A different creative project each week…from children's parties to sewing curtains

Monday, 25 February 2013

Mother's day gift

I have been so encouraged to hear from some of you that this blog has inspired you to go and buy a sewing machine. So I have discovered this darling project that is a nice easy project for a beginner, and yet is one of the most satisfying things I have ever made.

As it is nearly mother's day I hope this may motivate some of you to dust off your sewing machines and make something beautiful for your mum (much nicer than chocolates!) or just keep it for yourself!

Primarily this project is about origami rather than sewing. The precision in folding will ensure the success of your final cushion so take your time folding and ironing.
You can see in this picture I have made a 48cm square using cardboard and then cut out a piece of white cotton 3cm bigger on each side. I then folded the corners and then the edges and ironed over them all to make a crease. 
Once I ironed all the edges I removed the cardboard and folded the square in half both ways ironing each time. Once opened the fabric should have four creased squares.

Now fold each corner into the middle of the fabric and iron each of them down firmly.

I now cut a square piece of patterned fabric to fit inside the folded triangles. 

Lay it inside and fold the triangles back over the top so you can't see it.

Using my sewing machine (though you could hand sew it) I sewed a 5 cm line from the tip of one triangle to the opposite one, and then on the two adjacent ones. This is
through all layers of the fabric

On this picture you can just see the lines in the shape of a cross from top to bottom and from left to right.
Now I used four triangles of coloured material (I have used four different patterns, but you could use the same) and laid them on the top of the triangles I folded over.

I have left a small amount of the white triangle visible which I now fold back over the patterned fabric to act as a border. As I pinned the middle of each line through all the layers of fabric it naturally fell into a gentle curve revealing a leaf shaped window to the fabric below.

Here you can see that all the lines have been pinned using only one pin on each one.

Now I began sewing with my machine. You could do this by hand, but if you do have a machine it is very satisfying and really not too hard.

Start in the middle of the cushion and sew down the white border you have created. It really doesn't matter if you stick to the middle or the edge of your border.

Once I finish all the lines I trimmed off the edges of the cushion and cut off all the loose bits of cotton thread.

Don't worry about all the messy bits of cotton in the middle where you have begun each line, now you choose a big bold button to sew in the middle of the cushion to make it look truly sumptuous.

Now all I had to do was make a back cover for my cushion.

As you know I like to keep it easy and so I use the envelope technique which uses two pieces of fabric both slightly shorter than the width of the cushion. So long as the outside layer (inside when you are sewing it) has a hemmed edge you will not need to attach any buttons or zips.

Here you can seen I have laid the cushion cover faced upwards, then the hemmed layer faced downwards and the final back layer also faced downwards.

Pin it all together and then sew around the lot.

Once finished you can turn the whole thing inside out through the envelope and put your cushion cover on your cushion.
These cushions took me 35 minutes to make and were tremendously satisfying.

They are presents for my fabulous mother and my wonderful mother-in-law.

Happy Mother's Day, I love you both.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Butterfly party

My little girl Molly wanted a butterfly party for her sixth birthday so we used the summer's day to take over the garden with butterfly activities.

This week's blog is about the activities and food that I prepared for Molly and her little friends.

Unfortunately I didn't take a photo of the invites that I sent around, but I used a simple template to cut pretty card into butterfly shapes. We then wrote the details onto the back and used these to invite Molly's friends.
I wanted to make as much of the food based around the butterfly theme. I made sandwiches from jam and 100s & 1000s and cut the bread with a butterfly cutter. 

These little Cadbury's chocolate fingers were briefly dipped in hot water which melts the chocolate and allows you to stick a shape on. I found these icing butterflies in a supermarket, but you could use any edible sweet, or just dip them in sprinkles. This is a particularly fun job for your children to help with!
The cake-pops were my personal favourite. It was the first time I had attempted cake-pops and to this day I think they are my most successful. 

The cake-pops (pictured above) are chocolate with a white chocolate coating. To make them bake a chocolate cake, and once it is cooled crumble it up into fine crumbs before slowly adding chocolate butter icing until it sticks together firmly.

At this point I roll them into 3cm balls and freeze them. Once cold and firm remove them a few at a time from the freezer and dip 1cm of a lollypop stick into melted chocolate before inserting it into the centre of a cake-pop. Then dip the whole cake-pop into the melted chocolate and tap to remove any excess chocolate. Leave them to set on a sheet of baking paper, though if you have frozen your cake pops it won't take more than a few seconds for the chocolate to set.

I found little sugar-paper butterflies like this for £2.50 in a sugar-craft shop. The pack had 50 butterflies in. Once I cut them out I folded the butterfly and quickly rested it on the chocolate covered cake-pop (this must be done before the chocolate sets). Cake-pops are always a big hit with children!

Molly's cake was two large rectangle cakes that I cut into four wings. I iced each of the wings individually with fondant icing and then placed them all together.

To make the body I used more fondant icing and rolled it into disks that I then stuck together. The decoration is done using tubes of supermarket icing. I would suggest that at this point it is worth trying to get the decorations symmetrical. I have found that as I am right handed it was easier to decorate the left side first so I could see what I was copying when I did the right side. If I had decorated the right first my left arm would have covered over the pattern. Don't forget to reverse this if you are left handed!

On to the activities...

I know how much 6 year old girls love craft and so we spent some time making these lovely card butterflies that the girls decorated with felt pens. They are from Yellowmoon and cost £2.99 for 12. Once coloured we then hung them from the trees in the garden.

I also bought some butterfly wings that the girls made for themselves to wear. They were £13.50 for 15 wings from Baker Ross. These were so fun, and the girls loved making and wearing them. I left out tissue paper, jewels and other collage material and the girls did a great job of making them.


Finally we gave each little girl a little box of sweeties wrapped with a glow-in-the-dark butterfly necklace that I found again at Baker Ross . These were 6 for £2.99.

This party was a great success. Molly and her friends had a lovely couple of hours, the food all disappeared, the wings all decorated and the garden looked enchanted!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Valentines Cushion

This heart cushion is a perfect project to make on the week of valentines day. The basic project is quick and simple, but if you have more time then you can add embellishments or try some of the blanket stitching that I have attempted.

Here is how I made it. I found nine different off cuts of materials in the same colour range, though you could do this with only one fabric design and use it nine times.

Precision has never been my strong point and so I ironed all the squares of fabric onto some bondaweb. Bondaweb is a double sided adhesive that allows you to stick two sheets of fabric together. It can be bought at all sewing shops for a few pounds a meter and you iron the fabric you want onto the sheet which heats up and causes it to stick.

Once the first layer of fabric is ironed onto the bondaweb you can draw onto the paper side of the bondaweb allowing you to mark and cut out a precise shape.
I used a heart template that I drew around on the bondaweb with a pencil and cut out my nine fabric hearts. You could use any shapes including stars, letters, flowers etc.
To adhere the hearts to the next piece of fabric you peel off the paper and iron the two together to bind them.

Here you can see the nine hearts being ironed onto a long strip of white cotton fabric. The size of the hearts and the length of the fabric depends entirely on how large your cushion is. I would advice using a length of fabric that is two and a half times the length of the cushion you are making and 1 and a half times the width. This will allow for hems.

Bondaweb is designed to bond material together, though I have found that it is not 100% reliable and certainly over time the edges can fray. If you are a good machinist I would suggest you use an overlocking stitch to sew around the hem - this video demonstration will help.

If you fancy something more challenging then use the blanket stitch that I have used on my hearts. I have never used this stitch and the first heart took me almost half an hour, but by the end I was finishing them in just under 10 minutes. It is time consuming but I think it makes the cushion look so much lovelier. For a blanket stitch tutorial watch this video demonstration.
In order to get my cushion as precise as possible I used the old cushion cover as a pattern. I laid it over the design and folded the edge I wanted to be seen on the back (a hemmed edge) over the cushion cover (you can see it covers 80% of the cover). Then I folded the next side back over covering up the whole cover (again covering 80% of the cushion length). Then I pinned down the side of the fabric using the cushion underneath as a guide. Once I had finished pinning down both sides I removed the old cushion cover through the folded layers and sewed down the lines I had pinned out.

Finally I trimmed the edges and turned the whole thing inside out to reveal the finished cushion.

I apologise for my somewhat haphazard approach to sewing and hope it won't deter any of you from attempting such a project!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Orla Kiely Vintage Style Cabinet

My husband, Liam, has kindly let me have a tiny room (cupboard!) in our home to use as my art space. I am delighted! I am slowly turning it into a wonderful space for all my projects and I love having a place dedicated to being creative, and one that I can retreat to without my little children wanting to 'help' me with what I am doing. 

With very little money to get any storage, I fancied having a go at renovating an old piece of furniture, which I have no experience at all. 

I found this old wooden cabinet at a second-hand shop for a few pounds, and was reluctantly set to sand it down before priming it and then finally painting it a fabulous colour. I say reluctantly for two reasons. Firstly the time it would take, and secondly the cost for primer and paint. 

I consider myself a lazy crafter and so imagine my utter joy when I discovered this paint.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is a revelation, I bought this small jar at Sharland and Lewis in Nailsworth for £5 and it did the job. It is the easiest paint I have ever used, and even on this dark, shiny wood I only needed one coat of paint. I didn't sand or prime the wood and the paint has done a wonderful, even job.

I can not more highly recommend this paint, so much so that I am tempted to paint all our kitchen cabinets in one of the delightful colours in their range.

I used the Duck Egg Blue to paint my cabinet inside and out, but in an attempt to save money I did not paint the doors because I wanted to add something special to the design.

To complete the painting took half an hour.

Before I picked the paint I had already eyed up some Orla Kiely wrapping paper. I am a big fan of Orla Kiely's designs, but I am not a fan of the hefty price tags, and so I was thrilled to find this paper in a local shop for only a couple of pounds. It might seem a lot for a sheet of wrapping paper, but I really wanted something eye catching and for me this was it.

Alternatively you could use wall paper.

This cabinet was perfect to glue a strip of paper to the doors, but if you find you just want to add some colour or design to a bookshelf the why not add your paper to back of the shelves.

By this stage I was far too excited to see the finished piece than to allow the fact that I didn't have the right glue stop me. I wrongly used PVA glue, and I think it was to my detriment. I applied the glue straight onto the paper and then stuck it up. I trimmed off the extra paper with a sharp pen knife. The glue has done it's job but the paper did bubble a little. If I had been more patient I should have used a spray on glue.

Anyway, I am so thrilled that I have created an Orla Kiely Vintage Style Cabinet in less than an hour (plus drying time) for such little money, and I would strongly encourage you to find a tired piece of furniture and find time to breath new life into it with these simple techniques!