Friday, 13 July 2012

Making it home...

All free projects to give your home that personal touch.... 

1. Big Circle Clock
Now, i have never thought of making a clock but this project looks pretty straight forward. The circles on the clock are paper which opens endless possibilities to personalise this clock. you could use different shapes or photos, anything really as long as you can glue it on the clock and it won't get in the way of the clock hands. What about making it a big square clock, or a more creative shape altogether?  I am very tempted already.... that's it, i am off to B & Q.

2. Bean bag
Why spend 50 quid on a bean bag to slouch on? Make it yourself. Its a lot easier than you thought and the polystyrene pellets make sure for a bit of fun in the process. Tip to my readers in the UK: Dunelm sells off very sturdy furnishing fabrics for £ 2.99 a meter. They have a particularly large selection when there is a sale on and you can get your polystyrene from there.

3. A Chair bench
How smart is that! Supercool, stylish and oh, so easy to do if you are not scared to get your hands dirty one weekend.... Put it outside or in your hallway.

4. Beaded Pull
Called a Fan pull in the download although in the UK i would put this on the bathroom light switch. You got a few beads and some wire? Go for it. They look so much better than the boring little plastic things. You need to sign up to get the download although i don't think you really need to. Just string up some beads and attach them to your pulling cord and voila, you have individualised your bathroom.

5. Chefs Apron
A man apron! Well, why not make something for your other half (or the lesser evil as I call it). I like this as its not frilly but still manages to look quite trendy. And its from Martha Stewart. What can possibly go wrong? (I do think the chaps cheesy grin lets it down a bit... )

6. Bean Art Picture
It took her 11 hours (11 hours!!!) to make this. It looks stunning though. And its a lot easier then you'd think. Get an old frame, cardboard, glue and a load of beans and you can also create your own Bean Art.

7. Earring Organiser
I am not sure I am the only one with the same problem but I find jewellery boxes not a very good place to keep earrings. They get tangled up or they don't fit properly in the little compartments (I am tall and have long hair so I can get away with big earrings). This seems a very sensible solution. And so easy to do!

8. Cardboard Furniture
I am absolutely blown away by this. It looks fab! You should also check out the VW Beetle or Scooter made of cardboard. This site explains how to design cardboard furniture, what cardboard to use for the purpose and features a video which explains how to actually put the thing together. Whats cooler than being cool? Cardboard!

9. Bread Box
Another little idea for the amateur wood worker. Make a bread box. I like working with wood, i just wish I was better at it but I guess only practice will change that. So off to the timber yard I am..

10. Pressed Flower paperweight
I remember pressing flowers when I was little. What I remember most is adults getting annoyed with me because I used their books to get my flowers flat. Don't despair if you don't want to get your books manky, there is now a kit to press flowers in the microwave! Wtf? I prefer the messy book method. I like this paperweight, I think it would also make a lovely gift.

Monday, 9 July 2012

The issue with teddy bears

At the moment I am working on designing my own teddy bears for my shop. I have knitted many in the past few years but never managed to hold on to any of them because they generally sell as soon as I put them up for sale. This is a good thing, don't get me wrong, but because of this I don't really have any bears permanently in my stock. It's a problem to me as teddy bears prove so popular with all ages and knitting them takes up considerable spare time (which i haven't got running a family and working in my "day job").

So I thought of sewing teddies. I thought by firing up my sewing machine and using some funky or soft fabrics I could have my own teddy bears picnic in no time. Boy was I wrong! Sewing teddies is a minefield for the skilled amateur crafter. Especially furry ones.

I research my projects a lot (for inspiration and confirmation that I am doing it correctly) and came across so many important things to remember when making teddies that I felt I should dedicate a single blog post to the issue with  teddy. 

Sewing teddies isn't really a project for beginners. If you have never made soft toys before, I suggest you try a few simple patterns first (there are thousands of free ones out there) to get the hang of the stuffing business (which is not as simple as you might think) and sewing up your dolly or animal. It takes a few attempts to learn how tight your arm or leg should be without making your teddy look like it has a cramp. 

First you need to think about how soft you want your teddy to be. Different fabrics also sew up differently so what might appear a steady seam will soon shred to pieces when you stuff your creation. Home furnishing fabrics are strong and durable but you will have to leave a bigger seam allowance as it might fray. You can also use this stuff called Fraystoppa which will sort that problem out. 

Are you going to use a sewing machine or are you going to sew it by hand? By hand you will probably have more control over tightness and tension of stitch but it will take a lot longer than if you use a sewing machine. Get the tension right though and make sure you use the correct needle for your fabric. 

I found this pattern most comprehensive and quite clear to understand:

So, transfer your pattern on your fabric and cut it out. You are surrounded by fabric limbs, head or ears and you are ready to go. Wrong! In my search for the perfect teddy bear i have come across teddy joints. Yes, I looked just as confused when I read in a pattern that "now is the time to insert your disc and bolt in the neck". Huh? Well, apparently to get a steadier/sturdier joint at the neck and the limbs there are these contraptions which are inserted either end of the joint and keep it safe. (11.7.2012  I stand corrected on these joints - they are to get movable limbs... doh!)

In the pictures you see the different parts of such joints and the lower pic shows how they fit together on the joint. 

Personally I don't think they are really necessary unless you are trying to achieve movable limbs. Stuffing firm and sewing limbs tight enough to body gives you a sturdy ted. My advice is to stuff and sew the limbs to body after stuffing the actual body. Add head before you add your limbs. 

Right, back to sewing it up. First, sew up your head. When you finished your head you need to decide which eyes your ted will have. Buttons? Toy eyes? Embroidered? Toy eyes will need to be inserted before you stuff your head. Another tip: When stuffing your head, stuff the nose first as it will be virtually impossible to make it firm when the rest of the head is stuffed. 
Then add your ears to your head. Carry on with sewing up your body and your limbs. (I am deliberately vague as every pattern is different and will include some variations). 

Before you attach your legs to your ted, decide which position you want it to be in. Do you want a sitting or a standing ted? This might sound picky but is quite an important thought as it will influence the look of your teddy greatly. Think on similar lines with the arms. Stretched out for a hug? Or to the side of the body? If you decide to make a floppy ted it doesn't really matter. It will be soft enough to adjust anyway. 

One more word on stuffing the body: If you want it to have a heavy base (to sit up), add some dried peas or rice in a bag. (You could also add some to the paws). 

Done it? Excellent. You have made a teddy bear. Yay!

On my virtual travels I have collected the most useful and cutest teddy bear patterns out there:
This is the pink ted in the picture above. Adorable, isnt' it?
The brown one right at the top.
A simple bear with good instructions.
Another comprehensive pattern with lots of pictures.
Very easy little bear. Great project to do with kids. 

Friday, 6 July 2012

The Sporty Element

I have been debating for some time now whether to make my contribution to the sport heavy summer. I am not as excited about the Olympics as i probably should be and i get my overdose of football from 2 boys and my better half in autumn and spring anyway, but here i am with a selection of sporty craft stuff. I didn't get my usual ten patterns though as it seems that crafty people are not the most sporty people. Not when it comes to sharing free patterns anyway... 

1. Duct tape stadium seat cushion
So you can enjoy those hours of watching other people getting out of breath. This comes from a site for kids crafts but I can see this going a long way with adults as well as no sewing or glueing involved.

2. Knitted football
An utterly useless item but irresistible knitting pattern for a knitted football. Is there anymore to say? This pattern  seems to have been created for the world cup in 2010. Shame on me for not knowing about this until now..

3. Knitted sweatband
Bring back the 80's with a knitted Sweatband. A simple, straightforward pattern. You have to sign up with Lion yarns to get it. I signed up a couple of years ago and never got junk mail from them. They also have lots of other free patterns!

4. A sports hoodie for your dog
Yes, you read right, its for your pooch. I came across this looking for sewing patterns for sports clothes for humans. How could i resist?

5. Water Bottle carrier
I can see this as a fun project to do with your kids or a good project for beginners. And when you are at the Olympics cheering on your favourite you don't have a hand free to hold your Drinks bottle, do you?

6. In and Outdoor exercise mat
No excuse anymore for not getting active (how patronising am I!). Easy enough to make with towels and a bit of foam this would be great for your offspring.

6. Yoga mat bag
There are quite a few patterns out there for yoga bags. This one looks contemporary and you also get a pattern for a meditation shawl and eye pillow on the same web page. Ohhmm.....

7. Swimsuit
Why not make your own swimsuit? This is a vintage inspired pattern which looks really chic. To me this is quite appealing as I go swimming regularly and find swimsuit shopping such a bore.... by the way, the Burdastyle website is fabulous for all sorts of clothing patterns. You need to sign up but it doesn't take long and no junk mail either.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Come and play

I love making toys. It doesn't matter which craft i use, making toys is a lot of fun because you can really let you imagination loose.Okay, i admit it can get fiddly and slightly confusing when you are surrounded by bear limbs or knee deep in polyester stuffing but nothing quite matches the satisfaction i feel when I see my kids playing with my homemade toys. I also favour more unusual projects such as a knitted rubber chicken or a socktopus (which is a knitted octopus with socks on its tentacles) and find it quite easy to adapt already existing patterns to my sometimes rather eccentric style. And here are my favourite free toy patterns out there. 

1. Teddy Bear
You want to make toys? You gotta make a teddy bear. Can't get past the classic although blimey, there are a lot of dodgy looking teddy bears out there.... I wanted a vintage style, knitted ted you can cuddle and squeeze til the cows come home. And here it is (Tiara optional). You have to register with Craftsy to get this pattern which is very easy to do and you won't get lots of junk mail either.

2. Sock monkey
Another classic. This is a very good pattern with lots and lots of pics and detailed instructions. Have a banana!

3. Soft blocks
Perfect for your precious little one. They could eat it, throw it, stack it, sit on it, hit you on the head with it, the possibilities are endless. 
And why stick to numbers? what about shapes, animals, or simply different colour sides?

4. Flying Pig
A pig with wings? Yes, please! I am gonna have to try this one myself...

5. Splat chicken
Is it a ball or is it a chicken? I really don't know! Straight forward sewing pattern for a very daft looking chicken. Tip: you can make it look even more confused by sewing the eyes closer together.

6. Wooden stacking blocks
Okay, I am a complete novice when it comes to woodwork but I reckon I could do this with a jig saw, sanding paper, a drill, some paint and a great deal of patience (not to forget my first aid kit). Very good website with other project ideas too, not just toys.

7. Cloth Doll
I am not really one for dolls. When I was little i got given a number of dolls and over time pulled their limbs out, painted their faces and cut their hair. The only doll i really took care of was one I made myself (I started to sew at the tender age of 9). So, here is a pattern for a cloth doll. Great project to do with kids. Tip: Attention to detail is everything when making a doll.

8. Gold Fish
2 Gold fish in a tank, one says "How do you drive this thing?" (joke is courtesy of my 6 year old step son). Isn't it cute? Come fishy, fishy... blub blub blub...

9. Knitted biscuits and cakes
Of course! Makes a nice change from plastic play food. From the queen of knitted toys, Jean Greenhowe, comes this free (yay) pattern for knitted cakes. I have purchased quite a few Greenhowe books in my lifetime because her patterns are very easy to follow.Trademark: Everything is knitted, even the plate.

and last but certainly not least...

10.  Crochet ball
A vintage pattern for a crocheted ball. A classic which every child will thank you for.

Monday, 25 June 2012

New Arrivals

With the arrival of a number of babies in my circle of friends imminent I turn my attention to baby crafts... I did find an enormous number of free projects and patterns out there so I decided to split it in stages, beginning with birth and newborn. 

In my search for patterns I concentrated on practicality and style more than cuteness. I remembered what items were essential to me when I had a newborn at home and tried to find the best patterns for all the everyday things you need. Enjoy!

1. Crocheted Hot air balloons

When you lie on your back all day then you need some entertainment when you look up. And these hot air balloons just give you what you are looking for - gentle movement and lots of colour. If I have another baby, I will make some of these.

2. Baby quilt "Eat, play, sleep, repeat"
This is a gorgeous blanket for your little bundle of joy. The pattern is quite comprehensive although I have  one thing to add to it. Where is the wadding? surely you want a soft blanket (you could also insert fleece)

3. Vinyl Changing mat
I love this changing mat! Simplified and stylish it does everything you need it to do. Its waterproof, you can use it for storage and roll it up in a neat little bundle. Genius! (i just wish they wouldn't call it diaper changer - crinch)

4. Hooded Bath towel with matching wash mit
A simple pattern which delivers what you want it to - a hooded bath towel and a wash mitten. I like the fabric mixed with velour.

5. Make a Nursing shirt out of a T-Shirt
This will save lots of money on nursing tops from shops. The Nurisng version of recycling your clothes. Brilliant! Easy pattern with good pics to follow.

6. Hip Changing bag
Well, i can't really do a baby selection without a changing bag, can I? I like this bag as its practical and still makes you look fashionable carrying vast amounts of baby stuff around. Lots of pockets!

7. Pom Pom booties
When you are heavily pregnant and you can't move around without feeling like a whale, what better to do than to sit back and knit a little for that little bundle of joy of yours. And aren't this booties adorable with those pom poms?

8. Knitted baby blanket
Now, in my opinion the wool you use is much more important than the pattern you use because its all about the tactile quality of supersoft yarn that makes a baby blanket so lovely. You don't want anything rough on a newborns skin, do you. It was really hard to choose a pattern for a blanket sipmly because there are gazillions of them! I chose a simple pattern which looks a lot more difficult and quite contemporary.

9. Baby sleep sack

I couldn't resist! Gorgeous! Nothing more to say..

And here we go - my selection of free craft patterns for Newborns. Enjoy! 

Monday, 11 June 2012

How to sex up your garden

After blissfully spending the jubilee weekend not crafting, I am now concentrating on summer. Having actually managed to sex up my garden with bluebell blue fence panels (get me) and some colourful accessories and after informing my nearest and dearest that my birthday wish this year is a garden bench, I am now hunting for ideas to make my own stuff for outside. So, here are the highlights from my hunt for summer...

1. Candles in Seashells
Now theres a way to make use of the gazillions of seashells your children will bring you this summer - make a candle out of them. Don't they look fabulous?

2. Flower Pot Wind Chimes
okay, there are a lot of craft ideas out there with flower pots. Some are cute, most look slightly dodgy but this one actually looks quite stylish. The only thing I would change in the instructions is using glass stain paint to paint the dangly plastic things. Glass stain paints are rather expensive, I would probably use acrylic paint (which as also waterproof).

3. A rocky village
Do you remember painting stones in school? This ups the anti a bit and inspires to create a rocky village in your garden. I will have to make some of these and add maybe some painted stone ladybugs, bumblebees, mushrooms and snails...

4. Garden Stone Mosaic
Now there is something I haven't tried yet. Mosaics give that classy, ancient luxury note and these balls would look really good just in that corner behind the apple tree. The instructions look easy enough. I think as long as you remember to draw your desired pattern onto the entired ball before you start, you will be alright. And use lots of sealant if you plan on keeping these babies outside.

Tea Light Lantern5. Tealight Lantern
Great way to re- and upcycle your jam jars. Lovely idea and the instructions show good technique on how to wrap the wire round the jar but they don't mention that you also need to get a candle in the jar. Also, they don't give ideas on how to decorate your jars. So, get your creative hats on and make it your personalised lantern...

Click to Enlarge6. Seat cushions
Well, you can't do a pattern selection for your garden without a pattern for seat cushions, right? Especially in the UK where so called summer still features chilly nights. You need something to keep your backside warm... there are thousands of patterns for seat cushions. I liked this one because they look contemporary and using different fabric for each chair gives it that bohemian feel.

Laminated Picnic Blanket with Carrying Case by Amy Butler7. Picnic blanket with carrying case
Amy Butler design, comprehensive pattern with the carrying case included. Oh yeah!

8. Anarchists Night Light
It has lights.
Bright lights.
Brighter that bright.
In the night.
The lights.
Are bright.

And dangerous.
Because this might be a fire hazard.
We don’t know.

Another idea from my favourite craft site of all times - The Anticraft. The place where you can get knitting patterns for Condoms and tumors.

And here we go. My selection of stuff to sex up your garden. Enjoy