Been MIA for a bit…

…and “missing in ACTION” it certainly has been. My feet haven’t touched the ground for the last couple of months, but it’s been great. You know you’re actually reaching people when someone walks into your shop and the first thing they say is, “Aha! That’s the very sofa itself! I read about that on your blog!” And indeed she (and her husband too) have spent some time cosily esconced on said sofa, over the last few days, weaving happily away on their new-to-them peg loom and cutting rags into strips.

I’m just beginning to find my feet now and find a little time for writing – which is just as well, as I have an article to write before going off on holiday. It may seem a little perverse, trotting off on holiday just when things were getting off the ground, but believe me, I need it…

I’ve been surprised and delighted by how I do seem to have found a real gap in the market; people are genuinely pleased to find affordable stuff and somewhere they can just try things out. They may already be expert-level at, say, P&Q, but wanting to have a go at crochet, without committing to weeks of lessons or a jumper’s-worth of yarn. Or professional cardmakers who’ve always wanted to try their hand at knitting. I’ve done a whole lot of wet-felting, too; seems to be the one thing everyone wants a go at, even people who’ve done it many times before!

Here’s a link to a nice tribute from one of my friends – great to see you last week, Carrie! – and here’s one to our local newspaper’s account. And below is something I made earlier… it’s great to have some time & space just to sit & make things, and a good excuse to do so!

It’s been a while…

…because I’ve been busy. Very very busy, in fact, in the nicest possible way, because there suddenly seems to be a lot of interest in what I’m doing, So I’m taking the plunge & have rented a small workshop/shop in the centre of our little town, to open up TheCraftSpace.co; website to be set up over the next few days.
I’m really excited but there’s a lot of work to do; the unit needs painting & some other stuff like hot water & flooring sorted out, and I’m trying to source just about all the fittings secondhand, recycled or reclaimed, with one or two exceptions for electrical safety’s sake. There’s a side room for my VintageCraftStuff, and also some gallery space to display our own creations and those of other local crafters. There’ll be human-powered sewing machines & spinning wheels, giant knitting needles, inkle looms, spinning & felting supplies, handspun yarn, and reclaimed fabric, yarn and buttons for sale, and of course, books and magazines… open for retail Mon-Fri, 11-4 pm.
The idea is to run FREE lunchtime “craftalong” sessions – bring your sarnies, or buy something yummie & inexpensive from the Riverside Cafe next door, and sit & stitch/knit/crochet/whittle – whatever, as long as it’s creative! – for free in good company, anytime from 12-2 pm. Then 2-4 pm will be inexpensive have-a-go themed workshops, probably about £4 per person including materials (if it can be done) on simple basic stuff – cardmaking, scrapbooking, bookmaking, wet felting, needlefelting, learn to spin/knit/crochet/stiitch – and there will be expert workshops in the evenings & some weekends, with more advanced tutors. Everything will be small scale, partly because of space limitations but also because it’s nicer & easier to learn that way.
There’s a little garden space at the back to grow a few dye plants, herbs & flowers in tubs & baskets, and sit & stitch or spin in the sunshine on nice days. The river runs right outside the door, so it’s a very green & natural space for a town-centre location.
So I’m really, really busy trying to sort all the background stuff like insurance, website & fittings out right now. I’ll post again just before we open, so wish me luck, watch this space & plan to come & visit us when you’re down this way!

I promised…

…that the next one would be made entirely with recycled materials. And here it is! Old seersucker tablecoths, and a couple of shirts, to be precise. All gleaned from charity shops or the Tip; the batting is a fleece baby blanket that someone had no further use for, although it was as good as new & could easily have been donated to a charity shop. But it wasn’t…  The thread (two colours only) was rescued from old sewing machines or sewing boxes & was still strong, the backing & self-binding was a length of calico that used to line our kitchen curtains and the ribbon came from a whole roll that turned up in a Freecycled sewing box.  It’s a cot-size “strippy-raggy” quilt, for want of a precise description! Fun & very quick to make, but also very textural & soft from a baby’s point of view.

I had fun with the machine quilting, as you can see, and tried out lots of different “patterns”. Some were much easier than others. Bear in mind that my 1909 Jones Medium treadle is extremely easy to use, but only goes forwards and doesn’t automatically adjust stitch lengths or automatically do anything at all except look cheerful!

All in all I’m rather pleased with it & may have to make several more – if only because I now have a big bag of seersucker strips in a wide variety of colours!

Recycled resources?

Strippy quilt front

Here’s a conundrum – is this cheating, or not?

I’ve always felt that quilts should be made from scraps, offcuts or fabric that’s otherwise unwanted; going out & buying fabric to make a quilt seems to make a mockery of the spirit of the artform. My head knows that quilts made from fresh fabric will last longer, that there’s no shortage of it, and that by buying in your fabrics, you’ll get exactly what you want, or near enough. But still… as practical recycling goes, a patchwork quilt made from recycled & reclaimed fabrics is one of the ultimate achievements, as well as being a lovely warm thing to enhance your home or wrap around yourself on a cold winter’s day. So my heart thinks all patchwork quilts should be masterpieces of the recycler’s art. This conviction of mine is probably why I have several bags full of partially-made quilt tops that have somehow ground to a halt or hit a metaphorical buffer one way or another, whilst I wait for the right fabric to turn up. Sadly, at least one intended recipient has actually passed away whilst their quilt has remained unfinished… it’s a good job she never knew I meant to  make her one.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, just before Christmas I was lucky enough to sell some items I had only just realised were surplus to requirements. I’d also spotted what looked like a very quick & easily-achieveable method of piecing a quilt top whilst idly following links from one crafting blog to another. Having some spare funds kicking around in my PayPal account, I took the plunge on New Year’s Eve & bought myself a “stripper” or “jelly roll” which arrived very quickly. I sat down with it at 9 pm on Tuesday evening; by the same time on Wednesday I had a completed “strippy” quilt top as well as having done all the normal household tasks for the day. And by Friday evening it was machine-quilted, bound & finished! It’s not a grand job but it’s functional & quite pretty & I’m pleased with it. I’m also ready to get out my cutter & start cutting strips from  my mountain of reclaimed fabric; this method is fast & very, very do-able. I love looking at art quilts & fantastically complex pieces of patchwork, but I know I haven’t really got the patience – or, in fact, the spare time – to tackle a project that’s going to take hours of calculations, months of work, & completely accurate piecing and stitching. But fast & furious is immensely managable…

So – my justification is that by buying this fabric, I’ve broken through a barrier & realised that making useful quilts doesn’t have to take months., if not years. And I do feel that in a sense, it was at least done with recycled cash, since the funds came from the sale of other craft items. If I can ever find the blog again, I’ll post a link to how it’s done so that anyone else who’s always meant to “have a go” can do so; if I can’t (and I’ve been looking for it all week) I’ll post a “how-to” as another page.  And the next quilt will be made with recycled fabric…

Strippy quilt - back view

My name’s Angie and I’m an addict…

“Oh dear… Prepare to do your own washing and cook your own tea for a few weeks. Mum’s been to the car boot sale…”

There are times when you’re brought face to face with your weaknesses, and I well know that one of mine is a total, slavish addiction to 1970s handicraft magazines, the “Golden Hands” series in particular. So you can imagine my delight when I spotted the familiar logo through the sides of a battered plastic box at the car boot sale. “How much are the mags?” I enquired, trying to sound casual, flicking through a couple on the top. “Ooooh, I don’t know…” the vendor muttered, turning to her husband and spreading her hands. “What would you think – about one pound for the box?” “What, for all of them?!” I gasped, all pretence at disinterest shattered. “Yes, all of them – and you could take this fabric, too. Please…” They were having a loft conversion and just needed shot of everything that had been up there. She was clearly someone who had been a more-than-competent creative dabbler in the past; I think she was pleased to find someone who still valued them.

Well, I can’t believe my luck. In that box, as well as some of the standard GHs, there are all 15 of the sequel magazine, “GH New Guide”, 81 of the 98 issues of the GH Encyclopedia of Crafts and one issue of GH Monthly – I already have a few more of those. I have hunted down over the years, & now own, a full set of the standard series, so those will end up in my shop, but I didn’t have any of the Encyclopedias & now I only have 17 left to find! But better still, there was one issue of something called “Fashion Maker – the GH encyclopedia of patterns for everything you will ever want to make” which I’d no idea existed. It came in 98 parts, so there are 97 of those left to hunt for, provided they printed the whole set – that should keep me happily occupied for ages!

The reason I love these magazines so much is that they actually tell you how to do things from the bottom up. Some of the projects are dated, but most of them can be modernised extremely easily and to great effect, with a little imagination. Modern craft mags, or at least those easily available on the high street, sadly have a tendency to be 90% product placement & adverts, 10% patterns & techniques, and though I do crack & buy them sometimes, I’m nearly always disappointed & wish I’d saved my money for supplies instead. But good basic designs & techniques remain the same; the colours & the necklines (not to mention the hairstyles!) may have changed, but many of the patterns from 35 years ago would look perfectly at home at any gathering of Ravellers today. And I’ve got a whole host of new ideas & projects to tackle already, although I’ve only looked inside a few of them so far.

So I’m well-chuffed. But I’m finding it remarkably easy to lose all track of time whilst gloating over my unexpected treasures; in the immortal words of Baloo in Disney’s version of The Jungle Book, I’m gone, man, solid gone…

I may be gone for some time...

Ermm…

Oh my word, I've won something!
Oh my word, I've won something!

…I’m really rather proud of myself! Joint recipient of the Balqama trophy in Recycled Materials… I can’t quite believe it. But I’m very happy about it anyway! And also that all three of my other entries received “Highly Commended” status. Well chuffed, surprised & delighted, in fact. And the judges kindly said they hoped I’d make more of them. I do wish I’d finished the charkha in time to show it, because as far as I remember there was nothing else like it there, but oh well, maybe next year…? And I already have some other ideas for practical handmade recycled items…

More practical recycling - one of my denim aprons...
More practical recycling - one of my denim aprons...

Going flat out…

…at the moment, finishing my entries for the upcoming Dorset Arts & Crafts exhibition next weekend. I’m not 100% sure my entries made it in time, as I’d lost my schedule and whacked them in at the last possible moment, but at least I did get around to entering! If I have time tomorrow or at the weekend, I will post a couple of pics of my efforts. I’m not expecting any great accolades; I’m an amateur and very much a have-a-go merchant, and there are plenty of well-experienced professionals out there, not to mention that this is my first attempt anyway. I’m hoping for some constructive criticism and pointers as to how best to improve what I do, yet I’m aware that not all of the judges appreciate non-traditional craft work. Anyway, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I’m sure I shall enjoy the show anyway!

Off now to do a little more last-minute quilting…