and I will be at the session on Sunday 7th October to meet and make with other people interested in crafting for wellness, I hope it's the beginning of a regular jaunt and I'm looking forward to meeting new faces!
Apart from the communal benefits of engaging in an activity with like minded people, having a goal, getting out of the house etc - creating things with my own hands keeps me happy. It’s what I do, I Make Things Up.

Why does crafting keep me sane?

I’ve always thought it noble to be able make something with my own hands, find someone who needs / likes what I’ve made and get money in exchange. So far I’ve never sold any of my makes directly, I’ve never done a craft fair or sold anything online – I don’t think I have the business wherewithal to not end up with a pile of deadstock crafted thingamabobs and huge bills for materials.

I have sold my skills to producing companies who in turn gave me money to make things for them – scenery and puppets mostly. I loved these one-off projects, creating an OOAK (as the parlance goes) in my workspace from initial sketched design to freeform pattern cutting and snipping sponge and fabric. I had a run of making things from household objects for a while – birds from umbrellas, flora and fauna from dish mops and scrubbing brushes and the like. I loved hunting down the materials, finding the perfect beak or the perfect eye in a found toggle or thrifted button. 

Puppets and illustration from my time spent at Polka Theatre in the 90's.

I write in exchange for a wage these days and yet I still make things, in fact the urge to make things is quite persistent, if not pathological. If my hands are not busy creating something and my mind not occupied with rotating craft related problems Matrix-like inside my skull (how do you get a seamless lining in a zipped purse for example) then I can begin to feel quite low. If I am not allowed to run with scissors or imagine crocheted Christmas card boxes with vintage cards found on eBay at midnight, either because I’ve got a shed load of ‘work’ work to do or because I have kids who need me more than my glue gun, then I can begin to feel distinctly mentally unwell.

I often wonder just how my brain is wired – I have a gift for language and can respond to things in written form, which is useful when I get paid for it and when I don’t write for a while I feel niggled and have to go back to the page. But I was never an avid reader as a kid and I’m not the type of writer who reads everything – book award longlists, classics, Blyton, cereal packets.

I prefer to watch stuff, I like pictures and art, I love the cinema and TV, I love how people choose to dress and I like making things to adorn my home and myself with. Whilst some kids were happiest reading, I was happiest making stuff. I used to stand at my dad’s elbow in the garage whilst he got on with DIY and then knock his offcuts into some sort of project of my own. 
I loved TV programmes like Vision On with a very youthful Tony Hart who made stuff, Blue Peter’s making slot was the best bit of the show – I turned out lots of things made from shoe boxes and sticky backed plastic.

I threw my clothes out of the cupboard, sculpted a diorama in there from scrunched paper and fabric, filled it with cowboys and Indians (yes I was a tomboy) and with a torch strategically hidden in the backdrop, added dramatic lighting. It was just a cupboard from the outside, but once you opened it – Wow! No wonder I became interested in theatre design.

It’s the act of making stuff that keeps me well. When my hands are occupied and my brain is engaged in a task of creating something unique and sometimes difficult, I feel happy and fulfilled. I love the different stages involved with making something – the planning, the sourcing, the ahhh factor when all the materials are lined up and ready, the finishing off (sometimes). I have more WIPs than I care to think to think about, this is because I get excited by new projects and can’t wait to get started. 

But I’ve come to the conclusion at long last that a WIP state doesn’t really matter, so what if I’ve only got one sock, half of a sewn bag, broken jewellery as yet un upcycled – I even have an incomplete cross stitched sampler from 15 years ago when my second daughter was born. It is the process of crafting these things and seeing the ideas take form in my hands that is the most important aspect – it keeps me grounded, focussed and somewhere in my head neurons are firing and good guy hormones are flooding my system.

Going into action helps my brain work, that’s why I love to dance and ride my bike too, crafting is a great brain exercise and if the action is quite simple – 100 rows in stocking stitch for example – then while my hands are busy my brain is free to ponder and unlock problems it has on the back burner. If I’m blocked in my writing I knit the answer into existence or I do some weeding, wash the dishes – it always works. Action beats stasis any day and as I have a tendency to live in my head, daydream and while away hours just thinking, I can succumb to entropy quite easily.

Surfing Etsy, Folksy and Craft blogs is not the same as actual crafting and too often I find myself numbing out on lovely handmade goodies – like a few too many glasses of wine after a busy day. This escapism leaves me feeling lethargic, zoned out, often with a deep sense of melancholy or craft megalomania ‘I could do that!’ 
Pinterest is the worst, I consider Pinterest quite evil – it eats my time and my active creative responses, I know there are crafters out there who love to arrange virtual pictures on virtual boards and can happily walk away feeling a deep sense of completeness (I’m looking at you Anna). Not me, so I avoid it.

I do sometimes feel a jack-of-all-trades, master of none and envious of makers who have settled into one discipline and honed their craft to an art. But there’s time yet and time also to think about the art of selling – if I ever manage to complete anything. In the meantime I happily go where my crafting compulsion takes me.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Pop-Up Sale in Pictures

I had a ball at The Homemaker Pop-Up Sale at Red Door Studios in East Ham earlier this month - it was my first venture into organising such an event and my time was divided between -

preparing scenery, sorting stock, moving furniture, pricing items that came in...

... Tweeting, labelling and tagging clothes and collectibles ...

... moving more furniture, preparing posters, dressing the sales rooms, late night stock taking ...

... more furniture moving, more Tweets, coping with nerves ...

... manning the til, taking money, wrapping purchases, eating cake, dancing and merrymaking with the wonderful customers who found us over the two days were trading!

It was a baptism of fire and I thoroughly enjoyed the process from pre-planning to sweeping up the last stray button. Thank you all the East Ham locals who attended and a big thank you to those who came from further afield to help put Red Door and East Ham firmly on the 'places to go in East London' map.

Our Homemaker event was boosted by the collaboration of Candy Pout the fantastic Vintage Styling Make-over team who set up shop in the hairdressers adjacent to the Studios. They provided a steady stream of retro duckling to swan transformations as ladies returned to the sale with fabulous up-dos and vintage make-up.


Adam Pasty Guy cooked up a mouthwatering array of cakes and pastries, complete with Red Door cupcake cases.

We had guest singers The Hudson Belles who introduced our Sunday Salon Bookchat hosted by Matthew Crampton author of The Trebor Story. He was in conversation with two of the original 'sugar girls' who worked in the local Tate & Lyle factory in the 50's and 60's.

All in all it was such a great weekend that we have decided to open the Homemake Sale for a one off spree of pre-Xmas shopping on the 3rd and 4th of November! Anything that didn't go in the original sale will be there to buy and we will re-stock too from local sources.

If you fancy a trip to the East Edge, we'll see you there! 
Red Door Studios, Masterman Road, East Ham E6 3RW

Photography were indicated was by the wonderful Mr Phil Russell, you can contact him here.
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