The needlepoint on the right's being stretched back into its original shape, and the half-worked piece on the left is just there for me to contemplate. I've ran out of the brown tapestry wool for the hare, so need to buy more. Foolishly I started filling in some areas with other shades of brown either too light or too dark. I want a dappled kind of effect with the hare's hair, but you have to get the dappling effect right. Your eye should see the main colour and little pinpricks of other similarly toned colours, not be distracted by too dark/too light patches. Difficult to explain without showing photos close up (a blog entry for another day perhaps), Anyhow, I might need to unpick some areas. Annoying but sometimes necessary. It would be even more annoying if I finished the needlepoint but always felt a nagging 'that bit's not right' every time I looked at it.
Because I've not got the right canvas to start my fox design yet - and because I'm flaming well incapable of actually starting a project and finishing it before beginning the next one (sheesh!! So many half finished quilts and cushions ... ) I began a small piece of needlepoint which'll probably be a modestly sized wall hanging. (Not sure if, once completed, I'll frame it or just back it with fabric.) It was inspired, if that's not too arty a word, by a book illustration I'd seen in a magazine. (Top left of page) I did a very rough sketch, and then just winged it - using what limited colours I've got in my wool basket and hoping it'll turn out how I want it. I'm using metallic gold thread to give the sky some shimmer, and am even getting ahead of myself - thinking of a different version. A night sky of dark blue with silver instead of gold. Then the two versions could hang side by side, a summery day and a moonlit night. Yup, that's me all over. Always thinking ahead!
While I'm trying to cut back on spending, it makes sense to snap up a bargain when it's available. I aim to buy the majority of clothing in future from charity shops (it's Green and ethical as well as cheaper than dept stores). This top's from the hospice charity shop, and originally from Monsoon. A coral coloured bargain at £4.50. The ceramic pots were the last two on display. Every year Wilkinsons sell off their gardening supplies cheaply, and there were reduced from £7.00 each to £2.00. Of course the reason they sell off the gardening gear is to make floor space for Christmas clutter. How depressing is that in September?!! (I even overheard a guy talking to his child yesterday about writing a letter to Santa!!)
Back to the main theme of this post - that being frugal isn't about denying yourself everything. Don't be mean with others, and don't be mean with yourself. Small treats help the day go more sweetly, and needn't cost the earth.
A few weeks ago I had some strange urge to paint a picture of a fox. As you do ....
Using some acrylic paints and the back of an old poster I did a rough painting of Mr Foxy, and added a layered tissue paper tail. He sat on the floor for several days, then at some point he got stuffed into a cupboard. There wasn't much practical use for Foxy, but I'd enjoyed making him.
Anyhoo ... yesterday I bought 'Crafty' magazine (shouldn't really - supposed to be saving money), and what was inside? Yup, a competition themed around foxes. The idea is that you make something that could be featured in the magazine.
Now, a deadline is always useful for someone as good at dilly-dallying as me. So I'm trying to conjure up a needlepoint design based on the letters F. O. X. and the creature himself. I don't usually bother with graph paper when working our patterns, but lettering's tricky, especially working out how many spaces to have between one letter and the next. It was also a useful exercise when it came to the fox. At first I had him looking to the left, but realized that seeing him face forward was a more powerful image. So the basics are there, and I need to buy some canvas now and get going. The competition closes in December, so there's enough time if I really push it.
There's an endless amount of
fun to be had with making stuff, and endless inspiration via Flickr, craft
blogs, magazines and books, not to mention art trails and galleries.
You suddenly get an urge to lino print on a tea towel, embroider flowers
on a napkin, make a baby quilt for a new arrival, knit a Clanger or make a
garland of paper butterflies.
Ideas appear from all directions, and it's easy to fly out to the shops and splurge like crazy on what suddenly seems like a total necessity. You must have a tube of bronze coloured glitter!
You need a metre of calico, some pale pink thread, a larger sized crochet hook, some velvet
ribbon in just the right shade of mauve...
But ... but ... but ... in life there's always a 'but' isn't there? The sticking point in this
case being a definite lack of money. Craft shops, haberdashery
departments (where you can find 'em – they’re getting as rare as hen’s teeth),
ebay and online wool and fabric suppliers, they all make it fantastically easy
for us to part with our cash. But crafting needn't be expensive, or at least you
can limit your expenditure to match your income.
Firstly, understand how much you currently spend on crafts. Add up those
till receipts for the last few months. Include things like craft magazines.
(I've had to call a halt to my love of Selvedge magazine. At a tenner a
pop it's too much for me.)
Once you know your recent outgoings then set yourself a crafty budget.
That doesn't mean you're only going to buy the cheapest of cheap materials
in future. You can still buy your gorgeous Rowan kidsilk or hanks of
jewel coloured sari silk yarn. But you're going to make a more conscious
decision about spending, not splurging on everything you see in a
scatter gun approach, but buying what you really, really want. Often it's
better to buy less, but buy better quality. (That applies to clothing too.)
BUYING 2ND HAND:
Or should I call it ‘buying vintage’, the trendier phrase! We
all know about charity shops and the value of having a good rummage.
Car boot sales and – where you can find them – old fashioned jumble
sales, the elbows in the ribs bunfight versions – are even better.
Often cheaper and in the case of jumble sales often great fun, the
queue-ing and jostling all adding to the day. Keep an eye out for good quality
fabric. That might come in the form of a single pillowcase or a
velvet curtain. Good finds can be found on the outsize rail. There’s
a lotta material in a size 20 dress or a flared skirt.
Look for hardback craft books, often sold cheaply as there’s not as much
demand for them as for the latest racy paperback novel.
Search out trimmings – lengths of braid, bags of buttons, embroidery
silks, odd skeins or balls of wool.
You can often find knitting needles, crochet hooks, half finished
needlepoint canvases. (With the canvases you can unpick the partly
completed design, turn the canvas over and use the back of it to
stitch on, making up your own pattern.)
These free networks are ideal when you’re on a tight budget, but
many people just think of them in terms of furniture or larger items. You
may find someone’s had a clear out of unwanted crafty items or – sadly – cleaned
out their parents/grandparents home and have lots of items to find new homes
for. A friend gave me fabric from her late mum’s dressmaking stash,
and I’ve incorporated them into patchwork quilts.
Also, ask around for stuff. I don’t mean become a pain-in-the-neck scrounger,
but ask friends for unwanted tee shirts, mens shirts, duvet covers etc. All
useful. Plus, if you’re a candle maker they could save the remains of
largely burnt down candles for you, or if you make mosaics you
might find a use for broken vases, plates etc.
Look to upcycle/recycle everything you can. Gift wrapping
(even if a bit creased) can be saved for paper projects.
Make little origami animals and birds (see You Tube for turtorials).
Cut the ribbons off gift bags to make tiny bows to stick on homemade gift tags.
Tee shirts can be chopped up to make a homemade version of polyester toy stuffing.
Or cut into spiral strips to knit or crochet with, to make a bathmat for
instance. You could also use otherwise unwanted fabric to cut into long strips,
plait and coil into a rug. You can even make ‘plarn’ – yarn from chopped up plastic bags.
It’d make a sturdy doormat to keep mud out of the house.
Necklaces can be bought in charity shops or at car boot sales.
Dismantle them and restring beads or make into brooches or earrings. Ask friends/family members if they have unwanted costume jewellery, maybe necklaces with a
broken clasp or single earrings. All can be used to make new creations.
A torn bedsheet or duvet cover can be cut up and reused. As
backing for a quilt, for instance, or remake into pillowcases, perhaps tarted up
with some ric rac in a contrasting colour.
If you find an old desk diary from previous years, they often have maps inside.
Rip those pages out and use for decoupage, origami or put in a clip frame
for a simple, crafty way to decorate your wall.
LOOK AFTER WHAT YOU’VE GOT
Keep your crafty tools in good order. Always wash out
paintbrushes after use. Keep scissors sharpened. Don’t use your
decent dressmaking shears for cutting paper. It’ll blunt them in next to no
time. Have a specific pair of scissors for cutting paper and thin card instead.
I’m sure I could think of more, but that’s it for now. Any ideas of your own to add?
What’s been your best find or most ingenious upcycled
When it comes to crafts I think part of my problem is that I get side tracked.
There are a couple of constants - patchwork and needlepoint - but I drift in and out of knitting, I've played with ceramics, had a go at basic lino cut printing and made assorted cakes out of felt. I think part of this magpie like behaviour in collecting crafts is an element of panic. I'd love to achieve a real feeling of success with one particular craft, and I think I get a bit panicky that I haven't really found my 'artistic voice'. (Yeah, I know that phrase 'artistic voice' sounds pretentious .... soz) So at the moment I've been leafing through library books about basket making - would that suit me? Is there a local course? I'm also playing with making dolls out of a combination of fabric and papier mache, based on some dolls I saw in a magazine.
I also need to think longer term about paid work. I'd love to make a living through craft. Patchwork and needlepoint are great, but both are slow crafts. They take time. What else could I explore as I'm not ready to start applying for more office based jobs yet.
Hmmm, need to put my thinking cap on.
I handed over almost sixty quid today.
I'd umhed and ahhed, but decided I wanted to do a short painting course. It's an introduction to acrylics, running for six Monday afternoons from next week onwards.
I'd hesitated as I need to conserve what savings I've got while I'm not working/earning, but having said that you've got to live a bit! Hopefully I'll learn some useful techniques, and maybe meet some friendly people too, always a bonus. In the meanwhile I'm stitching yet more of these 'flags', wonky seams and all. I've been making multi-coloured quilts from these type of Union Jack blocks, but I'm going to try a 3 colourway design - a gorgeous Liberty-ish red, a pinky flowery pattern and a black starry fabric. I don't usually 'do' restrained palettes, so we'll see how this experiment works out.
Apart from that I nipped up to the allotment today, before the rain began falling. I'm gathering seeds - mainly marigolds, but also snap dragons, Sweet Williams, hollyhocks and poppies. Sneakily I'm doing my bit for the bees by scattering seeds (when no one's looking) in local parks. All those green spaces can do with some more blooms, so hopefully next year I'll see the odd hollyhock here, a splash of poppy red there, and - I'm sure - lots of marigolds. Calendulas are prolific self-seeders, so once they're established they'll flourish. Fingers crossed.
I've made a few scrapbooks, just cut out images from magazines, postcards and flyers. Images I like, and that might inspire me to stitch. I came across this elegant fox in a photo accompanying an article about someone or other. It looks freestanding, maybe a solid structure covered with fabric? The tail definitely looks 3 dimensional. I kept getting the urge to try making a fox of my own. No, I don't know why either ...
It's only a 1st version, and needs another few coats, but the basic shape's there. I used the back of an old poster to paint on, and have made a tail from lots of layers of cut up tissue paper. What I'm going to do with it, I don't know. Maybe translate it into needlepoint at some stage? The only other thing I could think of would be to turn it into a version of 'pin the tail on the donkey'. You'd pin the tail onto Reynard instead. Though it would mean me chopping his tail off so it could get pinned back on. Ouch!
Most of my needlepoint pieces (the ones that finally get completed!) end up as cushions. But, for what it's worth, here's the lowdown on how to make a needlepoint wallhanging / picture, as requested by Amy.
Once your needlepoint's stitched, take a good look at the shape of it. Has the canvas become distorted from all that handling? (( remember my first ever piece of needlepoint, the square that was diamond shaped at the end, I'd tugged so hard at the wool when I'd worked the stitches.) If your masterpiece is obviously mis-shapen you'll need to block it.
It ain't complicated. You'll need a piece of board at least an inch bigger than your canvas all the way round. I've got an offcut of MDF that I use, plus a board that used to form the back of a poster clip frame that wasn't needed when I broke the glass. It doesn't matter what kind of board you use. It just needs to be the kind that doesn't fill your fingers with splinters and is soft
enough to push drawing pins into.
Put your canvas face down on the board. Spray the back with water in a fine
mist, or just use a bunched up cloth to dampen it slightly. Then stretch your canvas back into shape. I find a quilters ruler quite helpful here, to make sure my angles are correct. Canvas is tough, you're unlikely to rip it. As you stretch, you pin. Once your canvas is pinned down,
just leave it alone for a few days. I generally find this is enough to restore
your canvas's shape, but for extra measure you can also paint the back of the
canvas with wallpaper paste. I've also tried PVA glue to give a badly distorted
canvas some extra strength when stretched back.
Once you're happy with the shape, cut out a piece of cardboard ever so
teeny-tiny slightly larger than your design. Lay your canvas face down on the
floor / tabletop. Place your cardboard on top. Then fold the canvas edges over
the back of the cardboard and, using a good very strong thread, lace the sides
together. Think of it as lacing a corset. You're tucking the unsightly edges
away so from the front all the viewer sees is your lovely design.
Then it's a case of choosing your backing fabric and - needlepoint face down,
cardboard on the upper side - laying the fabric on the cardboard. Tuck under
the fabric edges and use dressmaking pins to secure the backing material to the
needlepoint's outer lines. Stitch into place. Or glue, if you'd prefer.
Add a handsome cord or braid around the edges if you wish, and add a loop to
hang the finished piece from.
I hope that all makes sense. It's so difficult to write instructions, but if
you're still stuck try the 'how to do it' sections in any of these books:
'Glorious Needlepoint' by Kaffe Fassett
'Medieval Needlepoint' or 'Romantic Needlepoint' by Candace Bahouth
'Mary Norden's Needlepoint' by - big surprise! - Mary Norden
They're all highly recommended by yours truly, and they're all available via Amazon, if
not your local charity shop or library. Happy stitching!!
I've been calling this WIP a quilt, but actually there's no quilting involved. So it's going to eventually be a bedspread - or at least a medium sized throw. You wouldn't think there's any warmth to something that's partly made up of empty spaces, but it's surprisingly cosy when it's draped over my lap.
Each of the yo-yos has a button at its centre, and I'm running short of buttons now. Time to rummage around in some charity shops and see what I can find. Someone's bound to have given away a button tin or jar, or at least a bagful of assorted buttons. Don't you love charity shops? You never know whether you're going to come away empty handed or with a new 'treasure'. Some nifty piece of china, a bargain priced dress, tapestry wool or a book you've wanted for ages. Everyone's got a tale to tell of their best ever find.