Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Heart felt

It was after preparing the JETS (Junior Embroiderers' and Textile Students) Group activity for February that I had the idea for a new project. The next JETS meeting is on the 13th February, just in time for Valentine's Day, so perfect for a heart theme. We try to make an item the students can complete and take away with them each session, whilst learning a new stitch. It will be cross stitch in February on a small Aide panel attached to a stuffed fabric heart made using the straight stitches we practiced in January. 

I liked the feel of the hearts and thought a few together would make a pretty garland.

These strips of vintage Laura Ashley cotton fabric were about to go in the recycling but had such a lovely soft feel they were quickly rescued. 
They had originally came from old duvet covers so had been washed a great many times.

Stitched together with a 1/4 inch seam and pressed they were good as new again!

I pinned the "new" fabric onto a piece of white backing fabric,  marked out heart shapes using an erasable fabric marker and stitched round them on the machine leaving a small gap for the stuffing. The children will be hand stitching their hearts but I was in the mood to make lots of hearts.

Next came cutting the shapes out carefully with pinking shears, stuffing them and stitching up the gap. I used the zipper foot to do this to keep the line of stitching neat.

Decorated with buttons and sisal bows I added the hearts to a satin ribbon to make a small garland. Perfect for hanging across the door.

There were lots of hearts so why stop at a garland when you can make a wreath too. Using a rattan wreath bound with pretty polka dot grosgrain ribbon, nine fabric hearts fitted perfectly round the edge.

While out shopping for something completely different (a new rotary cutter blade) I found a pack of rustic wooden hearts. Just right and I didn't even know I was looking for them. Funny how that happens!

Ta daa...... the completed fabric heart wreath. 

I am on a bit of a roll now and thinking hearts need not be just for Valentine's Day. Maybe Spring or Easter colours .......
I wonder what other colours I have got in my stash?

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Finally Finished

Why do some projects take so much longer than others to complete? The jumpers for the little people have taken a disproportionate amount of time to finish compared to their size. Although the yarn is exactly the same brand and weight, the red was much bulkier than the green. Presumably this must be the effect different dyes have on the fibres. The pattern did not knit up as expected with the sleeves having to be altered and the button holes moved but FINALLY there are finished.

I am not even sure if I like them but that is probably more to do with having to unravel them several times. However, I am pleased they are finished so I can start a new project or just get on with crocheting a few more rows on the ripple blanket.

In contrast a few other projects have come together quickly with much more satisfying results.

Like a lot of fabricaholics I have a large stash of different fabrics hidden away in drawers and cupboards. Often fabric calls to be taken home, particularly when it is in a sale or bargain basket. That maybe my Yorkshire heritage coming out, but we all like a bargain surely? I picked up a small remnant of polyester fur fabric at the John Lewis sale last summer. It was the grand price of 64 pence! I thought I may be able to get a waistcoat out of it, but amazingly there was just enough for two. One for each of the little people.

They were really quick and fun to make and although I was tempted to put applique shapes on the leatherette side I decided they were best plain so they could be worn either way. I am not quite sure what the Littlies will make of them but they make great dressing up clothes.

This fabric was bought at the Quilt Show at the NEC Birmingham last August with the intention of making S a Christmas dress. It came from one of my favorite fabric shops, The Shuttle in Shipley, West Yorkshire. Whenever I go up to Yorkshire I always call in, but it is great to be able to see them at the major textiles exhibitions too. Sadly, like many others, they were flooded in the Boxing Day storms. I just hope they can recover from all the damage. 
Good intentions feel by the wayside so the Christmas dress is now a Winter pinafore.

I have a large box of buttons that have been acquired over the years from charity shops and vintage fairs. I prefer to use old buttons as I think they give an item of clothing character. I found these two in the box this morning, which have 'croissant life' on them. I would love to know where they came from, but fit in well with the fabric of the pinafore.

Finally, a skirt for me. This was also a remnant and came from the Shuttle on a visit to Yorkshire in June last year. The pattern came from the December '15 issue of  Prima magazine. I have been using their patterns for many years as they are quite straight forward and easy to adapt. For some reason I find it impossible to follow a dress pattern properly and have to add my own interpretation. The fabric is bright and cheerful and perfect for brightening up dull winter days.

Now could someone explain to me why it took a couple of months to complete two small jumpers but only 3 days to stitch four items of clothing?!

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Vintage Knitting Patterns

The jumpers for the little people were finally completed yesterday, only to find the sleeves were not big enough when I started stitching up. Grrr frustration! It is my fault as I was unsure when I knitted them and should have gone with my instinct to make them wider at the time.
 Even when you check the tension with a sample square before starting a project it does not always turn out as you expect, so time to pull back and re-knit the sleeves. 

This led me to think about old favorite patterns. I have some of my mother's old patterns, which I guess would be classed as Vintage today. One baby booklet has always been a family favorite for many, many years. My mother bought it whilst expecting me and knitted every item in it.
Apparently after two boys she was determined she was having a girl.

The pattern is pretty battered and torn today and held together with old sellotape.

Remarkably, I bought the same pattern book 21 years ago, 30+ years after the first one was purchased. It is an identical reprint by Patons although the Baldwin part of the name had gone to be replaced by Coats.

The price had gone up a bit and was no longer printed on the cover, just a code.
 They are lovely patterns that are quick to knit and work perfectly every time. 

Some are a little old fashioned for modern tastes. Not many babies need pram sets anymore, although if you have a large Silver Cross Carriage pram maybe you do. This pram coat has been adapted several times with modern yarns and thicker needles to make summer coats for the current younger members of the family.

I recently made the dolman cardigan for a friend's first grandchild. Not only is it a satisfying pattern to make, it is really easy to put on a small wriggly baby with the wide arm holes.

This pattern book goes back even more years, which my mother bought for my older brother. He was born a few years after the war and I think the patterns in it reflect that.

The knitted vest and pants are priceless.
Would those pants go over a Terry nappy or next to the skin?
The line illustrations of nursery rhymes add their own special touch too.

I am not sure if my mother made this "smock" for my brother but if she did I hope there is photographic evidence somewhere!

The back of the pattern book gives complete washing instructions, which includes the advice:-

"Don't ever peg or hang woollies on a line. Don't ever boil, soak or dry before a fire"

The label at the bottom is quite poignant as I think it must refer to post war shortages. A big reminder of how lucky we are today with the huge range of different yarns and colours on offer.

Time to get back to re-knitting the modern jumper sleeves, then when they are finished maybe reinvent some of the vintage patterns....................alpaca vest anyone???

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year Resamalutions

I'm not sure which member of our family coined the phrase New Year Resamalutions but it is one of those family words that has stuck and become part of our normal vocabulary. A bit like HeeHo (compost heap) and Steifer (wall paper scraper). Completely mad, but we all know what we are talking about. It is a long time since I made any Resamalutions as I prefer to focus on each day as it comes and not plan too far ahead.

Garden in January 2015
This time last year I did make myself a promise to make a real effort to do more and get out more. My world had shrunk. A week would pass by and I would only see my mother, shop assistants and medical professionals. I was not unhappy or lonely but realised I was spending a lot of time alone in a fixed routine and that was not good. Time to make some changes.

Looking back over the last year, it is pleasing to see that things have changed.

JETS student hard at work
I have become much more involved with my local Branch of the Embroiderers' Guild. This year we have set up a JETS (Junior Embroiderers' and Textile Students) Group. We now have a small group of children who meet once a month and it is such a pleasure to see them enjoying sewing and developing their creativity.

 Christmas Decorations created by members of JETS 
Our Guild was responsible for organising the Regional Day this year and it was great to be part of that. Having had arthritis since I was a teenager, mobility can be a problem and a full day event is usually too much for my legs to cope with. I reluctantly got an electric wheelchair 18 months ago but did not use it for 6 months! But, despite the fact I still do not like using 'the chariot' it means I can do whole day events and even away days.

Regional Day was the first whole day event I had attended for a long time and it was made even more special by winning first prize in the stitch competition.

My winning entry in "There is More to Milton Keynes"
Going to London for the first time on my own using the chariot was a bit scary but thanks to the wonderful staff at MK Railway Station and Virgin Assist Transport all went well. I met up with a friend at his flat and we "walked" to the Prism Textile Exhibition at Hoxton Arches and then went on to the Geffrye Museum. That was an experience; some dropped kerbs defy description, but it was amazing how many unlikely people offered help. The general rule seemed to be suits try and walk over you while scruffs smile and help. A glorious day spent in good company experiencing wonderful artwork. I felt like I had joined the human race again.

The view from J's balcony by day
and by night
Other away days included going to the Quilt Show at the NEC Birmingham and meeting up with friends. It was a very inspiring day admiring all the amateur and professional quilts.

Counting the Days by Els Van Baarle
There have been subsequent visits to London, including an Autumn reunion with school friends back at the Geffrye Museum. The world is getting bigger.

Geffrye Museum

Creativity has always been an important part of my life. Stitching, embroidery and other crafts can provide a distraction from pain and discomfort and just the process of making something can be relaxing and rewarding. The problem is what do you do with all the Stuff created? I had done Craft Fairs when I was younger, making cot quilts and children's accessories. In fact they had helped pay the heating bills after buying my first property.

Annie OB Textiles

So this year I set up Annie OB Textiles and did a few Fairs. It was fun to meet other stall holders and chat with like minded people. Even better, customers actually bought things I'd made. I had forgotten the thrill of a stranger admiring your work.  Family and friends are always supportive, but you are never quite sure if they are just being kind.

Hand embroidered needlecases
Technology has never been my forte, but in this increasingly online world it was another aspect I decided needed to be embraced. Friends encouraged me to use Facebook more. So I set up the Annie OB page and I use that in preference to my personal page. Despite my reticence about FB it has been an effective tool in linking up with customers and also discovering friends from years ago, which has been a joy. 

Felted and machine embroidered Journals
The Annie OB shop on Etsy came next and finally this blog. I still lack confidence with these platforms but with a little help from friends maybe that will improve in 2016. Two blogs in 2 days after a gap of 2 months - there is a lot of room for improvement!

Linen machine embroidered notebook covers
So 2015 was an eventful year. I have got out more and done more, met lots of lovely people and made new friends. There have been downs as well as ups but my world has expanded and life is better for it. I am still not making any Resamalutions for 2016 but hope that there will be more challenges and adventures. I shall try to make the best of every day, even those days when it is difficult to get out of bed. 

Camper Van cushion for a special couple's wedding

As my lovely Mum says, every day you wake up is a bonus so make the most of it!