Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Bunting March 8, 2012

Filed under: Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 3:18 pm

I’ve been busy making bunting.

I thought it would be ever so quick and simple to make, but it turns out it’s rather time-consuming. First I had to draft a template and gather the various supplies (fabric of course, plus tape or bias binding). Then I made a prototype, to work out what the best size and spacing would be. I altered that a bit, and then I started on the real thing.

So far I’ve made three lots of bunting – two of the grey one you can see here, and then a brown one. With this being the year of the Diamond Jubilee/London Olympic Games/whatever else is going on, I’m planning to make some in rather more patriotic colours as well. I’ve got some nice stripey fabrics, some with red and white, and some with blue and white

At first, I had planned to make about ten sets, but it’s taking so long that I’m wondering if my patience will run out before then. First I cut up the triangles, then I ironed them, pinning them together in pairs (with the right side of the fabric facing inwards). I sewed down the long sides of each triangle, leaving the top open so that I could then turn them right side out. That bit is a bit of a faff – it’s quite fiddly work trying to turn out the pointy bit of the bunting (alas, comments have been already about the fact that they don’t end in a particularly pointy point, but I have done my best…). After that they need ironing again, and then pinning along a length of tape or bias binding. Bias binding is a little easier to work with as it folds so readily, but I was able to get a much better price on a length of 50m of tape (this was back in the time when I thought I would EASILY make 50m worth of bunting) and so that’s what I’ve been using most of the time. You fold the tape in half, so that it covers the open edges on the short (top) bit of each triangle. Then you have to sew all the way along the tape – which again is quite fiddly as it’s quite a narrow strip by this stage.

Still, despite the time it’s taken, I’m happy with how the first few lots have turned out. I don’t think my career in bunting production is going to be quite as lucrative as I’d hoped though – I’d have to charge a lot to really make it worth my while, and I think that would put people off buying it altogether.

(I should mention that the kitchen in the picture isn’t mine – thank you to my mother, who both let me use her kitchen to take pictures, and stood holding up the other ending of the bunting while I did so.)


Mini quilt February 6, 2012

Filed under: Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 10:59 am

I love looking at pictures of quilts people have made.

I even sort of like the idea of making a quilt someday… but then I think about how long it would take, how expensive it would be, and all the things that would likely go wrong while I worked on it. And that brings me back down to earth: I’ve just not got the patience for such a massive project.

So when I make things, they tend to be little.

I’ve had a week off work, and that gave me enough time to come up with the idea of making this cushion, and to actually get on and do it. I’ve got plenty of fabric on hand, so I decided I should make something with what I already had, no matter how tempting the new prints and patterns are.

I’ve used some of the prints here in other projects, and others are ones I bought on our trip to the Pacific Northwest last year. The plain yellow and green stripey fabric came from The Quilting Loft in Ballard, Seattle, and the grey/yellow ones with the wiggly lines came from a fabric shop in McMinnville, Oregon (a little town I really liked). I like buying fabrics when we travel – it’s nice to bring back something from a faraway place and make it part of your home.

The front of this cushion cover is made from 64 squares, and cutting those out was quite enough for me – I definitely couldn’t manage a whole quilt…


Printable Christmas paper chains December 18, 2011

Filed under: Christmas,Crafts — lauravw @ 7:38 pm

I have a little Christmas present for you, wherever you are.

I can remember one Christmas in my early teens, I made what seemed like miles of paper chains to decorate my bedroom for Christmas. I made them from the pages of Smash Hits – British readers may well remember this fortnightly music magazine. I thought my paper chains were the bees’ knees – they were certainly an excellent complement to the silver tinsel Christmas tree I had (Woolworth’s finest…).

For you, I have upped the stakes a little and made two sets of patterns that you can download, so hopefully one of them will match your chosen Christmas colourscheme. You can also mix and match the sets.

I made myself a set this afternoon, and it’s a really simple project to sit and do – all you need is to print out one or both of the PDFs below, then cut up the strips and use glue or double-sided tape to stick them together. If you have children who could do with being occupied for half an hour or so, this is a good project for them.

Files to download:

Red and blue paper chains

Green paper chains

Thank you for visiting me here at Busywork this year. I love to get your emails and comments, and I’m grateful for your company. I hope you have a lovely Christmas, that all your baking turns out as you hoped, that Father Christmas makes it down your chimney without causing any damage, and that your relatives are on their best behaviour.


Halloween paper chains October 21, 2011

Filed under: Crafts,Halloween — lauravw @ 1:54 pm

Today I have been decorating our fireplace for Halloween, a job I love to do. I have two boxes of decorations: one for Christmas, and one for Halloween. They are both filled with things I have collected over the years, and I love to open them up each year and be reminded of what’s inside.

Some of my very favourite Halloween decorations are also the first ones I acquired: as a teenager I went on holiday with a friend and her family to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, where we visited a Christmas store. It was a big old house, and every room, except for one, was filled with Christmas decorations. The one room that wasn’t filled with snowmen and reindeer was instead filled with pumpkins and black cats. I loved it.

This year I have made new decorations – the paper chains that you can see in this picture. I’ve been doing an evening class in some graphics software, ostensibly for work reasons, but I found that these new-found skills can also be applied to Halloween decorations, which is a bonus. I tried to make the patterns I used modern and somewhat minimal (there’s a close-up shot of them here), and I’m really happy with how they turned out.

If you’d like to make some for your own home, download this PDF, and print out a few copies (ideally in colour, but I think black and white would look good too). All you need to do is neatly cut out the strips, then stick each one into a loop with tape or glue, making them into a chain as you go. For the chains you can see pictured on my fireplace, I used 5 A4 sheets of paper.

And if you do make some, I’d love to see a picture of the results!

I’ve had my eye on a few other Halloween projects that I’ve seen around the web. My favourite so far is this collection of yarn-wrapped pumpkins and gourds.


Cat toys April 26, 2011

Filed under: Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 7:09 pm

A few weeks ago Melissa shared a pattern she had created for a cat toy – the Kitty Kicker. I planned to make one for Daisy, and in the end (because I don’t have a printer at home) I made my own version by guessing the sizes and cutting out a rectangle of fabric.

The reason I was so keen on Melissa’s pattern in the first place was the shape, so I tried to make my toy along the same lines. Anyone who has a cat will have seen them use their front paws to pull a toy towards them, while using their back feet to repeatedly kick it away. If you’ve been really unlucky, they will have demonstrated this behaviour on your arm! Melissa’s Kitty Kicker is just the right shape for a cat to attack it in this way.

I found some dried catmint in a pet shop, and was able to test it out on Daisy. She’s not previously been interested in the stuff, but something has changed: this time, while I was trying to open the box to get some catmint out, she almost mowed me down trying to get to it. She actually sunk her claws into the packaging – and into my hand. So it’s safe to say that she likes it these days.

I also added a little bell, attached to some ribbon. I’m not sure if this adds to Daisy’s enjoyment, but every time I hear the bell tinkling, I know it means she is playing with her toy, and that makes me feel good.

And she really does kick it, just as Melissa intended – you may even be able to see the claw marks in her toy in this picture (Daisy’s is the top one – the one underneath was given to a neighbour’s cats).


I know it’s too soon for Christmas stuff, but… November 23, 2010

Filed under: Christmas,Crafts — lauravw @ 8:46 pm

Amy Blackwell's festive cat creationsI am resolute in my view that it is not Christmas-time at least until advent begins, and even then I’m usually a bit slow off the mark in terms of putting up decorations and writing cards. I get cross when I see Christmas being celebrated too soon: town decorations being installed in October, mince pies for sale before we’ve even had Halloween, and so on. And yet… I have done most of my Christmas shopping. Already. So let me be among the first to wish you a happy Christmas (!), and then I can get away with telling you about some lovely Christmas projects I’ve seen around:

Amy Blackwell’s cat decorations, pictured here – I *love* these. I’m sure I’ve got some coloured felt somewhere around the house – though I suspect it’s in Halloween colours…

A simple Christmas bird garland over at Fabric Rehab. This looks relatively easy to make, and the end result is elegant – and it looks like the sort of project you could make with fabric you already have, thus sparing you from facing the shops in December.

The world’s smallest postal service, featured on Design Sponge – oh my goodness!

I also found some pretty stickers in John Lewis, which you can apply to windows to make them look festive. I bought a set of the bauble ones, for my mother to use in her house. She has glass double doors from the living room into the hall, so these will look really good there. (I couldn’t think of a good place for them in my home – we draw the curtains at dusk and so if I put them on our windows they’d be out of sight for much of the time we’re at home at this time of year…)

And in terms of Christmas shopping, I spent an evening pottering round the Lakeside Arts Centre at the University of Nottingham, admiring some of the goods for sale at Lustre. It’s an annual event where you can buy high-end handmade goods. There’s a wide variety of stuff on offer – some of it not to my taste, but we’re all different I suppose… (I’m resisting the urge to name and shame, but there were some oddities for sale!). There were two things I really wanted to take home with me, but following a moderately expensive trip to the dentist that very morning, my purse felt a little empty and so I made myself choose just the one: a narrow woollen scarf, made in Scotland by Yungi. This meant I could not buy the lovely mug and plate sets being offered by Catherine Hammerton, which was a shame – but at the same time my kitchen cupboards are rather full and so I would have had to boot something else out to make room for one of those.

Photo courtesy of Amy Blackwell. Thanks Amy!


The big adventure: shopping for fabric and craft supplies October 6, 2010

Filed under: Crafts,Shopping,Travel — lauravw @ 12:18 pm

As we travelled through California, Oregon and Washington, there were a few opportunities to treat myself to fabrics, ribbons, craft papers, and so on. I’ve come home with a little stash of things that will keep me occupied over the winter months. I like the idea that things I bought on the other side of the world will be entertaining me long after the holiday is over.

In San Francisco, I bought ribbons. There is a shop there selling nothing but ribbons – it’s like the promised land or something. Megan told me about it before we even arrived, so I had been looking forward to it for quite a while. It was much bigger than you might expect a ribbon-only shop to be, and I was able to spend quite a bit of time in there.

In Oregon, I bought a little bit of fabric, and in Seattle I bought a little bit more. I also spent some time (and money) in Impress Rubber Stamps, which is a little crafting shop that somehow carries an enormous range of stuff. I could spend hours in there (perhaps I did, I don’t know).

I like paper crafts, but – how can I put this tactfully? – I find that a lot of the places that sell stamps, papers, etc tend to err on the side of tacky… with too much emphasis on hearts and soppy messages and things saying ‘best mum ever’ and those kits for making your own cards that come with everything pre-cut and pre-chosen, so that there’s no need for the person making them to possess even an ounce of creativity or imagination… I’d better stop there before I get cross, and just admit that I’m a bit of a snob about these things. Anyway, Impress is NOT like that – they have beautiful things, and the sample projects that are scattered around the shop are as inspiring as any I’ve seen.


Turning tablecloths into bags, skirts, and goodness knows what else… July 14, 2010

Filed under: Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 6:49 pm

By nature, I am the sort of person who saves things ‘for best’. I’ll buy a nice dress and only wear it on special occasions, or I’ll have pretty candles but won’t light them because I don’t want them to be used up.

For the last couple of years I have been fighting this instinct, and trying to enjoy the things I have while I have them, accepting that yes, they may get used up in the process. So these days if you visit my house in winter, you’ll find I’ve lit plenty of scented candles. And if I write to you, I will use my favourite notecards.

It’s in this spirit that I have, at long last, taken the scissors to an Orla Kiely tablecloth that Megan sent me for my birthday last year (or was it the year before?). It has been living with my fabric collection ever since it arrived, and every now and then I’ve taken it out to admire it, pondered what I could make from it if only I could summon the nerve to cut into it, and then put it away again.

But this weekend I really did cut into it. I made a little bag using the Cath Kidston pattern I’d used once before, and I have plans to make a matching skirt (not that I would wear the skirt and use the matching bag at the same time, you understand).

And I had a rummage through the button jar to find some suitable buttons for it. I’ve not made my mind up yet, but I think these bluey-green ones at the front are the main contenders. All the buttons pictured came from my grandmother’s button jar, which I inherited several years ago.

I also found some Ikea fabric I’d bought some time ago – a lurid print of giant sushi pictures. And I’m thinking about turning that into a skirt too. I wonder if a sushi skirt is a step too far? Where is the line between quirky/individual and just plain weird, I wonder…


Crafting with cashmere June 20, 2010

Filed under: Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 11:26 am

Another weekend whizzes by, but at least it’s been a good one.

I have started work on a new cushion cover for my mother: she has/had a beautiful orange cashmere jumper, and wore it happily for a few years. But then it came out of the wash rather smaller than it had been when it went in, and no longer fitted her. (Nor did it fit me, unfortunately – much as I would have liked to inherit something cashmere!) It’s far too good to get rid of, and so it must be repurposed – I think a cushion cover is its best hope.

But there is something about working with a very expensive, albeit shrunken, cashmere sweater that makes me nervous. I have stitched a line across it, and yet I am reluctant to take the scissors to it to trim off the sleeves and the excess parts of the body. My mother is unlikely to share these reservations, and so I’m sure when she next visits, she’ll be willing to pick up the scissors and start trimming it to size.

Incidentally, I thought I would have to sew the whole thing by hand, but I did a trial run sewing across one sleeve on my sewing machine, and it worked really well. When I turn it the right way out and put the cushion pad inside it, I plan to hand sew it closed along the bottom edge that you can see in this photo.

As you can see from this picture, my little assistant likes it just as it is. I’m hoping there will be enough scraps left at the end of the project to make her something to sit on. She seems to think she deserves a cashmere cushion, so who am I to argue?


Sewing club May 14, 2010

Filed under: Crafts,Food,Sewing — lauravw @ 11:36 am

There’s an informal sewing club in these parts. While we call it sewing club, it’s a rare evening that we actually sew. More often than not, it’s simply tea and cake and gossip at someone’s house.

There are just two members (which makes it a whole person smaller than our previous organisation of some years ago- knitting club): me and my friend Eloise. Eloise, you may remember, is an artistic sort (take a look at her shop to see her beautiful greeting cards), and the other week she presented me with this little print she’d done.

This week’s meeting was at my house, and it was a baking-themed affair. We baked fairy cakes and cookies, and then we ate them. And of course there was plenty of tea. Not a stitch was sewed, but we did show off our recent projects and talk about our plans for future ones.

The fairy cakes are from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook – vanilla ones, with vanilla buttercream icing. And the cookies are oatmeal cookies from the Little Red Barn baking book – I love these. We put chocolate buttons in half of them, but I think I prefer them without.

The cake cases were a gift from my mother – I have these pink and white spotty ones, and a matching set in brown and white.



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