Archives for category: Creating

So, after the quilt I made for my brother-in-law using his old shirts, I went to work on several baby quilts.  This one is for a friend’s baby girl, who was one of the only girl babies to be born to the many friends of mine who have had babies this year.  It was so much fun making a girly quilt.

Baby quilt

Baby quilt

For the plain squares I used two designs by Anna Maria Horner which I had bought a while ago and was saving for something fun.  The eight other squares were made mostly with scraps that were left over from a workshop at the V&A, which I helped to organize.  I love that I didn’t buy any new fabric to make this quilt!

Baby quilt detail

Baby quilt detail

This was the first time I’d tried diagonal quilting – in all my previous quilts I’ve always stitched in the ditch.  I loved the effect and have used it in subsequent work, and it’s made me think about different ways I can quilt projects in the future.  I’ve officially graduated from trying to hide my quilt stitching!  It’s much more fun to let it show.

Baby quilt detail.

Baby quilt detail.

Brother-in-law's quilt, top side.

Brother-in-law's quilt, top side.

It’s been ages since I last posted (and by the way, I did finish my script for Script Frenzy), but I haven’t been lazy.  I’ve made several quilts in the last few months, one large and a few small.  And now that I have joined the Committee of the London Quilters as their new Secretary, I better get cracking and show those quilts off!

The first one is one I made for my brother-in-law to put in his new house, which he bought in February.  Since I thoroughly enjoyed making my first quilt out of my husband’s old shirts, I decided to do the same for my brother-in-law and upcycle the shirts he didn’t use any more.  I asked my mother-in-law to secretly send me all of the old shirts he was about to send to the bin, and I cut them up and made a huge quilt out of them – with different designs on the top and the bottom.  Luckily, he wears a lot of blue – so everything matched. The little bits of brown are from a pair of trousers (my husband’s, not my brother-in-law’s).  I can’t say for certain that every single piece of fabric came from one of his shirts, but they were either worn by him or by his dad or my husband, so it’s all in the family.

Brother-in-law's quilt, bottom side.

Brother-in-law's quilt, bottom side.

The quilt was made as a surprise and it certainly was.  I was really pleased with the reaction from my brother-in-law – he really appreciated it.  I was less pleased with the two days of neck pain that I had after frantically quilting for 9 hours the night before I gave the quilt to him.  Our kitchen table was no match for the weight and bulk of a king-size quilt.  I hadn’t realized how much of the weight I was managing with my neck and shoulders while putting the quilt through the machine.  It sure took me out of action for a couple of days!  Next time I make a quilt this big I’ll have to think about how to save my muscles and not overload them.  It was worth it, though.

Brother-in-law's quilt - front detail.

Brother-in-law's quilt - front detail.

Earlier this year I heard about the Sketchbook Project, created by art house co-op, and signed up for it after a brief argument with myself.

Me: But I don’t draw that often, how can I fill a whole sketchbook?

Artist Me: It’s a good way to get to draw more often!  How many markers, pens and coloured pencils do you buy per year and never use?

Me: But I have too many projects already!  What about National Novel Writing Month, which I’d have to do at the same time as the sketching?  And how about the e-course I’m signed up for, The Declaration of You?  Not to mention all my quilting projects!  I need time to do all that!

Artist Me: Come on, you know your best times are spent doing artistic stuff.  Do it do it do it do it.

Me: But what if my drawings are ugly?

Artist Me: No one will see them anyway.  Oh wait, scratch that, your sketchbook will be on tour with everyone else’s sketchbooks and people will be able to request it and read it as it travels through lots of cities in America.  FAME!  Come on!

Me: OK!

And so I signed up and got the beautiful Moleskine notebook in the mail in July: 80 creamy-white pages just waiting to be filled.  And I didn’t draw anything until the 18th of October.

But now that I’ve started, I LOVE it.  It makes me think in a completely different way.  And now I’m thinking of taking an illustration course and exploring it even further.

I’ll be posting lots of my Sketchbook Project drawings on my Flickr page.

Tribal Leaves

Tribal Leaves

Scandinavian Modern Riff

Scandinavian Modern Riff

Lucienne Day Riff

Lucienne Day Riff

We got a tiny, beautiful pumpkin in our Abel and Cole box this week – perfect size for a batch of pumpkin ginger muffins, which I’ll be making tomorrow.  In the meantime, though, here is my 2009 pumpkin carving effort.  I had just visited the V&A’s Maharajas exhibition so I had ideas for an Indian filigree design (see last year’s post where I did a V&A-inspired lion rampant guardant), but I think it ended up looking more like a scalloped lacy doily, sort of Cinderella-pumpkin-style.  I’m pretty happy with it, though.  This year I used a linocutter instead of my jewellery equipment and it was less messy and easier to cut.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin with filigree design

 

Pumpkin with top

From above it kind of looks like Cinderella's carriage

Old chair

Old chair

When we moved into our new place in April, my husband’s family kindly gave us four dining room chairs that they’d had in their attic for 10 or 15 years.  The gray seat covers were a little the worse for wear – a few food and water stains, plus natural ageing, had made them look pretty tired.  We put some nice cushions on them to make them look prettier, but my plan had always been to repaint and recover them.

The repainting will have to be done some other time, but I’ve had the recovering fabric for ages now – my sister bought me Alexander Henry’s home-dec weight ‘Heath’ fabric in red for my birthday – so I finally got around to doing the first two out of four chairs last weekend.

My first tip: if the chairs are old, then when you’re removing the screws that attach the seats to the bases, replace them with new screws.  The old ones will be rusty.  Before we got the chairs my father-in-law had to re-cut one of the seat shapes because it had broken, and when he screwed it back onto the chair he used new screws.  Nice touch. Even though you can’t see them, it makes a difference.

Second tip: a flat-head screwdriver and a pair of pliers will help you get the old staples out when you’re removing the old fabric.  Wedge the screwdriver under the staples and press up just slightly – not too much, because this puts a lot of strain on your wrist.  Use the pliers to do most of the work and pull out the staples.  Depending on how old your chairs are, the staples may be rusty enough to break in two right in the middle, so you may have to pull out a lot of pieces.  Again, don’t strain your wrists!  There are a lot more staples than you’ll expect – there were about 100 in each seat on my chairs – so don’t do the staple removal all in one day.  It takes much longer to remove the old staples than to put the new fabric on the seat.

Staples

Staples

Third tip: the chair manufacturer may have added some plastic while stapling the original fabric to the seat.  I wondered why there was so much plastic, then realized it must be because the weave of the original seat fabric was quite loose – probably they didn’t want the threads to get pulled out of place by the staples, so the plastic piece was to smooth the surface down so there was less chance of catching the threads.  It also might be to protect the fabric from the rust the staples will eventually get.  Don’t be surprised by the plastic – but if your new fabric has a finer weave and you doubt your chairs are going to withstand much rust-inducing damage (like spilled drinks, maybe) then you don’t have to include a layer of plastic when you’re putting the new fabric on.

Tip 4: Use the old fabric piece from the chair seat as a template for the new one, but cut yours bigger.  The ones on my chairs turned out to just be squares, which is what I suspect will happen on most normal-sized dining room chairs.  That’s fine, but the manufacturer cut them the smallest size possible so as not to waste material.  I don’t like wasting material, but I do like having some leeway to work with, so I cut my new fabric several inches bigger on each side.  That way, I could staple it to the chair seat a little closer to the middle – thus covering up all the ugly holes the removed staples had just left, and stapling them to an area slightly closer to the centre of the seat, which was untouched and intact.

Tip 5: Pull the material as taut as possible and put a staple in the centre of each side and then in each corner so that the material is stretched as much as possible right away in all directions.  Then go back and fill in the gaps.  I certainly didn’t use 100 staples in one seat like the manufacturer originally did – I probably used around 40, spacing them out judiciously.

New chair

New chair

Tip 6: Your old chair might have come with another piece of cloth that was stapled on top of all the other stapling just to hide all the mess on the underside of the chair.  You don’t need to add this to your newly-recovered chair, unless you’re a perfectionist.  Just staple all the fabric in such a way so that nothing hangs down from the underside of the seat.  Unless small children are going to crawl under your chair and notice (and care) that your chair undersides are not perfectly beautiful, skip it.

It only took about 10 minutes to staple the new fabric onto the chair seat, and our house looks completely different with just one small change.  I’m looking forward to repainting the chairs, too – that will really make a huge difference!

Last week I walked into the Green and Stone art shop in King’s Road and proceeded to blow my budget on art materials.  Looking at everything all together made me nearly hyperventilate.  I wanted it all!  What I actually bought, besides some collage glue and various other sticky items, was an art journal.  I just felt like it, and I’d been reading Danny Gregory and I remembered how I used to randomly draw stuff and how I never did that any more.  It’s quite a small and unintimidating size.  I’ve done a few pages in it so far with some coloured pens I had, and I feel like I just remembered my love for hand-lettering.  Pictures to follow, once I feel like I’ve done something I want to share.

Sewing, quilting, lino printing, graphic design, jewellery, papercutting, inspiration, and craft theory… This pile doesn’t even include the three I got in the post this week, the ones I keep next to my side of the bed, or the ones in the cabinet in our livingroom.  I have so much reading to do!

Craft books

Craft books

A tourtiere is a traditional Quebecois dish that my French-Canadian cousins make at Christmas.  Since we’re in England this year and will be missing that particular delicacy, I decided to make one – with an English touch.  I modified the filling recipe from one of the best cookbooks I ever read, DiscCookery by Jurgen Gothe, best known as the host of now-defunct Disc Drive on CBC Radio 2.

For the pie crust:

Put 250 g flour in a bowl with a pinch of salt.  Add 125 g shortening and 80 g butter, cut up into cubes, and then with your fingers smush it all together until you get coarse crumbs.  It’s not a bad thing to still have some bits of butter and shortening that you can see haven’t been mixed in – they are what makes the pie crust get flaky.  To the crumb mixture, very slowly and mixing all the time, add up to 120 ml water, but you will probably not need that much.  Add only enough to make your dough form a ball.  Don’t work it too much.  When it’s in ball form, split it into two, wrap each part in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge for up to 4 hours.  Yeah, right – like you have 4 hours to wait until you roll it out!  What I usually do is put it in the freezer for 30 minutes and it turns out fine.

For the tourtiere filling:

Saute 1 large onion and 2 cloves of garlic (a ceramic casserole is best) over medium heat until the onion is transparent, about 10 minutes.  Add three cubed strips of bacon (that’s the English touch!).  Add 750 g of ground pork and beef, in whichever proportion you like, as well as a teaspoon of allspice and a pinch of ground cloves.  It should smell very fragrant.  Pour 125 ml of stock (beef or chicken) over it and let the meat cook for about half an hour.  Take it off the heat and add 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs.

To assemble:

Roll out the pie crust bottom on a floured surface and put it in a 9-inch pan.  Add the filling, then roll out the top crust and place on top.  Pinch the top and bottom together, crimp the edges with a fork or flute them, poke some holes in the top, and if you have any extra dough you can make a decoration for the top.  Mine’s a fleur de lis, sort of.  Put the pie in a preheated 375-degree (190 C) oven and bake for 50 minutes.  It should come out all golden and flaky.

D’la bonne tourtiere de comme chez nous!

Tourtiere

Tourtiere

Ponoko ornaments

Ponoko ornaments

Here are a few pictures of our Christmas tree with the Ponoko ornaments I wrote about a few days ago.  They look great, especially when the sun hits them!

We got the tree from the grocer down the road and it looked so small all bundled up, but when we unwrapped the branches they sprang out wide – it was much bigger than we’d thought.  Still, I didn’t want to trim it.  I kind of like its lopsided look.

Christmas tree 2008

Christmas tree 2008

I just had the best time making my own film in iMovie!  At the V&A we’re doing a b-movie weekend and having people come in, shoot some film in the galleries, and then edit their clips in iMovie (see the results at http://www.youtube.com/vandabmovieweekend).  

I shot some film myself last night on my own camera and used a lull in today’s activities to make my own movie: Nightmare Mouse!  You can see it on my YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/crazyfilmproductions 

The blue stuffed toy starring as the evil nightmare mouse was sewn by me a few months ago, as one of the first things I made on the sewing machine my sister gave us for our wedding present.  The hedgehog puppet belongs to my husband!