Friday



I have only recently come across Meredith at one sheepish girl and her 'blogging for confidence' series. This was something which really struck a chord with me and I am inspired by Meredith in this post and to join her challenge.  Meredith has been embracing her blogging self and taking pictures in *beautiful* yarn stores, wearing red lipstick for a whole day at work, and knitting in public. Trouble is I already knit in public, and after reading her lipstick post I went out and wore red lipstick to work one evening and got a world of compliments but I'm starting to feel a bit single white female. I don't think I quite had the right idea on this whole BFC challenge, it's not Meredith's steps I need but mine. So this post is going to be my starting step on the BFC road. 

I am going to stop lurking. 

Online that is. I'm not confessing to any real life stalking tendencies that I am going to stop. No, I am an online lurker. My RSS reader is full of blogs that I read daily and in some cases have done for years but I could count the number of times I have commented on these blogs on only my fingers and toes and I have never EVER left a link to this blog. Ever. I think in fact I have given the link of this blog to three people and one of them is my husband so I am pretty sure that doesn't count. Why do I lurk? I am in total awe of most of the people whose blogs I read. I love their work, or writing style and I am completely intimidated by it, how could anything I have to say be that interesting. However, all of the blogs I read started somewhere, and all of the makers I love began with ideas and enthusiasm so that's what I am doing. I've worn red lipstick and it wasn't that scary (just a bit messy, it seems I am not the most delicate of ladies), I am happy to knit in public, so maybe commenting on some of the blogs I read and including a URL might not be such a scary thing. 

So if you have found me from a link in a comment hello *waves*. Thanks for stopping by, and please leave a comment, with a link and then I can come on over to your place and return the favour!!  If you're married to me, thank you for stopping by and please remind me to buy more milk.......

a productive day

On Monday I will be returning to the world of 9-5 work, well actually as I am going to be working two jobs it may be a bit more 9-5-then- 6-11 work, so I have been trying to enjoy my last week of freedom and get my craft on. Yesterday I had a sewing binge. I have been slacking when it comes to doing anything more creative than knitting socks while watching back to back episodes of Mad Men, what can I say I am a late convert. So yesterday I finally got my studio straightened out after the fabric reorganisation and started sewing.

It was a day of quick fix sewing projects. First, despite our commitment to reusable shopping bags a few still creep into the house unnoticed and then breed on the kitchen floor.



So I whipped up a quick bag sausage to keep them in line and who doesn't love a little spotty/ric-rac combo on a dull Thursday morning.


Next on the list was a place to store the letters I receive from one of my favourite people. I have them in various envelopes around the house and I thought they deserved something a little more special. I use this tutorial as a basic template and then got all free motion embroidery-y on the front with the stamp and address label. My letters are very cosy now and I look forward to making a few more of these for letters from my other letter writing friends (hint-hint).

And having spent an hour cleaning tiny scraps of fabric and threads up from the studio floor and surfaces (I am not a tidy crafter) I got round to making a fabric bucket following this tutorial to put next to my machine and drop all my little threads in. It was a little hard to sew the first circle base but much easier for the lining. I see several more of these in my future as it was so quick to make and is going to be a great way to keep everything tidy.



After all that craft I was a little tired so I sat down with, you've guessed it, sock knitting and Mad Men.

Wednesday



In the last two weeks I have been having a bit of a book making binge. It is very possibly my favourite skill I learnt this year. We have a book arts tutor who comes in and teaches us how to make sketchbooks and also introduces us to the concept of book arts. This was a skill I had never even considered learning and I am in love. Making books is something that I knew someone must do, and I had seen handmade books at craft shows, but somehow it is a craft I never thought about. I am really lucky to be on a course where we have an experienced tutor come in and show us how to make simple books. I have since tried to learn some different types of binding and without that basic foundation at college I would have given up very quickly. There are so many steps to follow and all of them need to be done in the right order.

My partner and I have been collaborating on a photo book together and so my bookbinding tools have been out inspiring me to make a few new notebooks and sketchbooks. Firstly I decided that the thing that was holding me back from really getting into the Dream Job e-course I have signed up for was not chronic time-wasting or fear of lack of crafty inspiration, no it was the lack of a suitable note book. I have been in a 15 year hunt for the perfect pen and the perfect notebook that will mean I suddenly become eloquent, organised and creative. I have now found the perfect pen, well pens actually - a bic with squishy finger grip and a superfineliner for drawing. I've even found the perfect pencil, but I can only seem to buy them in the Barbican gift shop, so whenever we are at a show they I buy fistfuls of them much to the amusement of the giftshop staff I fear. But the perfect notebook, like the pen I have realised it is not about ONE perfect notebook its about the perfect notebook for the job.

Unfortunately it has taken me 15 years to figure this out and I now have a huge stash of barely used notebooks and pads, none of which was quite right. So I did what any self respecting crafter would do and I customised. I took pages out of a whole bunch of other notebooks and combined them into a new perfectly sized, perfectly random book and I love it. Sadly I have to admit it is still blank. It wasn't the lack of book holding me back.
top left: front cover quarter-binding, top right: random paper combinations, bottom left: vintage fabric end papers,
bottom right: some test pages from the photo book we're making have snuck in as well


Fully Inspired by my triumph we collaborated on this note book for the birthday of a very special overseas friend who loves a good journal. Again this one has a selection of different papers and a quarter-binding. my partner designed the endpapers and they are perfect for our international friend.


Finally, on a very drunken evening I promised to make a sketchbook for a friend who likes to sketch her partner while he sleeps. As inspiration my partner and I did sketches to act as endpapers. Turns out she doesn't remember even asking for a book, but it went down well as a nice surprise gift.



These books have been a real step forward in my binding and I am really loving the quarter-binding AND thanks to the wonders of youtube I learnt to make my own book cloth so I now don't need to be restricted to the rather dull book cloths that at commercially available, and I have a use for the large stash of upholstery weight fabrics knocking about in my fabric stash. I am definitely going to be making a whole bunch more of these in the hope that I can find a craft fair to sell them at over the summer, or revive my etsy shop and put them up there.

Monday


One of the first projects we did at college was weaving. We learnt to set up and use traditional looms (complicated, time consuming and back breaking!), we used peg looms, wove with clay, metal, paper, anything that could be woven was woven. Now the back breaking part aside weaving appealed to the OCD side of my personality, it was tidy and ordered and once you had it all set up you could make some pretty cool things on the loom. 

At the end of term one we had to take one idea or process that we had tried over the last few months and concentrate on it with the aim of producing some samples, or ideas for a finished piece. I went back to weaving. But I decided to try working with electrical wire rather than more traditional materials. I loved the colours and the challenge of being able to create something unexpected out of these cable which have become like Japanese knot weed clogging up our homes and offices. So I spent several back breaking weeks designing and building my own table loom for use with electrical cable and I set about sampling. By the end of the project I had gone through several boxes of plasters, had fingers that were almost purple with bruises from working with such an unforgiving material, and had been for a tetanus jab.


This was my biggest sample. I love the way the different cables have such a great mix of colour in them, and how when the cable is stripped back the metallic core of the wire show through in interesting ways. I had all sorts of ideas for turning it into a wall hanging but once I was done with the bruised fingers and slashed hands it ended up in a box under my desk while I moved onto other projects. But now it is the summer and I still have several boxes of cable knocking about and I am not making a wall hanging but I have been inspired to pimp our garden chairs. 

I bought these chairs at my local hospice charity shop for £5 for the two. They are surprisingly comfy and stable, they are just not our style. I had been staring at the bamboo frames for a while before inspiration struck, I could weave electrical cable into them to liven them up a bit. 
So this afternoon I took advantage of the sunny weather and armed with an afternoon of radio four I set up in the garden to make a start. My poor hands had forgotten quite how unforgiving electrical cable is and I only managed 2 hours of weaving before I gave up. I think they are going to look great but  based on today's progress it may be next summer before I have a completely covered set!

Saturday


At college our final hand in date was May 28, the workshops didn't close until June 28th, now most people went home, or went to download festival, or just spent their days in bed and there nights in the pub - which had I been 18 I probably would have done, but I am reveling in my mature student-ness and I was going to take full advantage of this time. Perhaps too much. A lot of the time I was the first one in the morning and the last one to leave, including the last day when Rich and I had been trying so hard to finish a project that he closed the workshop 15 mins late on the last day of term. Yes, I'm that overly motivated mature student.

The four weeks of workshop time meant that  I could go and use the facilities and make things. Now this doesn't sound all that exciting, you may be asking yourself that surely if I am on a crafts based course my whole degree should be based around making things. If you are thinking that then you are where I was a year ago. It turns out first year at art school it is not about the making things, it is about unlearning everything you have previously been taught about art (which in my case was very little and made the unlearning incredibly difficult but that whole issue is probably for another post), exploring materials and figuring out who you are as a maker, what motivates you etc. All of this has been hard, interesting and in retrospect I am sure it will have been life changing, but I wanted to come to college to learn how to make things. 

So in the last four weeks that's what I did, and boy was it fun.  It was so freeing to be able to go into a workshop and learn techniques, be taught the right way to file, solder, use the fly press, and ring sizers, and not have to analyse every design decision I made, or draw thirty different design sheets before I could get near materials to make things. 

Over the summer I am going to post about the things I made in this time and here is the first piece - a brooch.


The cloud is made of nickle silver and is a lot more silver coloured than this picture suggests (I am still trying to get to grips with product photography!). It was made in two halves pressed on the fly press which means it is slightly domed on the front and back giving a really nice 3-D effect. The lightning bolt is made from brass which was pierced out. 

On the back of the cloud is a pin back made of nickle wire.  

I am so happy with how this turned out and it has already become a firm favourite amongst my badges and brooches that adorn my ever present cardigans. I'd love to make some more to sell but I don't have access to the right equipment till October unfortunately. Hopefully I'll be able to make some in time for Christmas once we get back to college.

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