Monday, 31 March 2014

Hillarys Blinds Country Crafts Competition

Back in February, I heard about a competition that was being run by Hillarys Blinds (the Hillarys Blinds Country Crafts Competition) where they would send you a 100x100cm fabric from their new collection for you to make something with and blog about. At the time, I thought, 'Brilliant! I'll have loads of time to do something!'. I'd forgotten about college exams, and the time-sink that is the annual work trip to Paris (work, not pleasure).

I'd asked for the Bird Parade Teal fabric. A beautiful pale fabric with lovely bright birds. The sample arrived, and I just stared in awe at the beauty of it. (Fabric much nicer in real life, photograph does not capture it very well)

(This is just a small panel that I cut out of the fabric)

I spent ages searching for inspiration on Pinterest. I'd decided that I wanted to make a bag. Or a top hat. I looked at patterns, and sudenly remembered - I have little/no clue what to do with fabric, besides the very basics. I went away and thought. I admired the fabric again, willing my brain to think of something new and unique, but also quite simple to do. My brain did not comply.

So the fabric was put to one side for a while, and life went on. Exams happened, as did trips with work. Suddenly the deadline was Monday, and it was late Saturday afternoon. I decided that I'd make a tote bag, freehand (tthe birds were too big to go onto a top hat and I refused to cut off their heads or tails). No measuring, no instructions, no pattern. All from my head. How hard could it be? Thinking about it, it seemed fairly simple... so how about a reversible tote bag? I thought about it in my mind, and decided it was do-able. Out came the sewing machine, and some more fabric. I wanted a nice inside, that didn't clash with the fabric from Hillarys.

I decided to go with the fabric on the left. I have no idea what kind of fabric it is - it was given to me by a lady who used to make curtains. I cut out some panels, and set to work.

As mentioned, I'm not a very competant sewer. I'd chosen a light fabric for the 'front' and a dark fabric for the 'inner'. What colour thread to use? Well, as I struggle to load the bobbin of my cheap sewing machine, the answer was, 'whatever thread is already there'. Which was black. Looking back, I really should have changed it to something that was better suited, like blue. Ah well, how else do we learn, if not from our mistakes?

The straps should be reversible too. Simple, right? These took me forever. I made a tube, which than had to be attached somehow - between the inner and outer fabrics. In black thread. I attached them to the blue inner fabric, which didn't show up too much. It was around this point I figured that the bag wasn't going to be reversible...

I also decided to 'bling' up the front panel a bit, using some gold pyramid studs I'd bought recently. I just wanted an excuse to use them really, and I thought they went well with the fabric. Here's the outside of the bag, no assembled, straps as well. As you can see, there's a lovely line of black thread ruining the top of the bag.

And here's the inside... Definitely not reversible!


Eagle eyed folks may have noticed something here with the straps... As mentioned earlier, I did this freehand. And my brain wasn't working particularly well. Instead of having the straps attached on the same side, as a normal tote bag would, I'd attached mine to opposite sides. This means that when worn, the bag hangs in a bizare manner, and the bird doesn't lie flat. The brief from Hillarys did say they wanted an original design, and I think that I managed it! I've decided to call it my Spring/Autumn bag as the front reminds me of spring, and the dark leafy pattern reminds me of Autumn.

Here are a couple more pics of the bag, showing off the (incorrect) handle placement.

So, what have I learnt from this? I need to think through designs a bit more, especially handles. I also need to learn to change my bobbin thread on the machine. Once again, this was a last minute kind of thing, I perhaps should have started sooner. Measuring would have helped a little bit, as would better sewing. Still, it's a unique bag that I think turned out pretty well and will be great for holding knitting supplies.

If you get chance, go and ohh and ahh over the lovely fabric at I've just seen that they do the bird parade in gold as well as teal, along with other beautiful designs.

Right, I'm off to see if I can find a reasonable course nearby that will teach me the proper way to use a sewing machine. After this project, I've realised that I'd like to be able to do more than very simple projects. Pinterest gave me lots of inspiration, now I need to acquire the skills in order to do more!

Monday, 17 March 2014


Sometimes cross stitching seems very slow. I can sit there for hours, and think I've gotten loads done but then when I look at it from a distance, it looks like nothing has been done.

That wasn't the case this weekend... prepare yourself for pictures!

Here is Mischief on Friday night, missing most of his face and one ear.

And here he is again on Saturday night, with almost one eye and no nose.

And on Sunday? He was (almost) complete! Just the backstitching to add detail.

I was away most of last week, and was in need of serious relaxation over the weekend, which is why I managed to get so much of him done. Surprisingly, I also managed to do a bit of baking.

Last week I was at an exhibition for work, in Paris. I happened to be next to a stand with several Itish companies on, and ended up chatting to a few of them. They supplied me with whiskey (neat, at 3pm) and Baileys, and even invited me to join them for a trip to Versailles! (Sadly I couldn't go due to flights and work). As it's St Patrick's Day, I thought I'd make these tasty treats (plus I've been dying to try the recipe for a while now). Guiness cupcakes with Baileys icing. Ok, so it's not real Baileys, but it's a decent equivalent! Very tasty, although my icing skills definitely need a bit more work. I was tempted to make some floodwork royal icing shamrocks, but realised this would leave me with a spare egg yolk, so I would have to make cookies of some sort, and as I'm trying to eat better this wasn't a good move. So no floodwork decorations this time.

Relaxing weekend over, I now have more exams to prepare for, and those socks to finish off. I've found numerous projects that I'd like to tackle (including illusion knitting and double knitting) but am refusing to start another one until the socks are done, and the backstitching on Mischief is complete!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Quick update

It's been a while since my last update, so I thought I'd better check in. Work has been a bit manic lately (I've been in Paris on business most of this week) so not much crafting has done sadly.

Still, I've managed to get some more of my socks done (no pics) and a little bit more of the lion cub

Since taking this picture, I've also managed to finish off an ear. I feel like I'm close to finishing, but there's still plenty to do.

I also managed to repurpose a shawl one of my friends had from a wedding - a fluffy white cape that shed everywhere. As she said she wasn't going to wear it again, I made it into a couple of cushions for her. I wish I'd kept it as it was and just made one large cushion, as it made quite a mess when I cut it up!!

Because she likes bling, I added a button to the other cushion. It was a simple black button, which I covered in clear nail varnish and added small 'gems' to, before coating with more nail polish. It turned out better that I thought it would, although I accidently moved a couple of the gems before it was fully dry at the bottom of the E.

So, other than work and the odd bit of crafting, what else have I been up to? Well, I came across a recipe for spinach and sweet potato gnocchi on Pinterest a while ago, and was eager to give it a try. I got the ingredients in, and here's what was made

A big trayful of tasty gnocchi! (2 trays were made, but one tray got eaten) These were pretty tasty, and the recipe was quite simple, if a little time consuming. It would be much easier to do again, now that I know what needs to be done. These little things are also pretty healthy, and can be frozen which is fantastic.

Another busy few weeks ahead, with more exams looming, and work to catch up on after the work trip. I'm aiming to have a sock completed soon, and the lion cub is top of my list to finish off! I've also spyed a few more projects I'd love to start, but must must MUST finish off some of the others first. Hopefully I'll have a finished project to show you next time.