A herd of tatted lavender bags

tatted lavender bags

Do you think you could call them a herd? Not entirely sure, but they’re certainly gathering. Things have changed again work-wise for me, so I’m back to a regular commute. Even better, I’m back to a regular commute that more often than not affords me a seat, which is great news. It’s also exceptionally slow, due to engineering works, which is less great (but very British, to be honest). This means I have more time to tat.

Tatting on my leg

There you can see an over processed iPhone photo taken while I was tatting on the train. I’ve been working on my own patterns a lot, using the ANKARS technique of overlapping rings. I must admit, I’m really enjoying it.

Adding beads

This bit is always less fun – not sure why but the sewing drives me a little nuts. Some beads I add as I tat, others I’ve started sewing in at the end…

Waiting...

Last weekend I finally had enough time, and enough semi-complete pieces to get out the sewing machine. What I *didn’t* have is any fresh lavender. The stuff I have is getting on a bit now, and I was a little concerned. That said, it’s performed admirably, and the corner of the house where they’re currently all piled up smells amazing.

Envelope back

I decided to go for envelope backs on the bags – partly due to the concern of the lavender not being fresh and needing to be replaced, and partly because it gives me a higher chance of finishing the edges neatly. If you do it like this, there’s no need to hand finish the edges! They also look kinda cute – but I neglected to take a photo… sorry about that.

result

In the end I made six complete bags. I have another two that still need to be stitched on to fabric – and I got some new thread at the weekend, so there could be more to come. Not 100% sure what to do with them all right now, but… well… as I said, that corner of the house smells amazing.

collection

And there’s still more tatting knocking about that needs to be ‘dealt with’… But as it goes, there are worse things to worry about.

Bags of joy (or craft as therapy)

bag_1

It’s been a weird month or so. My partner has been travelling a lot and for a boring health reasons (herniated disc) I’ve been stuck at home. Like many people who work in London and live in a town outside I don’t really know anyone locally. The last few weekends have stretched out endlessly – but in a bad way. When you’re feeling super-cheerful, a free weekend feels like a brilliant opportunity. When you’re a bit fed up, it feels like it will never end. Social media doesn’t always help – perfectly posed photos of friends having amazing times, going places and doing things, and there you are home alone, climbing the walls (or you *would* climb a wall, if you were able to stand up).

There’s a lot been written and researched into the therapeutic effects of knitting and/or making things; here’s one article. Google and you’ll find loads more. I have to say I agree completely. I find that tatting and knitting both require counting, which calms a busy brain, and that sewing is good because often the projects are started and finished in a day and you really feel like you’ve achieved something.

There is no physical position I can get in that is pain free at the moment (can’t sit on the sofa, can’t lie down) – BUT on the upside, the closest I can get is a hard chair at the kitchen table, as long as it’s not for too long.

I decided this was the perfect weekend to make the most of a few things aligning: free time, no interruptions, a free kitchen table. What did I plan on making? Another zip top bag. What did I make? A drawstring bag!

bag_2

I’m really pleased with it, even if I do say so myself. I bought this the Elementary Mini Charm Pack from Moda just before Christmas. I’d sort of said that I would make my partner a quilt, but the one I have planned needs some black fabric. I bought the charm pack as a tester to see what would and wouldn’t work. I must admit, it’s a really nice pack. You get 42 squares in total – which when they’re all laid out, is quite a lot.

The zipped pouch I was going to make would only take 4 of these squares and when I put them together, it seemed like a shame. It felt like it would be nicer to put a few more together and make something bigger.

bag_3

I made this drawstring bag in 2013, and I use it all the time. It’s quite big, and of all the things I’ve made, it’s the thing I enjoy using the most. (Although I think that could be because most of the things I make aren’t that useful!) It’s tatted and embroidered – which despite being a bit flowery for my tastes I really like – and thinking about it, I wonder why I’ve never repeated? Anyway. I decided to make another bag roughly the same size.

bag_4

(Sorry for rubbish iPhone photos – the blank patchwork square actually has a pattern on it!). I didn’t measure anything – I just started with the charm squares and went from there. I ALMOST had a wobble when the charm squares were put together and the grey border added… would make a really nice quilt, but I decided I wanted to finish something there and then and actually, I have a use for the bag already. The white fabric with tiny blue stars was a speculative purchase ages ago, the grey fabric was in my stash and I managed to cobble just about enough calico together to line the inside. The ribbon handles I found in the back of a drawer – I was really pleased as they’re not a bad colour. I think they’re the handles from a posh carrier bag. (Always save those ribbons and cords, they’re usually just the right size for *something*).

bag_5

In terms of construction, I used this tutorial again, I quilted the main section after the patchwork was complete and before I started putting the panels together. By which I mean I stitched through the front straight on to the batting, with nothing behind it. The top grey section has iron-on interfacing to make it stronger, as it’s the bit that gets the most stress. Inside it’s just basic calico, which is heavy duty enough, and cheap, of course. I actually didn’t do a *terrible* job of that top stitching on the outside – but yes, I was too lazy to hunt for a more discreet thread colour.

And thus, mission completed. Just the right project – took long enough, but not too long. Required the right amount of sitting, but enough to keep that spine moving, as you need to get up and iron things, or chop things up. It also needs a bit of thought, but not enough to make you worry about it.

If you need  a project to cheer yourself up, and you like sewing, I would recommend it. (If you like knitting, I would recommend a hedgehog.) I’m hoping though, that if you are sewing things, you’re happy both before *and* after you start!

Here’s to it, us and making things.

 

No time like the present…

needle cases

I made these needle cases about a month ago. They’re very wonky, and I just rushed in and made them without thinking really—which I must admit, I really enjoyed.

scraps

I used up lots of little scraps and just made it up as I went along. I like the fact that one is really bright and cheery and the other…

case

Feels a little more muted, a little older, perhaps. I was of course using up my tatting; thought it might make a change from lavender bags! I made the brighter one second, and actually remembered to put some pockets in it. To be honest, had I been thinking I’d’ve added decent pockets to both, maybe in different orientations. That’s the only thing with being spontaneous, afterwards you think of all the things you could’ve done. That said, I enjoyed making them and I did actually need a needle case. (Although maybe not two.)

inside

The felt inside is SO cheap and nasty! It’s awful – thin and stretchy. I must actually buy some decent felt. Anyway – that’s not the point of this picture – the point is I used the scalloped stitch on my sewing machine to make the ‘pages’ look a bit nicer. It’s the first time I’ve used a non-standard stitch on a sewing machine, so that was very exciting. I’m still alive to tell the tale.

floor

This is what the kitchen floor looked like until about 10 minutes ago.

And the living room floor.

Why work in one room when you can turn the whole house into a tip?

About a year ago I bought a selection of beautiful William Morris fabrics. I love every single pattern—but to the point where I was thinking that I would never ever use them because I could never do them justice. I’ve looked at a million patterns, simple and complicated. I’ve decided what I’d do and changed my mind a million times. You know the saying ‘money burns a hole in your pocket’? This weekend the fabric finally did that to me and I just decided to get started.

The patterns are complicated so it needs to be a simple quilt design. I decided on a strip quilt and started cutting strips. Until I came across one pattern that would be better as a traditional patchwork, so I cut some squares. Then I cut some more squares. Then I couldn’t decide *what* I should do – and of course cursed myself for ‘rushing’ in. (Despite the months of deliberation).

Anyway:

block 1

In the end I decided to make blocks that are all this size, and then I will put the blocks together

block 2

I think this should work. It should use up the bits I cut at random and I can make each block relate to the previous one or any of the others and shuffle them about as I go along. I hope it’ll work anyway…

The good thing being that it’s not *for* anything. I like making quilts for snuggling up on the sofa, so whatever happens it’ll work for that. And once I’d decided that’s what I was going to do, I quite enjoyed it, and that is the point of it, really.

Sheesh. Why do I make everything so complicated?

Hope you’ve all had good weekends.

(Also, thanks to the new people who are following me. Feel free to comment, I don’t bite 🙂 )

Tatting, embroidery, colourwork and a swatch

urchins

Hello! Just a quick and varied update… I actually made this a while ago, but haven’t had a chance to post it here. It’s a lavender bag — of course — made with the little tatted ‘urchins’ and some simple embroidery. I often think this kind of fabric is too open, but it’s perfect for a lavender bag as it keeps the lavender in and lets the scent out.

lavender

Here’s a rather terrible picture of the whole thing. I used a linen strip at one end, and it’s also backed with linen. I quite like the more geometric nature of this, and when you see it in real life, it’s quite delicate. I was thinking of the running stitches of shashiko when I made it, which is yet another thing I quite fancy trying but haven’t had any time for…

beads

This was a quick experiment from this morning. The stitch count needs adjusting but it seems to work. Basically I’d not tatted around a central bead before so I wanted to try that. I think it’s ok on this thread (still the thread from Katy!) but anything thinner will probably be too much- it ends up disappearing inside the bead. These yellow beads I bought on a whim. They’re ridiculously bright, but they feel really ‘springy’ –  we’ve had daffodils and primroses recently, and there’s currently bright yellow dandelions everywhere. There’s also loads of bluebells in the woods, which are a complete delight:

bluebells

I’m using the bluebells as a bribe to get myself running regularly. It’s so lovely to run in the woods — we’ve had a little spell of sunny weather in the UK and the light through the trees, the bright blue flowers, and the smell of spring has been fantastic.

colourwork

That aside, I’m also doing a little knitting experiment. I thought I would try colourwork in the round as I need another case for a phone. I have an iPhone already and the new job insists I also have a Blackberry. It’s all very formal on occasion, and I kind of like to amuse myself with slightly terrible bits of hand knitting in my bag. I’m making this up as I go, both the structure and the pattern. Already I’m worried that the pattern is far too big for the size of pouch I need, so I’ll probably have to adapt it. I’m also worried  that the final thing will be too tight—but not *that* worried to be honest—if it doesn’t work I’ll use something else. The job itself is stressful enough with out worrying about hobbies aswell!

swatch

There’s also this, which I’m pretty sure is one of the loveliest things you’ve seen all day, right? I actually took this last week, its a swatch gauge for what *will* become my first knitted garment. I don’t know why but starting it seems terrifying and so I keep putting it off. It’s this Boardwalk pattern from Brooklyn Tweed. Everyone (on Ravelry) seems to find it really easy but… I’m just being an idiot. I just need to get on with it.

So there we have it. There is a bit more which I’ve not had time to write about, but nothing that can’t wait. Hope you’ve all had good weekends (long weekends here in the UK) and that whatever you’re doing is fun, tricky enough to be interesting but not tricky enough to make you worry about it 🙂

See you soon.

 

2013; tatting, sewing, travel and monkeys

tatting with beads
Well, hello! Happy new year to you and yours!

If you’re a WordPress user you’ll’ve received an end-of-year review of your blog. I was shocked to see that I’d only posted 19 times last year! I thought surely I’ve been busier than that? I’ve never done my own end-of-year post before, but as it’s nice and warm inside and horrible out there I thought today might be the time to start, so here goes. A quick look at what I actually did do last year…

Tatting
As you can see above, this was the year of the bead! I found a hook small enough to work with seed beads and size 80 threads, and there’s been no stopping me! I also finally worked out how to get the beads to pop above the chain rather than in them. It seems once I’d started, I couldn’t stop.

r_self
I also decided to try and work on my own patterns this year. Admittedly I only ever got to do this on the work commute, and refused to use a pen to plan things out first, so I only got this far, but I had fun anyway! I finished an edging pattern, which I made available here – and I even spotted someone using it. I do plan to continue working on my own designs this year, so we’ll see how that goes.

Trips abroad
This was another year where living in Europe brings huge benefits! Nice places to visit and nothing to far away. I was lucky enough to visit (clockwise from top left):

Barcelona –  A lovely, relaxed trip with old work colleagues who have become friends. A visit to the Sagrada Familia was a real treat; it’s the first time I’ve been back since the new windows and roof were finished. The colours and shapes are really breathtaking.

Skelleftea, Sweden, for work. This was a beautiful place, and the first time I’ve experienced 24 hour daylight! I was made so incredibly welcome too, met some really interesting people and had some great food.

r_travel
Venice – one of my best friends lives in a town just outside Venice, and so I spent a week with him. A great week of hanging out, visiting the Biennale, and enjoying/melting in the boiling sunshine.

France – my partner’s family live here, and so we visited his family for Christmas. The photo is taken in Villebois-Lavalette. I love this chateau – it looks a little bit like one you might draw for a children’s book.

Monkeys
Yes indeed, where would we be without crocheted monkeys? They continue to be my go-to gift, although I have a feeling I might’ve made everyone I know a monkey soon! I actually made 5 in total, I think – there’s a twin for the one on the top right. I also made two bears.

r_monkeys

Sewing
The reason I started using a sewing machine originally was to try and make use of my tatting. My obsession with lavender bags didn’t abate in 2013 as you can see! I’m still not sure there’s a straight edged one among them.

I also tried my hand at embellishing with embroidery, which on reflection, I like a lot. I used the piece on the top right for a bag.

r_sew

And finally, I managed to shorten a very light pair of curtains, and finish my second quilt. Phew!

Maybe 2013 was busier than 19 posts suggests? If you stuck it out this far, thank you for indulging me. And now, I *think* it’s stopped raining for 5 minutes. I’m going to rush out for a short, damp run, while I can. When I get back, I still have a friends baby blanket to finish.

RUN!

A quick tatting catch up

red snowflakeHello! It’s been ages since I last posted, but not for the lack of activity, mostly for the lack of light to take photos with. I’m supposed to be working on a presentation right now, so of course seeing a little bit of sunshine pop out makes this an excellent procrastination moment.

Above is my first snowflake of the year, using up that slightly odd variegated thread. This is one of Jon’s patterns, from her snowflake book – apologies, I can’t seem to find a direct link to it on her site, but her patterns are all well written and beautifully put together. You’ll see that now I’ve got a bit more experience with beads they’re on everything!

port isaac

In the time since I last posted, I did manage to have a few days away. We went to Port Isaac in Cornall, which was lovely. Above was the view from our bedroom window. Fans of British TV might find it familiar; the building on the left is the school in Doc Martin, and loads of the show is filmed around here.  That said, we appreciated it more for its general loveliness as a village than a TV set, having never seen the show…

I’ve been working on a few different things – a quilt, which I’ll talk about in another post, a knitted baby blanket (beyond frustrating, and it’s not even a difficult pattern), and some more tatted motifs.

pinkThis is the correct version of the motif in the previous post. I stitched on the beads here, rather than add them to the tatting as I went along…

greenIt’s amazing how different the same motif looks in different colours, I think. The dark outline isn’t ideal – I think it relies on very strict blocking to make it work (something I haven’t done!)

This version below is tatted with beads – can I get a good photo of it? Nope. But the red beads really glow in real life – you’ll have to trust me on that:

black

I wrote down the pattern as I made this, and then realised of course, I’d made two versions on the pattern. This one is not the same as the ones above. Not sure which I prefer really, and so I’m not really ready to share the pattern yet. Thank you for the offers of help with this though, very kind.

triThis version just has three repeats of the main motif. I’d like to say it was on purpose – it wasn’t, but it was an interesting exercise! I love these beads with this thread, incidentally. They were bought separately but go so well together. I bought them in a random craft shop, but they’re made by Mill Hill, and are ‘seed petite beads‘. They’re pretty small, but amazingly I can still get that tiny crochet hook through most of them.

This is the three motifs together. I love how ‘goth’ the black one is.

three motifs
These are all tatted in size 80 thread. I tried holding the black one up as a pendent to see what it would look like – and it’s huge! Seeing as most tatted jewellery tends to be in much thicker thread, its made me wonder if all tatted jewellery is gigantic?

In other news, I also managed to shorten some curtains on my tiny sewing machine (it’s a bit like this). I’d been putting it off forever, but actually it was no where near as bad as I thought it would be. No major incidents, everyone still has their limbs and digits attached.

curtainsHope everything’s good with you guys. Next time: the quilt. (I hope).

 

 

Hooked on beads

Lavender bag pink

After tatting a million versions of my own pattern, I sat down to make this a few weeks ago, missed off  a ring and ended up with a more open wreath shape than I was expecting. I stuck with it though, and I think it’s fine (not perfect, but fine). I added the beads to this as I stitched it, which in some instances, I think I prefer…

White lavender bagThis is my own pattern tatted correctly this time – you can see how much tighter it is, and again I added the beads as I stitched it. This is tatted in size 80.

mini cushionBoth of these are made with envelope backs, and both have a little strip of fabric across the opening, which I quite like. I think I like this method for lavender bags actually, but it does take a bit more time – and you have to make a little cushion of the lavender to go inside. I was really tired when I sewed these together though and managed to completely confuse myself. I made such a nice neat hem for the inside piece (the one under the coloured one), so tiny – and then stitched it on back to front so the hem is inside and the rough edge faces outside! You win some you lose some.

bagsI think they look fine though.  I worked on the pattern so much there’s actually another two to come in different colours! I just need to stitch them first.

flowers

I’d always thought that certain methods of using beads wouldn’t be possible as I like to use size 80 thread, and the beads that work best with it are tiny. Certain methods — like you can see in the picture here — require you to pull a loop of thread up through a seed bead, with a hook. How on earth do you find a hook small enough to go through a seed beed? The answer? By accident.

hook(Excuse my gluey finger – I’d previously been doing some DIY). I bought this hook from Jane Eborall. To be honest, when I bought it I don’t think I’d really grasped *quite* how small it was. If you try and look at it when it’s in your hand — really look at it — you go cross eyed! It’s absolutely weeny. It’s so tiny that when it arrived I wasn’t that  sure I’d use it, which is a massive shame, as I really like it. As a day to day hook it can split the thread, but I was thinking about beads recently and suddenly it hit me! I HAVE A HOOK THAT MIGHT WORK! And lo and behold, it is *perfect*. So, thank you Jane – thank you for emailing me when they arrived in your shop, and thank you for knowing what I needed better than I did!

Now I just need to work on some patterns with beads – but I feel like a whole new world has opened up! There is of course a downside — tiny tiny beads don’t mix that well with bumpy train rides, which is where I tat the most. But I’ll work on that.

Have a great weekend!