Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The perils of finishing

#Finish It Friday has got me pondering why I'm so bad at finishing projects.

One of the problems I've found over the past few years with embroidery is that all the fun parts are at the start. I have a great time stitching, but then I'm left with a cool embroidery on a piece of fabric which I still need to turn into something. And planning and executing that is less engaging... so into the pine chest it goes.

Lately I've tried to complete some of those packed away projects to give as gifts or to use.  But they aren't always solutions I can keep using. I thought I'd go through some of the good and bad bits of these finishing techniques.

Always a traditional choice, I framed a tree and butterfly piece for a gift exchange.
This was a free kit with a cross-stitch magazine, and I feel that painting the frame to match makes it look nicer. Although clearly I needed to iron it more.

  • Huge variety of frames available, and can always paint cheap wooden ones to match anything.
  • Only requires a small amount of extra work (lacing, etc) unless as mentioned also changing frame.
  • Traditional.
  • Recipient has to find place to display frame.
  • Not very useful apart from the aesthetic lift.
I used a piece of stumpwork I completed at a Koala Conventions class in the lid of a wooden box to make a special present for my grandmother last Christmas.
As you can see, I also need to start photographing finished gifts before I give them. This photograph was taken on the day by my brother-in-law and I had to request a copy.

  • Looks beautiful and professional
  • Only requires a small amount of extra work (lacing, etc).
  • A potentially useful storage box.
  • To get a box worthy of the embroidery requires online ordering for many of us and it isn't cheap.
  • Can really only be used once per recipient.
Christmas tree ornaments
Over the years I've turned many small bits of cross-stitch into ornaments for people. Naturally I don't have any photographs. That would be too easy.

  • You can repeat this for the same recipient in different years - no one can have too many ornaments.
  • The finished work will be on display.
  • Only works for items that can be slanted as seasonal, holiday, etc and that are relatively small. 
  • Can be lots of extra work to finish. 

I've also made embroidered pieces into bags, tissue holders, and potpourri sachets. They all have the "can be lots of extra work to finish" disadvantage. Any other ideas?
How many unfinished items do you have hidden away?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


This time of year is all about PRESENTS. I'm having lots of fun making things from stash material and a few things from new. Not the easiest to blog about, because of secrecy, but it is so tempting because I'm so excited. I think I've sent photos of each gift as it completes to at least one person.

I have a few already gifted items that I can show off, however.

 I decorated this singlet with crocheted motifs for my new baby niece. She is probably not big enough to fit into it yet!

 The motifs are made with a mix of solid and variegated embroidery floss in pinks and purples, all from stash.

I also decorate some onesies for sleep for N. for his birthday.
this was drawn with fabric markers

Just because I can't resist, a few sneak peek photos from other presents!
I adore this spotty fabric and am so glad I'm using it finally.

Tunisian crochet - what could it be? 
I'm going to have to wait and do a big post Christmas round up of presents. Not long now!

Embroidery class - year 2 - fine needlework - Madeira work

A while ago I blogged about the smocking component of the fine needlework module of the Embroiderers' Guild course, saying that I didn't want to write about the Madeira work until I'd finished the assigned piece.

Isn't #FinishItFriday useful? Not sure how many more years I'd have left it to languish otherwise. Oops.
The finally finished hand towel.
This project involved doing a gorgeous pin tuck hem on the two long sides and a coloured overlay with pin tuck detail on one short side
Close up of the pin tuck hems
a pigeonhole scallop on the other short side
The scallops were extremely hard to keep even.
and a shadow work design in the centre.
Close up of the shadow work design.
The design is worked in herringbone stitch so the dense stitches on the reverse create a "shadow" on the right side. There are also three small eyelets.  

I'm glad to finally have this finished and be able to show it off. This is the last of the embroidery course posts I'll be making, as I never collected my canvaswork assignments and I didn't do the goldwork module before I dropped out due to pregnancy exhaustion. I have looked into going back to complete the course but they've changed the schedule so the two modules I didn't complete are now in two different years. Still, I really want to find a way to finish, so maybe in a year or so when N. is older. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

I wouldn't marry these cookies

As one stage of the KonMari-inspired tidying I've been dealing with papers. A huge chunk of research papers from my thesis have now been discarded, but in the process I decided to try out some recipes from advertisements I'd kept.

First were some oat biscuits from a 1923 Uncle Toby's advertisement. Tasty and didn't last long enough for me to think to take a photograph!

Then I turned to one of my favourite ads.
Condensed milk advertisement, True Story Magazine, Feb 1929
 I've always had a soft spot for the way advertisements use romantic narratives, these young women beset by problems to which the products had solutions, and food advertisements did this cliche better than most.

The coconut macaroons with which Julie attempts to ensnare Paul and convince him that she is not a frivolous young woman are fairly simple so I decided to try them. For those who have trouble reading the recipe in the above image, you mix 1/4 cup of condensed milk with 1 cup of shredded coconut, add 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla, then fold in one stiffly beaten egg white.  Drop by teaspoon onto a buttered tray, bake for ten minutes in a moderate oven, and according to the story, serve warm with hot chocolate to friends.

These were pretty bad actually. I think the problem is modern eggs tend to bigger, so the egg white to rest of ingredients ratio was out, but they were insipid. I think she can be assured Paul was going to marry her anyway, as these are not proposal-worthy.

Also, without the rest of the recipes in this cookbook, I still have most of a tin of condensed milk with which to find something else to do. Any suggestions?

Friday, May 15, 2015

What does my ideal life look like now?

Been reading and trying to implement the charming The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  A group of us are all obsessed at the moment. Her philosophy is that all the slow, constant decluttering or tidying techniques don't work for enough people. It needs to be a fairly quick and thorough process so you can see visible results quickly and get your space as you'd like it. There are two parts - discarding, and then storing what you keep. Her main criteria for keeping something is whether it gives you a spark of joy.  There is more to it than that, but something has resonated with me at this point in time. 

One of the things I've been pondering a lot out of the book and the process is my vision of my ideal lifestyle as it concerns my physical space and the possessions within. It has led me to realise a lot of ideal life plans were formed when I was young and single and haven't been deeply examined since. 
So here are my new thoughts on the matte:
 I want to wake up in a house that doesn't stress me out because of the clutter. I want to be able to see, appreciate and show off the beautiful things I own and I want to be without furniture and other things I didn't choose and don't particularly like. I want to be able to spend my time playing with N. and know he has a safe environment to explore- and know that when he tears everything apart it will be easy to put it all back where it belongs. I want to be able to to have guests come over at a moment's notice and not feel ashamed of the place.  I want us to have lazy Sunday brunch on the deck, looking over colourful flowers and nice smelling herbs. I want to have a dedicated creating space where I can leave the sewing machine out. I want to have birthday parties for N. that spill out of the house into the garden and make stupidly elaborate cakes for him. I want his memories of his childhood home to be of warmth and happiness and colour and space not mess and clutter and his mum complaining or stressing about it.
That's my manifesto, I guess, for the new house and guidelines to keep in mind when I'm deciding what to keep and new things to buy. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Big Stash-Busting Plans: A Very Stashy Christmas

I am making a major resolution for Christmas this year. Apart from my husband and any geek exchange targets, all other recipients of presents:

  •  will be receiving at least 75% handmade items, and
  • said items must be either edible or made at least 75% from stash. 

The 75% handmade threshold gives me room to add some bought gifts to the major targets (N, for example) while acting as a restraint on that buying. And for people to whom I'd usually only give one or two gifts, that means all handmade.

The 75% stash threshold is intended to be realistic for projects where I might have to buy some specific trim or fastening or interfacing etc in order to complete a project yet still provide the challenge of restricting the main ideas. (100% stash seems too strict and might lead to substitutions that will adversely affect quality.)

Allowing edible gifts helps me deal with those gift recipients who just don't like more crafty items enough. Or who I know would prefer an ephemeral gift. Not to mention being fun to make.

I'm really excited about this resolution now and am enjoying finding patterns and projects that can work with stash resources to plan presents. I know it is only April but I suspect I'll need all the time I can get!

Friday, February 13, 2015

My first "pretty"

I planned to use cloth nappies on N. before he was born. Going to various pregnancy expos, we found a prefolds plus covers system that we liked and invested in that. It wasn't until N was about six months old that I joined a cloth nappy community on Facebook.

That one quickly led me to a Buy/Swap/Sell group. Then some more. And so began my obsession with pretties. A "pretty" is a nappy with embroidery, custom tie dye, ruffles, or any other embellishments rather than a "workhorse" nappy which refers to a more plain everyday nappy (although with the amazing minky fabrics out there, they can still look pretty but not be a "pretty").

I bought one pretty for N that I couldn't resist - there's a hippopotamus on my roof eating cake - as I adored that book!
It isn't easy to photograph N from behind; he recognises the camera sound. 

It it hard to resist really cute or apt pretties. I'm currently resolutely NOT buying this awesome Lego Superman pretty. Or this Marvin the Martian kaboom! nappy.

I quickly decided that I was going to have to try making my own. In fact, I decided I'd make a pretty cover for my fitteds and prefolds. It has turned into quite an investment. The search for a pattern. Deciding to buy a snap press. Buying an embroidered nappy cut of minky, and some PUL (the waterproof layer). But here it is! One of my Finish It Friday projects from last week (two hours of time ALONE in the house was amazingly productive. Who would have thought.)

Back view, with spider embroidery. 
The front view. You can see the inside layer of darker PUL.
Closer view of the snaps. I'm enjoying the snap press.
I ended up buying the MBJM Sunbeam nappy pattern, as I've bought and liked other patterns from her. It is however a trim nappy pattern, and so unfortunately while the nappy fits N well, it didn't work over the fitteds. I'm planning on making an insert for this to use it as a nappy, and investigate some other options for cover patterns. One option is to make the crotch on this pattern wider, another is to look for a pattern specifically designed to be a cover.  
Assuming I get some more sewing machine time, I'm going to make others. As I won't be investing in a machine embroidery machine, I'll either buy some nappy cuts pre-embroidered or experiment with hand embroidery. I'm worried hand embroidery won't stand up to the rigours of washing that the nappies need though.

What do you think would look cute on a nappy? Spoonflower now prints on minky, so it opens up some options...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Busy, busy

This week's finishes.
Madeira work hand towel from second year embroidery class: finished.

First attempt at a "pretty" nappy cover: finished.

Free reindeer ornament kit: finished.

Too small blue hat I abandoned to make a fitting one: finished.

Calico mockup of shorts to test bigger size: finally finished. And tested.

Not a bad week, really. More detail on the towel and nappy cover to come.

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Creative Slump

I haven't posted in ages. Part of it is the time demands of N, who is now truly a toddler and needs lots of active engagement. But mostly I've been silent because I've been in a creative slump.

Oh, I've still been crafting. Sporadically. But I haven't felt inspired. I've been collecting patterns and stash and reading and reorganizing and planning but not doing much.

I've finally figured out that it is due to feeling insecure, not in a "are my skills ok?" way but a more basic lack of personal and financial security. I'm having anxiety issues over how much money we are spending on the renovation, and whether it will give us the house we want, and other things. Apparently I can't be creative unless I have a level of stress that is lower than mine has been for a while.

This is one of my personal idiosyncrasies, obviously, as otherwise the suffering artist wouldn't be such a strong trope! I deal with the stress by looking over past achievements, wallowing in patterns and plans, and hoarding my stash. I don't create.

In the last month I've been trying to counter this by making myself complete small projects. I'm embracing the ideas of WIP Wednesday and Finish It Friday, the first priorities for these being the unfinished embroidery class projects from 2013. I'm also trying to get small task done everyday - last night, for example, I finally put some elastic in the waist of some pants that have been waiting for months.

I also have a deadline to give me some momentum - I said I'd have a crafty stall at a fete in February which a friend is organizing.

Being a crafty person is a huge part of my identity and I think I've been sad and mad at myself in this slump. Working to get back in the swing of things will be difficult and I'm sure I'll have days when I don't get the time or don't have the motivation.  So please, ask me how things are going! Keep me accountable!