Tuesday 28 December 2010

Secret project revealed: Pac-Man Ghost T

Pac-man ghost t-shirt

It does look good. Unfortunately, the project is actually a failure. It doesn't matter how good a shirt looks if it doesn't fit. Either I need to invent a shrink ray and test it on my man (which would be inconvenient as I use him to reach the top kitchen shelf) or I need to remove the applique and put it on a slightly larger shirt. Both seem equally improbable at the moment.

The idea had been in my head for a long time, inspired by the tile graffiti by Invader. The project only really got started when I gave up on trying to figure out an easy way to do it and just started in on it using the English paper patchwork technique. Seeing the work at the V&A show was probably the tipping point into using hand working techniques.

The squares were made around 1.6 cm wide squares of thick paper, I'm guessing 90-100 gsm. I did do some maths early in the project and figured 1.5 to 2 cm would work, but the exact 1.6 came about because I bought a square hole punch that cuts to that size. Just lucky there. Because I knew the paper would be removed, and because I wanted it to stand up to working on the bus, I opted to use thick paper rather than tissue and it worked fine. If you try something like this, do remember to mark the fabric grain on the back of each paper square.

It was a slow project, mostly because I was keeping it a secret. On a good day, 2-3 squares would be sewn on during the commute, and I'd make up 2-3 more squares on my lunch break. I couldn't manage to baste the fabric onto the paper squares on the bus, but sewing them together was fine. The biggest problem was rethreading the needle- I'd wait until the bus was at a stop.

After months of working on it, it was really gutting to have it not fit. P is really sweet and said it was nice anyway, but I'm still irked by it. I know I should just get another t-shirt, make sure it does fit, then carefully remove the applique and put it onto the new shirt. I know it won't be that hard. But I'm still disappointed.

Monday 13 December 2010

My prerogative, or something like that

On the bus this morning, a kid was teaching his younger brother how to spell ‘apple’:

Elder: Ah-puh-puh-luh-eh,
Younger: Puh-,
Elder: No, Ah-puh-puh-luh-eh
Younger (eventually):  Ah-puh-puh-luh-eh
Elder: That’s right, Ah-puh-puh-luh-eh.
Younger:  Can you spell tangerine?
Elder (after a pause): Well, no.

I thought it was hilarious.

My patching idea for the Make-do-and-Mend bag has changed a bit. I did some darning on two corners, which I’m really not good at. And now, I’ve started a patch on a third, but not with fabric from the old friend’s umbrella. I had thought it would be nice to use a fabric that had a personal meaning. Like an old-timey patchwork quilt, where every fabric had a different story. But that umbrella has a powerful floral pattern, and I've got a lot of mixed feelings about losing that friendship. It all just made me reticent.

That's actually a phrase from that friendship. I can't remember how it originated with us, and it probably involved a few other friends, but if there was something we knew we ought to do, but didn't want to, and couldn't quite put into words why we felt that way, we'd just say, "I'm reticent." So much fancier than saying "lazy".

Anyway, I'm using scraps from a plain black umbrella instead. (Someday, I'll explain to the world about Manchester and umbrellas, but not today.) My issues with lost friendships can stay on the shelf for now.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Extra Gift

mended topWhen I picked up my shirt at the Mending Project it came with an extra gift: a saftey pin that was holding the name label to it. A nice, reusable exta! Lee Mingwei's mending was also much admired in the office on Monday.

On the way to Liverpool I was working on another secret project (yes, that does mean the other secret project is done!). It struck me that my fellow passangers who were using their phones had much the same pose as me, attention focused on small movements of their hands. Interesting.

Once this second secret project is done, it's back to mending the Made Do and Mend bag. Then it will be the mermaid story. Both before the holiday break. I feel tired already.

Monday 22 November 2010

there is another

Another embroiderer on the 192!

Heading home from work, I saw her get off the bus at my stop. I did a bit of a double take, registering that yes, that was an embroidery hoop she was carrying, and there was a needle in her other hand. A quick chat and a nosey: She said other people knit on the bus, so she embroiders, and the piece she's working on isn't suposed to look perfect, so the occasional odd size stitch doesn't bother her. Her work was in mostly long and short stitch (I think), I think the dark border was finished, and a scatter of stars, but there was a figure and some foliage still to do. I wished her "Happy stitching" and scurried onto the bus.

Sunday 21 November 2010

slow poke

The Manchester to Leeds train takes 55 mins. On the round  trip I completed 3 parsnips.

mending embroidery

The plastic lining on my Parsnips bag (the replacement of the not yet mended Make do and Mend bag) was tearing away at the top. A bit of duck tape nearly solved the problem, but it didn't stick in the bits where the lining had come completely away from the fabric. Obviously, this was a situation for a bit of embroidery. Some green fly stitch and straight stitch, with a white detatched crossed chain stitch laced through. It looks enough like a pasnip to satisfy me. But I am a bit surprised that it takes me so long to stich them.

Oh, and yes, embroidering through duck tape does leave sticky stuff on the needle, but it scrapes off easily. What a useful thing to know!

Tuesday 9 November 2010

dark evenings and magic lantern review

Because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis plus the country changing the clocks back, it’s a bit dark to do needlework on the bus home. So now I work on the secret project in the morning, and in the evening I read about how to manage anger and irritability. It’s hard for me to get my head around thinking more “helpfully” about things that make me angry, but I’m just not going to get upset about that.

Yesterday, we went to a brilliant Magic Lantern by Professor Heard at the John Rylands Library. Fantastic colours! Stuff that was painted 200 yrs ago looked so clear and vibrant. The slides were all hand painted, though some use early photo techniques to make a black and white image to be painted over. The professor has seen photos of the painting being done, mostly by women and he had never seen one with a magnifying glass. Consider that a 2cm painted angel was projected to 1m on the screen, and you’ll understand how skilful these slide painters were. The machine itself looked really cool, too, with all the shiny brass knobs and lenses like cannons.

Am I now wishing for a Magic Lantern, you may ask? Well, no. They are cool, but as the Professor pointed out, they are used for a performance before a live audience. Not something I want to do. But I am curious about combining them with shadow puppets.

Also saw a little exhibit on early photography at the library, including what I think was a Holmes type stereoscope. Now I would like to try that- two pictures taken from a left and right eye standpoint, then put in a viewer that held them so each eye saw only the appropriate image to give a 3D effect. It seems like the perfect way to show off dolls and such. I wonder if there are any plans for them available on the interwebs?

Friday 29 October 2010


See a pin and pick it upPhoto credit: My P, aka binaryape on Flickr, took this photo the other day, on his way to work. I’ve also been stepping over the spill of pins on my way to the office, and yesterday I stopped resisting the temptation to pick them up. A few years ago, my then joint managers gave me some strong magnets as a Xmas present (I was covering over the holiday period, and not only did they feel a bit guilty, but they are both nice, gift-giving types, and knew I would love the magnets) which I usually use to hold a phone list to my in-trays. The magnets are very good for picking up pins as well.

When I first saw the spill, I thought someone had just dropped a new box of pins, possibly someone in the garment industry that still exists locally, even if it couldn’t be described as thriving. However, closer investigation shows that the pins are actually a mix of different types of pins and needles, more like a collection than a fresh box of supplies. Though it could still be from a professional, I suspect the pins may have been dropped by someone more like me, a craft enthusiast, who experienced a supplies box failure while walking down the street, maybe to go to a sewing course or something like that. Or it could have been a student.

Anyway, I now have a collection of dirty, rusted and/or bent pins and needles, plus some possibly usable ones. Why would I want them? Well, recently we re-watched the Street of Crocodiles, and it made me want to make spooky dolls, using bits of wire and old light bulbs. (As an aside, another of the shorts on that CD featured using magnets, and now I’m wondering if that’s what linked the two things in my mind?) The pins would be excellent for that type of thing. And until I get around to that, they don’t add that much to my piles of stuff to craft with. Not really. Honest.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Moles Bowls Goals

I've been using Joe's Goals for a month now, and, well, it's nice. I like how simple it is, and I am the sort of person who can be motivated by putting a green tick on a form. Yes, a bit sad, maybe a bit neurotic, but it gives a certain satisfaction to know that in the past month I've managed to work on the secret project 12 times. It also produces a low level of panic about finishing the project on time.

I'm toying with the idea of using Joe's Goals to track what I'm starting to call my 40 Things Year. Next year I'll be 40. To celebrate, I'm trying to come up with 40 things to do 40 times, like do 40 sketch crawls, or 40 evenings reading in bed. I've not come up with the full 40 yet, but I hope to get it worked out and in the goals list for the end of the year. (Part of me is saying I should check out other goal tracking aps, but I'm just ignoring that, because checking out aps is not my idea of fun.)

As part of my effort to get a good start on next year, I really want to finish off 5 of my current projects THIS YEAR:

  1. The Secret Project, which is taking up most of my bus crafting time at the moment, making this blogging business a bit more difficult because it's a secret!

  2. Mending the Make do and Mend bag

  3. That clanger- armature, clothes and everything

  4. The wire storage baskets- one is mostly done but I've started on 3 others that are storing nothing at the moment

  5. A story about a mermaid, a rough draft at the moment that needs to be thrown away and rewritten from scratch

I often get to the point where I feel burdened by a project, I'll start to refer to it as an albatros. None of these five are at that stage yet, but I'm not totally enthused by any of them either. But I do want to have them done. And I'm curious, can I finish all five by 31 December?



Saturday 16 October 2010

No lo se nada

I went to see Miguelanxo Prado's talk about his work as a comic artist. It was a learning experience. I didn't know what the site meant when it said the event would be in Spanish with simultaneous translation. What it means, is that you wear headphones with a broadcast from a translator at the back of the room, like at the UN. I figured that out when it dawned on me that the speakers were only using Spanish, and a sizeable part of the audience was wearing headphones. By that time, I felt too awkward to go over to the wine table and explain that I need the headphones. Yes, I am that silly. I did understand the bit at the start about Altimira, and the bit at the end about the importance of the gap between frames, but I totally missed the Margaret Thatcher joke.

I was impressed by Mr Prado's enthusiasm for comics. No translation needed for that.

Friday 1 October 2010

Review of the Mending Project and other stuff at the Liverpool Biennial


With encouragement from P and colleagues at the office, I took the afternoon off last Wednesday so I could go to the Mending Project while Lee Mingwei was there. He was doing the work only for the first two weeks of the biennial, and because I wasn’t organized on the weekends, I had to take an afternoon off at short notice. I had seen a piece about it on the local news (thanks to P) and was very excited about it. Possibly so excited that I was driving other people crazy talking about how I wanted to go, but I had a lot to do at the office, but it would be such a shame to miss it, etc.; and that could be the reason people were so encouraging for me to just go already!

It took me a while to decide which garment I wanted to have mended. The jumper I’d been wearing at work until I finally notice a huge hole in the arm? The denim jacket I’ve treasured since a friend gave it to me in college? The striped shirt in my current mending pile? Yes, I could continue listing my clothes with holes for quite a while.

I finally decided on a tan shirt, which I remember my mom buying at a garage sale because it looked warm. This may be a false memory, or a mash up of two different incidents, but anyway, I’ve had the shirt a while. It’s difficult to describe why I like it- it’s a synthetic, and a rather dull tan, but I like the way it hangs in a sort of saggy way. There were two little holes in the back which I had tried to mend years ago, but I gave up wearing it when I noticed another little hole in the front. When Lee Mingwei saw it, he sort of teased me that no one would notice the hole when I was wearing it, but he understood how since I knew it was there, I would feel like everyone would notice. It made me reflect that I usually only notice people’s clothes when it’s something I like. His mending with bright threads forming a tassel will definitely be noticed.

He asked me if I was an artist and I rather awkwardly explained how I didn’t think of myself that way. I asked how he felt about someone else taking over working in the project next week. He said that the sharing of the project was part of it, he’s enthused about the other people participating in it, ‘I told them, once you sit here, it’s your project.’ He didn’t use the term control freak, but making the project open to others is a positive part of his whole idea of the Mending Project.  It reminded me of the open source software ethos. Though the Mending Project uses thread and fabric, it is much more about ideas: involvement, making contact and giving, creating value.

I also asked how he had selected the threads for the project. A friend at the office said they were like a rainbow on the walls of the workspace. Turns out, he had ordered them as a selection pack!

I strongly encourage anyone to go to the Mending Project while it is in Liverpool, and do take a garment to be mended, have a chat with whichever artist is there, and just enjoy participating. I found it quite inspiring, and I’m wondering if I could do a similar sort of thing by returning the lost buttons I’ve been collecting.

If you do go to the Mending Project, let me know if you see my old tan shirt there. When I pick it up at the end of the show, I will start wearing it to the office again, so plenty of people will get a chance to see it as I sit on the bus.

While in Liverpool, I went along to some of the other pieces in the biennial. Lots are video installations, which aren’t really my thing (perhaps I’m too impatient for them). I liked Bridging Home by Do Ho Suh, and there’s lots of graffiti in that area, too. For fabric enthusiasts, and for anyone else really, Ndize by Nicholas Hlobo at the Bluecoat is just a brilliant experience. The intricate work on the rubber and ribbon outfits appeals to my fabric senses, but walking through the maze of ribbons in the room upstairs, well, I just don't have the words to describe it. Sensual, beautiful, and just a little bit scary.

glimpse of Ndize
On a crafting note, I made progress on the Secret Project on the train, but that’s all I’m saying. It’s  bad enough that P knows there is a Secret Project.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Headphones Covered

covered headphones

Finished project report! I'm quite pleased with my knitted headphone covers. It was a good experimental knitting project, figuring out how to make the covers and then doing it again and again to get it right. Because it was a trial and error process, at first I didn't think it would be worthwhile to blog the instructions. And besides, just how many people with old headphones would want to knit new covers for them? But then I realized that the knitted covers are a nice way to personalize a mass produced item, and plenty of knitters would like to do that. Even if the instructions for my covers don't work perfectly for someone else's headphones, it would be a place to start. So, here's the tutorial:

Covers for Sony Dynamic Studio Headhones MDR-V300 using 2 1/2 mm knitting needles and a bit of organic cotton yarn

Cast on 58 stitches. Knit a row, then purl a row for 13 rows. (Some people call this stocking stitch, but there seems to be different ways of counting rows of ss. Your headhone covers may need more or less rows to cover- it took me 3 tries to get a good fit.)

Start decreasing. Depending on if your last row was a knit or a purl, do the oposite and purl or knit 9 stitches, then two together, then another 9 stitches, then another two together, until you finish the row. My rows finished with 3 stitches after the last two together stitch. So on the next row, I started with 3 stitches, then 2 together then 8 stitches. This will all vary by size and tension, but here is what I ended up doing:
Row 14: knit 9, knit 2 together,knit 9, knit 2 together, knit 9, knit 2 together, knit 9, knit 2 together, knit 9, knit 2 together, knit 3
Row 15: purl 3, purl 2 together, purl 8, purl 2 together, purl 8, purl 2 together, purl 8, purl 2 together, purl 8, purl 2 together, purl 8
Row 16: knit 7, knit 2 together, repeat to end of row which will be just 3 knit stitches
Row 17: purl 3, purl 2 together, purl 6, repeat to end
Row 18: knit 5, knit 2 together, repeat to end which will be just 3 knit stitches
Row 19: purl 3, purl 2 together, purl 4, repeat to end
Row 20: knit 2 together for entire row
Cast off, leaving a thread long enough to sew up the edges and gather round the ear piece. Check it against the ear piece. It should fit over with just a bit of stretching. If it doesn't fit, note down what to try different and pull it out and start over.

If it does fit, start the sewing up with the thread left at the end, then put the cover on the ear piece to sew it over the wires, then continue the thread around the outer edge gathering it to fit. Tie it off to the thread at the start of the piece and trim or tuck in the ends. Put them on, plug them in and play some good tunes.

Now, that's the way I've done it, but I have a feeling there's loads of tweaks and improvements that could be made. I'm not that great at knitting, so adding patterns, ruffles, tassells, etc. is a bit beyond me, but the headphone covers as an idea could definitely be taken further. Or, the covers can be simple and functional, like mine.

So, for the analysis:

before, during and afterThe good: The covers have made the headphones usable again, which is nice. And I do like the way they are 'peronalized' now.

The bad: Because this project sat in my to-do pile so long (and by that I do mean years), P has new headphones and so doesn't need these now.

The ugly: I am a bit bothered by the way the casting off stitches stand up. This is probably due to my awkwardness in casting off rather than the pattern itself.


Sunday 19 September 2010

Review of Hat Works Decade Parade

Though I don't consider myself a hat person, I do like to go to the exhibits at the Hat Works. Yes, some of my enjoyment is just because I can go on there on my lunch break, taking a break from sitting at a desk all day. However, they do put on some inspiring stuff, and I always come away with ideas to try in my own crafting.

The current show (on until 28 November 2010) is a competition to celebrate their 10th anniversary. I have no idea how they came up with the idea of a miniature hat competition- it's not what would have sprung to my mind. But the show is full of interesting fabric sculpting ideas, so I'm very glad they put it on.

hatworks review scanI actually went to the show before going on vacation, but because I couldn't remember the makers' names, I went back last week and MADE NOTES! So, now I can blog without making constant apologies for missing people's names.

I'm just putting down what caught my eye, what I want to remember for my own crafting projects, but really, I want to thank everyone who participated in the show. It's packed with clever, quality work, and I feel like seeing such a variety of work helps me understand more about what I'm personally interested in. (Does that sound totally self-centered, or only moderately self-centered?)

  • Molly Bunce is the competition winner in the professional strand. Lots of what I would call fabric manipulation- making little bundles tied around what I assume are cut out shapes or bits of stuffing. Very interesting, organic shapes, reminds me of lichen. I'm wondering if it can be applied to quilting.

  • Judith Flack's Le Souk features wonderfully frayed rolls of hand dyed fabric.

  • Recycled Haberdashery by Ruth McGarry has what looks like a hessian base, a surprising choice for a feminine hat but I really liked it. Her fabric flowers with the blue yarn centers really caught my eye, and obviously I liked the recycled aspect or the piece.

  • I'm also thinking about using something like the little bouquets stuffed into fabric folds in Vernoica Hartley's Contrasts in a quilt. It reminds me of the encrusted crazy quilting Sharon B does, perhaps because of all the rich colour and texture.

  • Using the edge of braid/ribbon to build up a shape, Lorna Muir's Dansette looks so clever. I've wondered about something similar with folds of fabric, and her work made me realise how it would work.

  • I adore the flower on Striped Suprise by Laura Hankey. The petals are of two pieces of fabric, sewn, turned, stitched down. I've seen similar, simpler flowers as quilt embellishments (my google-fu is too weak to find it again), but the one on the hat had loads of petals, inner ones plain red and larger outer ones in a blue stripe fabric! I wouldn't have thought of striped fabric for petals, and it looks so good!

  • The woven ribbons on Maureen Brook's Buttons, bits and bobs makes me want to play with the ribbons I've collected over the years. My ribbon box is too full to close completely. Perhaps I should do a piece of weaving just to tidy things up.

Friday 17 September 2010

Legs! Brilliant!!!

I was knitting on the bus this morning, and I overheard a kid talking to a friend. "I don't know how you'd get there. Oh, you could walk! Because you have legs!"

I am so mature, that I concentrated on the knitting until they got off to go to school. Then I started giggling. Makes me glad to have legs.

On the way home, a bit of a faux pas. I didn't realize the older lady getting on the crowded bus really did need to sit. Luckily, a woman sitting behind me did realize and gave up her seat. Feel like I didn't read the situation as well as I should have.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Knitting report

It takes about a week to knit one earpiece cover on the bus. Since I've been knitting for two weeks, does that mean I've got a finished project to report on? Um, well, er...

The problem is, that I've twice made covers that are just too big. The first was too big all round, so I pulled it out and started again. The second was the right circumference, but too long and didn't taper enough. I did make notes along the way, so I know what to adjust for my third attempt. Hopefully it will be a Goldilocks just right, and I can finish the project completely in another two weeks.

I missed posting on my blogoversary last week. I had intended to do a big year in review and current projects run down, kind of a planning exercise. But I was feeling tired, like I was trying to do too much, and it just didn't feel like fun. So writing that post is on my to-do list, which seems a bit counterproductive, but that's ok.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Book report.

Moby Dick or, The White Whale, Herman Melville, 1851

Finally, I finished reading Moby Dick yesterday. Yes, it did take two months to get through. As I’m sure there are plenty of people who know of the book and may be tempted to read it someday, I won’t spoil the ending. If you like the first chapter, it is worth it to finish the whole thing, take your time. It doesn’t dribble out towards the end. The very last sentence packs an emotional punch.

If you don’t like the first chapter, put it down; it starts as it continues. Melville is very fond of fancy-talk, complicated words, cultural references and phrases like poetry. At one point, he seems a bit over fond of the word “monomaniacal” but he gets past that.  From the foreword, it seems the Melville was wanting to explore the nature of truth and human existence, using symbolism with multiple and sometimes contradictory meanings. The characters and situations aren’t supposed to feel realistic, but to explain deeper meanings. Without the foreword, I wouldn’t have understood that. I can only say I enjoyed it for the language rather than the plot or characters. I don’t understand Ahab. That sort of motivation just isn't in my nature.

In Ishmael, Melville did create quite a character. He’s tough, but very intellectual and not at all humble about it. Generally, I think of myself as familiar enough with the classics to at least keep up with the overall meaning of a reference. But Melville’s Ishmael seems to delight in casually pointing out my cultural ignorance, as well as my ignorance of whaling (which is perfectly understandable).  I don’t think this is simply because of the 150 years that have passed. I’ve put 33 scraps of paper in the book, marking points where I just don’t know what he’s on about (the lack of access to Google on the bus is probably a blessing, otherwise I would have spent even longer looking all this stuff up). I am particularly interested in the reference to Darmonodes’ elephant.

Now, I could be wrong here, but I found Ishmael very funny, a narrator with a wicked sense of humour. From chapter 13, Wheelbarrow:  “I settled my own and comrade’s bill; using, however, my comrade’s money.” How can that not be funny? The book isn’t full of jokes, but there are points where Ishmael is poking fun, rather than just being moody. Or maybe it’s just me.

On a different note, I had a very superstitious day yesterday. Shortly after finishing the book, a black cat crossed my path, which was quite cute. The bus had stopped at a crossing point, and as it was beeping a cat jumped down from the wall on our side of the street and casually crossed to the other side. I also saw a dead pigeon, which wasn't cute. But then getting off the bus on my way home, I found an especially nice button.

Today, I'm back to knitting. P's got an old pair of headphones where the 'skin' is flaking off the ear pads. I said I would try to make covers for them, and the headphones have been in my crafting pile for, oh, about 5 years now. Hopefully it will only be another month before they are out of my pile and back into active use.

Monday 23 August 2010

My summer vacation: Helsinki

Finally awake enough to blog about our trip to Helsinki. I do feel a bit guilty about flying- all that carbon dioxide, and other pollution as well. And I also feel guilty that I didn’t recycle my drinks bottles while I was there. Yes, I should have just asked how to do it, but I feel very awkward talking to people. My bad.

We didn't see any moose or flying squirrels, but I did have a neat wildlife encounter. While trying to photograph dragonflies at Nuuksio national park, an especially large dragonfly landed on my chest, on the left side of my cardigan, exactly where a broach would be worn, like those big Art Nuevo dragonfly broaches. It was big enough to notice the weight of it. No photo because it flew away too quickly, perhaps because I was covered in insect repellent.

Nuuksio is beautiful and very quiet. My initial impression was that it was like the Lake District. But the walking is very different. The ground is bouncy, maybe because it's thin dirt over granite, or possibly something to do with the hot summer.

Helsinki is packed with cute buildings, and loads of low relief decoration. I noticed several bears with flowers, especially big ball roses. Despite having a translation of the Kalevala on my bookshelf, I’m not familiar with Finnish iconography, so I have no idea if bears have a particular symbolic meaning or not. Yes, I know bears will eat you, but they do look cute with flowers.

The ball roses in those reliefs triggered an idea to try some fabric manipulation. I’m curious about how a strip of fabric would work up if used to make a spider's web rose. I’m also inspired by some pastries and cinnamon rolls, to try to copy the shapes of the pastry in fabric, not to make a toy pastry (fabric fake food is just wrong, cruel even) but just a 3D fabric manipulation as part of a quilt or embroidery. If anything, I've been a bit over inspired by the architecture and food. It makes me want to randomly start new projects at a time when what I meant to do is concentrate on finishing stuff. What I ought to do is capture the enthusiasm in a journal, and let the ideas mature into something that I feel would work in fabric. (That's what I learned from Sharron B's course!)

holiday goodies

Helsinki has a higher craft shop per capita ratio than Manchester. I didn't find any nylon embroidery ribbon, but I did buy some thin organza ribbon instead, some cotton lace (one of my favourite things) and a foam kumihimo loom. The conversation on Craftster is still relevant. There's also Punainen Lanka, upstairs in Hakaniementori covered market, for laces and ribbons, plus other haberdashery, including petticoats! The pastries downstairs and the fruit stalls outside at the market are worth seeing, too.

To keep my crafting needs satisfied while on holiday, I had packed an old shirt with a worn out collar (the stripy background fabric in the picture here)and some embroidery thread. Careful unpicking of the collar and re-seaming with a bit of running stitch should have given me a grandfather shirt. I was feeling quite pleased with it, but then noticed another hole worn through the front of the shirt, just above the buttons. How had I missed that? Now, I don’t want to have just wasted my mending efforts, but I am a bit flummoxed about how to salvage the shirt. Maybe I should put some of that lace over it.

And today on the bus, I was back to reading Moby Dick. It's a classic but very slow read.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

too lazy for fun

On my way home from the office, I try to sit on the right side of the bus. It's to spoil myself with a better view of the clothing in the Islamic Relief shop on the way home. I dream that someday there will be room in my fabric stash to buy something there, a random treasure, brightly coloured and embroidered, to turn into a quilt block, or something.

But today, I sat on the left side; that's the side by the bus stops here. And I wasn't reading, just staring out the window. So I had a good view of the big black four hole button on the ground at the bus stop just past Longsight library.

Now, bear with me if I've explained this before, but I collect buttons. Not in the serious 'glass-imitating-jet-because-Victorians-were-like-that' button collecting way. No, the buttons I'm after are common, but special in a different way. I collect lost buttons. Someone else has the bad luck to lose a button, and then I have the good luck to find it. A little bit vicious, just a little bit, profiting off others' misfortune. (Please note: I don't fight a person for the button that has just fallen off their coat. That would be rude, and far to interactive.)

Anyway, to get back to the story, this button was an ideal specimen for my collection, but I was TOO LAZY to get off the bus. There was nothing keeping me on the bus. I wasn't in a hurry home, and traffic was moving, so the next 192 would have been only 10 minutes away at most. But instead of doing something just a little bit fun, I just sat there. Not good.

Friday 23 July 2010

A whale of a tale, a yarn

P and I both thought the crochet Tiny Whale on the Planet June blog was really cute. It reminded me of a plan for a yarn ball whale I had back when I was making Otis Redherring. I'm enjoying the book, but was missing the crafting, so something quick and easy seemed in order.

thar she blows

The flippers and flukes are crochet (ch 3, sc, dc, then finish thread, or something close to that), then attached by taking the end threads through the ball and back again. The ball started as five long loops, basically the length of the body, the ends still show at the tail. It took a few tries to get the shape looking right. The front of the head was tricky to wrap the yarn over.

I made the eyes and spout at home. The eyes are tiny bits, about 2-3 mm, cut from small drinking straws, wrapped in black embroidery thread. I checked my stash for black beads, but had none of even approximately the right size, and I just felt a really big French knot wouldn't be big enough for a whale's eyes.

I am pleased with the removable spout. My first idea was to use some craft wire, but it just didn't stick into the ball of yarn. I didn't want to use a pin (yeah, I'm a responsible adult). Looking around my craft area, I saw a bit of plastic packaging, an old container for some alfalfa sprouts, I think. Why was it in my craft area, you may ask? I had meant to cut into a template or stencil, but hadn't got around to it. Anyway, I realized I could cut a spike shape with something at the top to support the crochet plume. Again, it took a few tries, but I do like the result. It's like a pointed Y shape, with the crochet tied on and wrapped down the trunk of the Y. The crochet is just  loops chain stitch, 10 to 20 long, fastened back at the first stitch. I didn't have much of a plan and can't remember even roughly how many loops there are. I did do way too many and had to pull it out and restart.

P likes the whale and has accepted it as part of his geekosphere. He's the one who came up with the clever title for this post.

Thursday 15 July 2010

It is just me

I started following Urban Sketchers, hoping it would encourage me to sketch more. That hasn't really worked, but I've just come across a post by Gabi Campanario featuring sketches done on the bus to/from work. It can be done!

At the moment I'm feeling especially frustrated by my poor drawing skills. I'm trying to draw more, but it's like it isn't fun anymore. I do still enjoy doodling (the owl on the elephant is today's favourite).

My stash busting is stagnating. Actually, it's not stagnating, it's getting worse. I found an old wooden blind which I plan to use to make some dividers in my shelves, but it has been sitting beside my table for about a month now and I still haven't started cutting it up. The table is covered in stuff from the shelf, so I can't really use it until I get the dividers made. I've got plans for stuff, but just not doing the actual making.

And the (so-called) friend at the office retuned the cloth for the Little Red costume, due to her partner's reticence to dress up as the Big Bad for the costume party. Grr.

Sunday 11 July 2010

Rumor mongering

This is another friend of a friend story, and I may be a bit indiscreet posting it, but it's a topic I'm interested in. So I will try to make it as anonymous as I can.

There is a blogger, who does a good blog, mostly on craft related topics. Like most crafty blogs, it's cheerful and upbeat. But I've heard through the grape vine that in real life, this blogger is one of those misery guts who is always complaining about everything.

I've suspected before that the blogs I read don't lie, but aren't exactly the whole truth. My feeling is that this is the nature of blogging- it isn't a media that requires research, reflection, or to be honest, much writing skill. Not that some blogs aren't full of great writing, just that it isn't a requirement. And writing isn't as natural as talking; it's at least a step away from natural communication. So it doesn't surprise me that a blog focusing on someone's hobby is artificially cheerful.

Reader beware: Though I'm not a perpetual complainer, my blog is probably artificially cheery as well. Writing about frustration and failure isn't as fun as describing a project that is going well. And if I find something frustrating, I'll probably just quit working on it. Like I have with the comic. Grr. However, one of the reasons for this blog is for me to keep track of my creative endeavors, and figure out what works for me. (And I am vain enough to re-read my own blog.) So writing about everything, good, bad, ugly or weird, would be necessary to make the blog useful in that way.

Not that I have a crafting failure to report at the moment. Moby Dick is a good book, but it's taking me a while to get through. The language is a bit too rich for mornings when I'm still tired, or when I'm tired after slogging through spreadsheets all day. I've had to renew it, and I still haven't got out of Nantucket. It will be my "project" for a good while.

My note that the book smells good has been seconded. I left it on my desk while popping out to do some shopping, and while I was out a colleague commented on its classic styling and nice old book smell. Other colleagues were reminded of Scully from the X-Files.

Wednesday 30 June 2010

Thinking about neighbourhoods

If someone told me I couldn’t move to a posh neighbourhood because I couldn’t afford it, I’d understand that. But if they said I couldn’t live there because my parents had no connections there, I’d think they were spouting nonsense.

So it makes me wonder, why do I think it’s normal for nations to do this? What is so fundamentally different between a neighbourhood and a nation? I can fully accept that as an immigrant, I’ve got more of an emotional investment in this issue than many people, but still, it makes me wonder.

Sunday 27 June 2010

Finished Quilt!

Now that the hottest weekend is here, I've finished the quilt!

And though it isn't the weather to use a quilt in, it is good for drying it after the first washing it's had since 2007.

The good: warm, love the soft textures and colours of the fabrics. I like how the fabrics are all re-used, from clothing or curtains, and the stuffing is from an old pillow. And it is a finished project- woo hoo!

The bad: why did this take SO LONG? Definitely have negative feelings towards it because it was in my to-do pile for 3 YEARS. It would be different if it was a difficult project, but really, it was easy to put together, just hard to stay motivated to finish it.

The ugly: the zigzag stitch around the edge. Grr. The design gives a crenelated edge on the sides, so I'm not going to even think about binding it. What I'm considering is another line or two of the same zigzag stitch in different colours of thread, maybe a green and a white. Or maybe as the edges fray they will look better.

The quilt has cleared out a bit of my fabric stash, but with almost perfect timing my parents sent me more, 1 lb 8 oz according to the customs tag. (I especially like the pumpkin-orange fabric, so this isn't really a complaint.)

Last weekend, I went to the big historical quilt show at the V&A which did help with the motivation to finish my quilt. It was a stroke of luck: in a "what are your plans for the weekend" conversation on Friday, a friend at the office mentioned how her man was going to move a truck instead of accompanying her to the show, so she had spare tickets to the show and to London! We had a great time.

from the V&A quilt show

Rather than writing a boring essay on how I'm not into fancy quilts, I'll just stick to my favourite things:

  • Matching of pattern to shape- especially the patterns of the animal aplique on the quilt they used for the tea towel print, but also diagonal patterns on squares giving the impression of more, smaller triangles

  • Building up images (birds, butterflies, pinwheels, roses, etc.) from small bits of several different fabrics

  • Using cross-stitch to stitch on aplique, as on the Australian prison ship quilt, or large-ish straight stitches to add detail to the edge of the leaves like on the quilt featuring Aesop's fables

  • Gathered border around scallop-shape blocks, brilliant solution to matching all those curves but also a lovely additional texture

  • Machine stitching in the "white space" of letters, so the text is all puffy (This was from a modern quilt, but as per usual, I forgot to note who made it! I'm awful.)

Friday 25 June 2010

Buscraft Envy

This morning, the kid sitting next to me was drawing on the bus, and doing a good job, too. His pencil was dull with no eraser, but he made a great dalek caught in a power beam and a Dr Who holding out his sonic screwdriver- the perspective was great, with the hand held out being the size of the Dr's body, but I'm not sure which Dr it was. The kid's mom lectured him that big boys get up early to get to school on time.

My copy of Moby Dick has a classic library smell, just lovely. I like the way it starts with etemology and extracts.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Eek! Its back!

I've finished the darning on the heart patch. These are pictures of the bag turned inside out. The shame. I know it's a good idea to keep the reverse side of embroidery neat, but I've been a bit negligent, especially with that pink thread- it's just all over the place! It means I've got to line the back before I start using it again, and it still needs the patches put on. So, at the moment it is sitting in my crafting pile, waiting until I get the energy together to finish it. The buscrafting stage is over. I'll put up a picture of the front of the embroidery when I actually finish the entire mending project.back of the blackworkback of the heart

I'm a bit dispirited that my buscrafting has resulted in another half-finished project. Today, I revisited another half-finished project, the clanger, and only have to cast off to finish the knitting. The 192 has been a bit empty this week, so I didn't feel so awkward waving the knitting needles around. Tomorrow I hope to do the crochet for the fingers, then that too will go into the crafting-at-home pile. I'm off work at the start of next week, so maybe I will finish a few of the projects that have been hanging around.

I'm planning to just read on the bus for a bit. Possibly because of hearing Mr Scruff's "Shanty Town" so often, I've checked out Moby Dick. It's one of those classics I have no idea about.

Thursday 10 June 2010

Pigeons, buttons, but not comics

Don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here before, but pigeons are my favourite birds, and I do mean the ordinary kind, commonly seen on our streets. I’ve been a bit distressed, or maybe jinxed, this week because there are two dead pigeons on my walk to the bus stop. But today I had a cheerful pigeon moment: I was walking through the shopping precinct in Stockport, and noticed a bus heading along the road about to run into two rather slow-on-the-uptake pigeons. But the driver slowed down and they had the chance to fly away. I’m glad about that.

Another thing making me happy is the darning on the Make do and Mend bag. There was a point, about a third of the way in, when it seemed to be all wrong. Now, with just under a quarter left to go, I’m loving the way it looks.

Progress has been made on the stash busting project, too. A friend at the office needed a little red riding hood costume, and took a sizable weight of red fabric off me to make one. Yay!

blackwork buttonThe guild meeting last weekend was really good. Angela did another button workshop, and despite having missed the materials list at last month’s meeting, I made this rather spiffy fabric button. The embroidery was done in the blackwork workshop, and it had just been hanging around in my embroidery bag since then. Lucky for me, it was the perfect size to fit the plastic snap together buttons that Angela was demonstrating. Super easy. She pointed out that a button is an excellent way to show off a small bit of embroidery, something like a practice piece that worked out nicely. Must say, she’s absolutely right!

The only bad thing going on is the comic book. My drawing energy has leaked away. Some ideas about what's going wrong:

  • I'm tired

  • I'm disappointed that I can't draw in the classic comic book style which is how I imagined it

  • Daunted by the idea of scanning, redrawing and figuring out how to print it

  • It's a bigger project than I thought it was going to be, and I have a feeling it will just drag on and on.

Back to happy notes (sorry, this post is getting to be like the Sound of Music): my lunch today was cereal in a bento box. Yogurt, milk and raisins in one part, wheat flakes and flaked coconut in the other. Worked well and was very tasty. Now, off to watch Ponyo.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

I heart Jane

I stopped darning early on the way home, so I was staring out the window at the roundabout and saw a jeep decorated with the Serenity logo. Cool. Reminded me how much I enjoyed the whole Firefly thing.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Review of Treasure from Trash

I saw the display for this show in the Hat Works window last week, and I popped in there today. It's just a small show, but very interesting. It's only on for another week before moving on, so I'm glad I took a long lunch break to check it out. Know trash put the exhibit together, and if I understand right, it was at the Eden Project before coming up here.


  • One of those Senegalese suitcases lined with old comic papers, I love these

  • Paper beads from Beads for Life, which are a lot classier than the ones I remember making in grade school

  • Cool frames by re-Tread or Tread, the tread patterns are like carved wooden frames

  • Bag made of small rolls of paper woven over with tread

  • Moroccan trend of covering raffia bags with scraps of brocades and braiding, the description says it makes them stronger; reminds me of fancy crazy quilting

  • Hat, fascinator and beret from the fabric from just one old shirt (wish I had written down the maker's name!)

  • Super cute patchwork chicken on a pillow

I've been filled with ideas about how to use the plastic stuff I've collected over the years. Lots of inspiration for mixing different materials. I know I should put these in my journal, but I've got a sinus headache going on, so it will have to wait until I'm happier in the head.

Saturday 22 May 2010

Oh darn it

Last Saturday, instead of being a can-do-crafter, I fell into the bad habit
of indecision and procrastination. In part of my brain, I've decided to
cut up the old umbrella I inherited from a friend (over a decade ago
and I've fallen out of touch with her now) to make the patches for the
Make do and Mend bag. But there's another part of my brain, the
reticent part, that wants to just leave things as they are, because you
never know when a better idea will come along, and you don't want to
spoil things now, because you'll feel stupid about it later. On the
weekend, reticent brain won.

darning startingInstead of patching, this week I started the
darning on the other side of the bag. I used some dressmakers chalk to
trace around a cut out heart shape. That didn't look permanent enough
to stand up to a trip to the office so I added the line of red running
stitch at home. The odd green and red shape is over the big hole on this side
of the bag. I hadn't realized how tongue-like it would look. Starting the weaving
was the first time the needle came unthreaded on this project. Hopefully
not a sign of more problems to come.

The picture also shows part of my stash of craft stuff. I've finally caught the stash-busting-bug, and plan to weigh it all up and start using all the things I've acquired over the years. Cutting those patches would be a good start.

Final note: spent £45 on a light box to help with comic drawing. Hopefully it will motivate me to actually draw, rather than sit around thinking about it.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Don't feed me

Figs. Not even cute little baby figs that are so tasty I can't resist a second helping. My manager is the culprit here. I had to leave work after lunch because my stomach hurt so much. No buscrafting on the way home, because of the pain and somehow I would feel guilty if I left work early and then played on the trip home. Then I got home and curled up in bed for the rest of the afternoon.

My full list of foods to not eat:
Bananas, raw only
Green peppers, raw only

Tuesday 11 May 2010

make do mending phase 1

mending bag phase 1The green part of the blackwork patten is done, and the needle is ready with the pink thread for tomorrow.

Saturday 8 May 2010

mostly from last May

The blackwork bag mending is going slow, but at least it is still going. I think this part of the mending will be finished this week, so next weekend I'll get to cut up an old umbrella for the patches. Hopefully. Maybe. Well, it could happen. I know I'm really slow at getting stuff done, but there is only one, or maybe one and a half, more rows of the green blackwork, then I think I'll only add a few lines of pink thread. It could get done in a week of commuting.

Also, it dawned on me after leaving my phone at home again, that my reason for having only one bag is wrong. When I was finishing the woven bag back in May last year, I thought I would never use it because it would be confusing, and I would leave my wallet or phone in the wrong bag. But that happens anyway.

And another follow up to a project from last May: I'm trying to work on that comic every day, trying to get tidy drawings done for all the pages. The plan is to get into the habit of drawing a bit every day, and just keep going. It's going to take ages.

Sunday 25 April 2010

Getting back to it

straw woven fabricI completed the weaving back on the 7th, but by then all enthusiasm for it was gone.
The good: It survived the washing machine just fine. The thick texture feels lovely.
The bad: Not loving all the colours in it. The sections made of crochet chains of thinner treads pinch in, probably a tension issue. I really don't know much about weaving.

The biggest problem, and possibly the cause for the growing lack of enthusiasm, is that I have no idea at all what to do with it now. It will live with my other scraps indefinitely, and adding to my scrap pile isn't really what I want to do right now.

After the weaving was done, I tried to start on another writing project but gave up. It seems that without an external deadline, I just couldn't keep writing. Discouraging. I'd like to write the story, but I felt like I was just wasting the time on the commute.

But now, I've got a new project: mending my Make do and Mend bag. It had been my daily shopping/crafting/lunch bag for ages, but then the holes got too big. I've replace it with a bag that says Parsnips, but it's just not the same. So, inspired by a blackwork workshop at the guild, I've started reinforcing the less-ripped side with a strong cotton weaving yarn. Usually, I'd say embroidery on the bus is a literally bloody mess. But the bag is a loose weave hessian with plastic backing, easy to use a nice round tipped needle with. Plus, the blackwork pattern is easy to follow, and feels like meditation when it is going smoothly. Anyway, I'm not worried if it ends up a bit wonky. The plan is to do some free-style darning stitch on the more ripped side, and reinforce the bottom of the bag with some denim.

Not sure if it's the change of the seasons, or just getting over a bad mood, but I feel like the mending project is making me happy.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Shopaholic, me?

I'm a scrounger, always after something for nothing. When I browse a website, I'm never thinking about what I can buy in someone's Etsy shop. I feel a bit guilty about this. In a lot of ways, I am one of the richest people in the world, so there's no excuse for me to be such a penny pincher.
craft rat in basketAnyway, when I saw that a blogger I follow had an unexpected vet bill, it prodded me into finally buying something from her. I love her attitude towards recycling, and I've been interested in how to use old t-shirts as yarn. Must say, I'm very happy with the basket. It feels so nice and well made, and so washable as well. So much cuter than the old cardboard box that yarn had been in. And I'm happy that her cat is doing well.
The little rat toy was a surprise gift from P. Evidently the crafter's in Chorlton use them as pincushions. Barbaric! But it would make the rat into a hedgehog.

My current weaving project is still coming along. The thick texture is lovely. Hope it survives being laundered. I'm already thinking about my next project though. Yoda would be so disappointed in me, always thinking about the future.

Sunday 28 February 2010

After a bad start

The weaving didn't start well. First, I mis-counted and ended up with 9 rather than 10 strands to weave on. Instead of starting right away on just 8 strands, I added another day of doing nothing much because I had decided on 10, and 10 it would be.

The next mishap was losing a ball of yarn on the bus. I had taken off a piece to weave with, and then instead of putting it back in the bag I must have just dropped it. It was only a small bit and I was reluctant to crawl around on the floor of the bus looking for it.

But last week the weaving came together and I now have about 6 inches of stripes done. It's sort of a sampler, testing how different yarns work. Once it's done, I'll put it through the washing machine. If it survives, it may end up on a quilt. Maybe.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Starting the year

I'm having a very slow start to 2010. Just not feeling energized, organized or enthusiastic. But yesterday on the train home from the Martin Mere wetlands centre, I did doodle for a bit. Tonight, I'm going to try getting a weaving project started. Maybe finally getting the year started right.