I’m Cutting Out A Few Of My Favourite Things

So the season of festivities has jollied many of us along and dumped us shivering into the cold and grey reality of January. Too many mince pies and an over-reliance on the comforts of rich, roasted dinners has left many an uncomfortable belt where once a trim waistline used to reside, so many people will be thinking of cutting a few of their favourite things out as part of their new resolution.

I have also decided to cut out a few of my favourite things; but these won’t be crisps and chocolates that I eschew – it will be my most favourite things in life (not including those precious to me and my dear Giantmonk). And when I say I am going to ‘cut them out’ I don’t mean that I am going to avoid them, I mean I am going to literally cut them out (of paper), and knit them, and draw them, and make them from clay and craft them in a huge number of other ways.
Narwhals are among my most favourite things, and perhaps the inspiration behind this idea.

I was thinking of experimenting with designing simple papercuts and card toppers for a bit of paper-crafting, ready for the next wave of birthdays and weddings, and to try to get me back in the creative mood. Thinking of what to start with the things that usually first to spring to mind are, understandably, the things that make me happy, and cue the narwhals.

After creating this little pod* of narwhals and reflecting on how happy they made me, I decided that the subjects of the things that I make should indeed bring me joy, and so I jotted a short list of my most favourite things. This list may change, get longer or shorter in time, but for now it is a little reminder of the things that make me happy, and I’m going to try to create a few projects based on the items, ideas or stories in that list throughout the year.

Another of the Favourite Things list items is lighthouses. I have always loved the idea of lighthouses, from the lighthouse inhabited by the old lighthouse keeper and Sprocket in Fraggle Rock** to the one where my husband and I walked to in the pouring rain on our first date in Whitley Bay, and therefore they have a special place in my heart as a protective and caring source of light and hope.

I decided to make a birthday card with a lighthouse theme. I have enjoyed experimenting with the idea of using the negative space to cut a recognisable design from a contiguous single layer of card, placed over a contrasting colour to provide the image. It’s a challenge that sparks the need to approach the idea of shape and design, but it’s also a lot of fun with a cup of tea nearby and Illustrator beaming out from the laptop in front.

These are really only the very first of my experiments, so I am sure that I will find new ways of putting ideas into action as I work a bit more with paper and card as materials, but at the moment it has provided the first little flutter of inspiration after the creative drought.

I’m really happy with the finished card, perhaps to the point that I don’t actually want to give it away, but I know that I can cut it again, without the sentiment, and frame it if I ever wanted (or could find room for) a bit of extra art on the wall.

And now I have many more of my favourite things to experiment with design and creation, which will hopefully bring about further ideas and exciting projects.

Oh, and when I said I wasn’t going to cut out Giantmonk? It was a bit of a fib.

*When checking I had the collective noun right, Google also suggests that a ‘blessing’ of narwhals is acceptable – though the validity of origin seems a little hazy, it seems to be in common enough use to now be in usage. I’d head of a ‘blessing’ of unicorns (which also make it onto ‘the list’) before now, and as the obvious sea-cousins of the unicorns, perhaps this is where the similarity in collective noun has been made.

**In case this confuses any U.S. readers, though Sprocket in your version of the series lived in a workshop with an inventor, and in various other locations around the world, here in the U.K. they were based in a lighthouse above ‘Fraggle Rock’.

Hello, Goodbye – An Introspective Retrospective

I don’t usually write New Year posts, mostly because I’m still not sure of myself looking backwards or forwards. Joy, sadness, hope and expectation can all feel a bit of a muddle from time to time, but I have a bit to catch up on.

December was pretty much entirely a wash-out as far as any acts of creativity were concerned. I got so bogged down in my job that I came home every single night last month weighed down by facts, figures and stress. I have not picked up my knitting needles for nearly two months and have not sewn a single stitch. The work/life balance started to tip towards work once again and took the whole quote of energy for home life and creativity with it. It was not a good time and, if I am honest, ruined both Christmas and my birthday, which falls on December 20th.

But people always make for the best of things, so with the care of Mr Awesome, a couple of close friends and family, there were definitely a few sparkling moments to the very end of the year that hopefully will stop the dampening of what has been, overall, an amazing twelve months. Most importantly, I married Russell.

This will forever be the most important day of my life. Sometimes when things get me down I have to try to remember that someone has promised to love me for the rest of my life, and that this will give me some protection from the world.

Some while ago a commenter on the blog mentioned that I had not put up any of my wedding pictures ( I think one or two may have found them into posts, but I neither thought that anyone would be interested in seeing them nor could find a way of bringing them into the content), but looking back on 2014 seems as good a time as any.

I wore a simple dress without too much fuss. Several people asked if I made my dress, but I think the task would probably have been far too stressful.

The day was colourful and full of magic, and romance.

A wedding surrounds you with the people who you care most about and who, hopefully, care most about you. The wedding party were wonderful. Russell’s brother as best man, a creative and kind friend as my maid of honour and a wonderful, dear and loving friend who gave me away.

And so it happens that some of the most thoughtful and most treasured gifts of the recent winter season of birthday and Christmas celebrations have all come from the people within this photo. Obviously Mr Awesome rocked the awesome in his usual awesome style, with a rainbow of fibre to spin among other treats which I will share in the coming weeks), but I received the most beautiful handmade card from my maid of honour (which I took a photo of today but shall have to do again as the failing light simply didn’t do it justice.

The following two amazing squishy things were from my dear friend and younger-than-me father of the bride:

As many of you will know, the quickest way to my heart is via Zauberball, and this Zauberball in Blackberries and Crazy Zauberball in Little fox are both so gorgeous that I made a squeaking noise.

And then opening my gifts from Brother-in-law of awesome and Mrs Brother-in-law of awesome out popped this:
A crazy Zauberball in Schokoladenseite. I really have high hopes for these yarns beyond their obvious use as a base material for knitting. As I said in the first few lines, the past month has taken a toll on that part of my life which I like to think defines me outside of my responsibilities and job, but I haven’t knit a single stitch in over six weeks. I haven’t sewn a length of thread, drawn, designed or otherwise created a single thing recently, as I have come home with my head full of work and have felt like I can do no more than curl back into a ball and hope that the strains just draw back enough to let me sleep a little.

I hope that a combination of the care and loved ones and the beautiful things that I now have to enjoy help re-kindle the creativity as we move into the new year, and I hope that you’ll continue to read along as they do.

Wishing all readers a very Happy New Year x x x

Kilner Sewing Kit – A Pin Cushion Topped Mason Jar Tutorial

Over the past few years mason jars have seen a resurgence as a staple crafting supply, and there is a good chance that many people will already have a loose-disked canning jar of the type needed to create this wonderful gift idea at home, but if not they are easily obtained for about £1-2 at many homewares, cook-shop and crafting stores as well as supermarkets.
As well as the mason jar, this project requires:

  • A small scrap of fabric, no larger than 20 x 20cm (8 x 8″)
  • A piece of scrap cardboard (an old cereal box will suffice)
  • A needle and thread
  • Some polyester filling for soft toys (or from a £1.50 Ikea pillow)
  • Either some strong craft glue (such as UHU) or use of a hot glue gun

Start by drawing around the inner disk of the lid, onto the sheet of cardboard, and cut this circle out.

Cut a circle from the piece of fabric, roughly 3cm (1¼”) larger, all around. You can either judge this by eye, or draw around something of an appropriate size. In the picture above an espresso saucer is roughly the intended size. The circle does not need to be too precise as the edges will be hidden.

Using a small running stitch and a long length of strong cotton thread doubled, sew around the outside of the fabric circle, about 3mm (⅛”) from the edge. Place the fabric circle right side down and place a generous hand full of polyester toy stuffing on top. Place the cardboard disk on top of the polyester stuffing and draw the ends of the thread. If it feels like there is a bit too much stuffing then it is probably about the right amount! You are looking for a relatively firm dome of stuffing for the pin cushion.
Tie the ends of the thread together to finish the padded dome and cut the thread ends.

Apply a generous amount of strong craft glue or hot glue to the upper side of the mason jar lid (usually the side that carries the jar manufacturer’s name or logo). Place a small disk of glue in the centre of the lid as well as a ring of glue close to the edge. Place the underside of the padded dome onto this, ensuring good alignment, and hold firmly to create a strong bond whilst the glue dries.

Once the lid has had time to fully dry, insert the padded dome through the outer lid ring of the jar. Using a strong pin, tease the fabric through the lid, ensuing as much of the padding and fabric is brought to the top of the jar as possible, to avoid any difficulties in closing the jar.
The pin cushion dome can be glued into place through the outer ring if desired, however this requires very quick working before the glue dries and does run the risk of transferring glue onto the exposed areas of fabric. If the dome was well-stuffed in the early stages the filled dome itself will be plenty sufficient to hold everything perfectly in place.
All that remains is to fill the jar with sewing goodies. Pin cushion jars make a fabulous addition to the home-sewing room or workspace as they are the perfect storage for all the little notions: needles, thread scissors, seam ripper and spare buttons that can find their way all over the house and eventually into the magical land of ‘Lost’ if you don’t put them all in one place. However, they also make absolutely fabulous gifts as they are both pretty and practical, and can inspire the gift of creativity if filled with wonderful things. A jar filled with mixed buttons or a beginner’s sewing kit would make a wonderful present. Here I have filled the jar I have made full of a rainbow of bright embroidery floss to give to a crafty friend in the hope she will whip up a rainbow of stitched projects.