Sunday 3 December 2023

Seaside Sweater

 Over the summer I came across the free Seaside Sweater pattern from LoveCrafts to use with their PaintBox Yarns.  This was a crochet pattern and seeing as I'd just spent months on a frustrating knit, I thought it might be good to switch over for a bit.


It's a very straightforward pattern, and once you get it in your head, very easy to follow.

I was slightly thrown when I started to make the back to find it wasn't the same size as the front, but when I spoke to the very helpful lady in my local wool shop she said it's because cotton stretches as you use it.


I had decided to go with the suggest yarn - PaintBox cotton mix DK in Pebble, which is lovely and soft and has a nice drap to it.  I used about 4 1/2 balls, although I did make the arms a little longer than suggested.

The thing that really slowed me down was then having to sew it all up.  I hate that, especially when you've got to go slow to find the right stich to sew into.  It was very strange, having started this project in August, to be finishing it up in December while listening to Christmas carols.  Especially as this is a summer item! 


While sewing up I was a little worried that it might be too tight, so I didn't sew all the way to the bottom on each side, which I think looks nice.

I'm hoping that we have a better summer next year and I actually get to wear it!  Fingers crossed.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Paper Marbling - An Introduction

 This week I was once again back at West Dean.  As I've said to several people it really is quite addictive.  They have such a great range of courses, the tutors are all wonderful (so far) and the atmophere is great.


As someone who loves making books, I've always been fascinated by marbled papers and think they are really beautiful, but I've never had a go.  I don't even remember doing this at school.  I'd seen lots on Instagram too, so when I saw West Dean were running an introductory course I jumped at the change to try it.


Louise our tutor was lovely, and gave us lots of information about how to marble paper successfully.  It's not quite as simple as you might think.


In the morning we learnt all about how to make the different patterns using combs, sticks and washing up liquid, before spending the afternoon playing and finding our style.


It was very messy, but I loved how immediate it was.  You could see how the pattern turned out as soon as you lifted your paper from the tray, so it was easy to learn and try again if it wasn't quite right.


We stopped an hour before the end of the day to tidy everything up.  This also allowed our prints time to dry, although a couple of hair dryers might have been deployed to speed things up.  We then had a bit of time to look at each others work and reflect on what had worked or not for us.


I was very pleased to come home with 23 prints and plenty of knowledge about how to do it at home if I think the house could deal with the mess!  The real question is, can I bring myself to use any of them?


If you are interested I would totally recommend this course.  Now to go wash the paint splatters off my shoes.  (The photos really don't show the wonderful metalic paints I used at all!)

Monday 23 October 2023

Moving Blanket Labels

 Two unrelated things happened this summer.

1. ‘im outdoors bought some big blankets for keeping his furniture safe when sending items to customers.  He now has a courier who can deliver the furniture for him, so it’s likely the blankets will spend some time with them too.

2. My next door neighbour June asked if I’d like to see how to free sew.  She used to do this for a living and was a well known artist, so of course I said yes.  I spent a lovely hour or so in her studio where she showed me how it works and let me have a go.  So much fun.

The special free sewing foot

Following on from my morning with June, I bought the sewing foot for my machine, but then did nothing more as I got busy and didn’t have a project in mind.

And this is where those two unrelated items suddenly come together.  ‘im outdoors had said something about marking his blankets so he would get them back from the courier.  And I’d been thinking about ways to do this.


And then suddenly he sold a chest of drawers and they needed to get to London by the end of the week!

So with no real prep and no time to practice I found myself having a go at free sewing.  It took a little time to get my machine set up.  I had to swap feet and cover the feed dog as mine aren’t retractable, then I had to have a practice and play with the tension etc.  



Then, running out of time, I just got on with it.  The design was drawn in pencil on an old sheet we didn’t need any more and I free stitched the logo and then the writing.  Then I stitched the whole thing to the blanket.

At the time I made two, but there were another 8 blankets to mark up, so I did those the following weekend.



They aren’t perfect.  But they don’t need to be.  They just need to show who’s blanket it is so that ‘im outdoors can get them back after a job.  And actually I quite like how they turned out.  

I’ve put everything away for now, but I definitely want to have another go when I’ve got time.  It's a really interesting look and quite fun to do, if you can get over trying to make it perfect.



Thursday 5 October 2023

Tips For Better Smartphone Photography For Your Business

This week I spent an evening at the British Library after work.

I had spotted a workshop on the Design Trusts newsletter about a smartphone photography workshop coming soon, and as I've been struggling to take photos of tiny beads I thought I would see if they could help.

The workshop was run by Sam Lane, who is the official photographer for St Pancras station.  In 2 hours she didn't have much time, but she managed to cover a lot!

She started off by talking through the settings on our phones.  While most people had an iPhone the settings on my Samsung were similar.  There were so many things I'd never even thought to try.  I wish I'd know I could take panorama photos when I was running the South Downs Way!

She then talked about what makes a good photo.  Light is key!  I already kinda knew this, but she reinforced the message plus talked about how to make the best use of it. Natural light is best, but sunlight can be too harsh, so make use of shade and don't face people into the sun!

And she talked round things like the rule of thirds and how you can bend them to work for you.

She also talked about how important planning your shot is.  I'd never really thought about it, although it makes sense.  She asked us to think about what story we're trying to tell and plan how the photo can do this.

Lastly she talked about editing and storing our photos.

Of course I took some beads with me to take photos of

It was a great class with lots of discussion and questions.  She had loads of example photos to show us which I loved.  They really got her points across.

It's given me loads to think about and ideas on what I can change to maybe create better photos of my beads.  I might not have a business just yet, but I'd love to create glass items that people might want to buy...

The thing that amused me most about this workshop was out of all the classes and workshops I've taken in the last couple of years, this was the one I took the least photos on!  But while I might not have photos, I do have lots of notes.  I hope you can see the improvement as I try things out.

Sunday 24 September 2023

Asymmetrical Willow Basket


 This weekend I was back at West Dean, but it wasn't for glass beads this time!  Instead I was on a willow weaving workshop.

I'd seen a few things about willow weaving and thought it looked interesting, but it wasn't until I saw the asymmetrical basket workshop that I decided to have a go.

Example baskets

Our tutor was the lovely Sue Kirk.  She's incredably patient and knowledgeable and was happy to answer all our questions over the course of the weekend.  But I soon stopped taking notes when I realised 1. just how complicated it all is! and 2. that although I really enjoyed the workshop I'm not sure I'll be making another basket anytime soon.

A very gappy start to my base

She started by explaining a bit about basket weaving and the willow we'd be using.  She'd bought 4 example baskets of different sizes for us to look at and use as guides for what we wanted to make.  My aim was the create the second smallest basket, but it ended up a little bigger.

Undone and rewoven - no gaps!

She had also bought a lot of willow with her of different colours (some she grew herself and some she bought) so we could play around a bit with the look of our baskets.


We started with the base.  Mine was very gappy so I undid it and Sue helped me get the spacing better.  From then things went better.

The base took most of the first day!  By the end of day one I had a base with 32 up rights and the foot round the bottom.  I'd also selected my rods so I'd be able to start weaving the sides straight away on day two.

End of day one

Day two was a shorter day, finishing at 3pm.  But the sides went a lot quicker than the base and I easily finished in good time.


As I said its a little bigger than I was aiming for, and I'm interested in what the colours will do as it dries out - I think it should lighten a little, and as the maker I am a little critical, I can see where it's maybe not as round as I wanted etc, but for a first attemp I'm pretty pleased with it.

I can see why people would get obsessed with making baskets, there is much to learn and so many techniques to play with, but I think I'll stick to glass for now.


Hopefully my hands and fingers won't feel so sore and tired tomorrow and I can get back to my knitting.

Sunday 17 September 2023

Glass Bead Necklace And Bracelet


 I haven't managed to get into the studio for a couple of weeks now, however this weekend I finally did something with all the tiny beads I've been making.  

Every week when I go into the studio and make some beads, I finish my session by making some tiny tiny beads with some dot and stripe patterns.  The idea is to practice making beads all the same size and my dot placement, extra hard on tiny beads.


Now I've got a good collection I wanted to make them into a necklace and a bracelet.  Firstly I sorted them by size, saving the really small ones for the bracelet.

Having watched some videos on YouTube on how to knot pearls into a necklace I wanted to do the same with the beads, but after a frustrating hour or so I gave up - I just couldn't get the knots where I wanted them or a consistant size.  'im outdoors suggested I use seed beads as seperaters instead and this worked well and was a lot quicker.


I then used a special two hole bead I'd made as a fasterning.  It worked really well.  I'm really pleased with the necklace, it's pretty without being too in your face.


I then tried making a bracelet.  As a first attempt it's ok but I think it will need more work.  Maybe I should just follow the necklace design and have a single row?  But I like that they can move about.  It uses a sliding knot, so very easy to put on and take off and I like that I could finish each end with a bead, but getting the whole lot to sit nicely on my wrist is hard.  I might take it apart and have another go at some point.  Maybe I need a different sort of cord too?


It's great to finally have a 'use' for some of my beads.  At the moment most of them are just sitting my my desk, which isn't really the point of them.  It's nice to give them a purpose.

Monday 4 September 2023

Knitted Baby Elephant


Around the time I was having real problems knitting the bubbly sweater, I decided to start this sweet little project.  Knitted all in garter stitch it's a really simple knit, perfect for when you want to knit but can't face a project with issues.

At this point 'im outdoors had blocked access to my craft cupboard, so I had to use the wool I had to hand rather than pick something from the stash.  In this case the detail colour from the bubbly sweater -  a lovely bright turquoise from Stylecraft.

I imagine I could make this over a weekend if I wanted, but it's been a slow make, something to go to when the sweater was driving me crazy.

I think I could have stuffed him a little harder, but I still love how he's come out.  


I also love that you could knit the pattern in any yarn and needle size and it would just change the size of the finished elephant, rather than spoil the pattern.  Also the pattern comes with lots of detail when you come to sewing up, so very easy to follow.

A lovely little project.  Don't be surprised if I knit another.

Wednesday 30 August 2023

Glass Mandala Beads


 I have been totally fascinated by mandala beads since I saw my first.  I've watched a couple of videos on how to make them but not found anything written down so have been finding it hard to get my head round how to make them.

But this week I decided to have a go anyway.

The first was a complete mess.

See the progression from right to left

The second started to get the idea.

Then I made a break through realising I needed to drag the dot down, not the space between the dot!

Then I realised that less dots is better!

And now it's just a matter of practice and, as always, dot placement.


Resting my work on top of my torch really helped too, as my hands shake when I try and do the detailed work.  And remembering that I don't need to panic, I can take my time and reheat if needed also helps.

I had two afternoons working on them over a bank holiday weekend and I can see the progress I've made, especially when I compare the last one from the first afternoon and the last from the second afternoon.  There is still work to be done, but I can see I'm going in the right direction which is the key. 

Afternoon 1 on the right, afternoon 2 on the left

And looking at photos of others work on instagram, I've also realised that I don't have to melt the drag mark in, which I've found reduced the size of the bumps.  Something to try when I'm back at the torch.  Always learning!