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Goals for 2017

This is a huge ‘WELCOME’ to all those who have faithfully read my blog in the past and have been wondering if I have left the planet or not. Well, it’s 2017 and I’m still here. I have to say that ‘2017’ doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as 2015 or 2016 – possibly because it’s an odd number, but, odd though it may be, it is proving already to be a good year for many reasons. The purpose of this blog is to share anything arty, crafty and creative with you and this is just one of the ‘many reasons’.

You will know by now that at the beginning of each New Year I set myself GOALS, not RESOLUTIONS. The latter are far too binding and bring despondency when you fail to achieve.

A ‘GOAL’ is a challenge, something you can continually work towards even though you may occasionally fail, something that can keep the brain and the body active. A resolution, once broken, is hard to mend. A resolution is fixed, but a goal can begin small and get better and better until you accomplish what you set out to do. Working towards a goal can only bring encouragement.

I made a few goals at the beginning of this year and I am going to share one of them with you. I trust it will be of interest to you and spur you on to greater things that you want to see in your own lives. Of course, your goals will be personal to you and your circumstances and it’s not too late to make them. Please don’t wait until 2018 – life and time is too precious!

At the start of 2017 I set this goal (yes, I wrote it down along with others!):

I will attempt to do something creative every day. I will not spend any money on clothing. I will alter the garments I have until I am happy with wearing them, recycle them if I am not and reuse the fabric to create something fresh. Failing those two options I will dispose of them sensibly. I will finish projects that I have already begun and that have been stored in boxes. (I’m embarrassed to confess that these include some ‘Clothkits’ packs – remember those? I tell myself that they’ll be worth something one day – vintage?) I will aim to reduce my stash of fabric and haberdashery. Yes, I know it looks impressive all neatly folded on shelves or stored in boxes or jars in my art and craft area, but it is meant to be used, not looked at! I will rejuvenate my wardrobe with all this precious fabric I have bought over the years. I will be creative with gifts throughout the year and in the process learn new skills. Finally I will make sure that, in doing all this, I keep my little grey cells in good working order – VERY IMPORTANT!

So far 2017 has proved successful. I actually began to plan all of this late December, 2016. I purchased a diary so that I could log each day – I need to be accountable! I doctored the front cover slightly and at the back began to create a ‘To Do’ list. This helps when the mind goes blank.

2017-diary

Some days I produce a lot, some days a little. It doesn’t matter – I’m getting many things done and I’m encouraged. In just 7 weeks I have only missed 2 days and that’s because there are other activities in my life that are just as important. If what I do is in the least bit creative it gets logged in the diary. I am already amazed.

I am going to share some of these creative moments with you over the year whether they are significant or insignificant. I really hope I bless and inspire you to be creative in whatever you shine in.

COAT – made with textured furnishing fabric with leather fastenings

coat

TIES – I added some ties onto the bottom of a bought quilt cover. I had to keep tucking it into the mattress to stop it separating

I completed a pair of KNITTED SLIPPERS and added a fur fabric lining.

knitted-slippers

TABLET CASE with magazine pouch and ACCESSORY BAG – for my husband

rough-plan-of-tablet-case

tablet-case

tablet-case-with-magazine-pocket

KNITTED SLEEVELESS TOP – began many moons ago and only reached the armhole of the back, using my own pattern which, for some reason I had lost and had to work out again!

sleeveless-knitted-top

NEW RECIPE – ‘Chocolate ring cake with beetroot and greens’. This was very creative and delicious!

DONATION BOX – made from a very large coffee tin, designed on the PC

MAT OF CROCHET SQUARES – Completed it, added a thick backing of fabric and a border and 3 loops for hanging it on the wall – my husband’s suggestion as he thought it would get spoilt on the floor!!

mat-of-crochet-squares

PYJAMAS – cut fabric off the legs and lengthened the sleeves with it. Did this by hand while watching the TV – it is possible!

upcycled-pyjamas

GREEN WOOL JUMPER – Refashioned it by chopping off the roll neck and turning up the cuffs and then finishing both with embroidery

upcycled-jumper

BOOKMARKS/CARDS – sketched some designs

bookmarks-cards-sketched-some-designs

KNITTED WRAP SCARF – completed it

wrap-scarf

SLEEVELESS DRESS/TUNIC – used some ‘seconds’ needlecord fabric which I had to doctor creatively in places as the dyeing hadn’t taken. My ribbon and button stores proved very useful here.

sleeveless-dress-tunic-front

sleeveless-dress-tunic-back

4 CUSHION COVERS – a dear friend had worked some cross stitch covers that represented the 4 seasons. I backed them with some linen, added a suitably coloured edging to each and also made the cushion pads from the filling of an old pillow.

four-seasonal-cushions

NEW RECIPE – ‘Secret Ingredient Chocolate Brownies’, another successful experiment

FABRIC ART – ‘Gnarled Trunks in Italy’, this picture was begun while on holiday in Italy last September and I completed it this year. I stretched it over a sheet of hardboard and mounted it in a box frame that I purchased from IKEA, the only place that seemed to sell what I wanted

fabric-art-gnarled-trunks-in-italy

BEAD DECORATION – I renewed this on my Bible and Notebook covers because somehow the original beads had been torn off while in the luggage coming back from Italy!?!

renewing-the-beads

FABRIC ART – ‘A Sunny Day’, a 3D picture was made a while ago. It has now been stretched over stiff card and awaits a box frame – looks like another trip to IKEA!

a-sunny-day

WATERCOLOUR PICTURE – painted by my brother-in-law at Tollesbury, Essex for my husband’s birthday present last year. It is now framed and hanging in our lounge along with other pictures

TARTAN PYJAMA TOP – it kept on coming undone! Altered it by removing the facing and buttons , joining the centre front and adding a top facing to the neck edge

WROTE MY FIRST BLOG OF THE YEAR!

I promise that the next blog will not be so long. I do hope that this one has inspired you to value life’s moments and fill them with something that satisfies you. Every day counts as precious.

 

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Good day everybody.
You may have noticed silence from this neck of the woods during the last few months. This has been due to the fact that early in the year I had a total right hip replacement and it has taken far longer than I imagined to get back on my feet again – pun not intended!

Well, I am now almost back in circulation and over the past two weeks I have produced a set of 8 mixed media pictures. They measure 8×8 ins (20×20 cms) and are mounted on artists’ canvas box frames. I took one of my large batiks and, using various parts of it, designed this set of appliquéd pictures. I worked with numerous materials – fabrics, wool, cord, threads, buttons, sequins, beads etc. – hence mixed media. The set is entitled ‘Stories of the Sea’ 1-8. They are presently on exhibition at the Park Mall Gallery in Ashford, Kent. You can view them here but it is so much better to view them ‘in the flesh’ if you can.

 Stories of the Sea 2

 They will be on display until the weekend of May 20th – 21st, 10:00 – 5:00pm, when the ArtiGras will take place and Ashford will be celebrating art and culture.
Do come along and say “Hello” to me. I will have a stall in the Mall on both Friday and Saturday when I will be selling goods from Dot’s Workbox!

As I was preparing these pictures, I felt that they would make good starting points for creative writing for primary school children. What a good way to stimulate exciting stories and the wealth of learning that accompanies it. Do get in touch with me if this should interest you.

As my husband regularly says, “Once a teacher, always a teacher”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Cap It All

A few weeks ago I had this urge. I was handling this beautiful piece of Colefax and Fowler fabric wondering what I could make with it that would do it justice, when I suddenly saw it transformed into a hat. Why I should want to create a hat was beyond me, especially as I have always avoided wearing anything on my head.

Perhaps it was something in my genes. My mother, in her early years of work, trained as a milliner in the West End of London. I always admired her fine stitching. It put mine to shame. But she had left an indelible mark on my life. My love for sewing and creating has never waned.

Perhaps it brought back memories of my early days in work when teaching was thoroughly enjoyable. I had the most delightful class of children one year and the girls designed, planned and sewed a hat each. It culminated in a fashion parade that they presented to the school – very satisfying and rewarding for all involved and, I must add, very educational.

Perhaps I just wanted to branch out and create something a little more challenging. So, I took up that challenge and one hat led to another and another. The fruit of my labours can now be viewed on the ‘Personal Accessories’ page of ‘Dot’s Workbox’. I even modelled them myself, something I thought I would never enjoy! I’m now planning on designing some more so if you visit me you’ll see me with my thinking cap on – SORRY! Pun intended.

The 'Suzi Sunhat' 1

The ‘Suzi Sunhat’ 1

The 'Suzi Sunhat' 2

The ‘Suzi Sunhat’ 2

The 'Suzi Sunhat' 2 Reversed

The ‘Suzi Sunhat’ 2 Reversed

The 'Suzi Sunhat' 3

The ‘Suzi Sunhat’ 3

The 'Coralie Cap' 1

The ‘Coralie Cap’ 1

The 'Coralie Cap' 2

The ‘Coralie Cap’ 2

 We had waited so long for it. The dreary, dismal days seemed to suddenly evaporate and we awoke one morning to the cheerfulness of a spring day.

THE SUN WAS SHINING!

What a difference it made to the hours that followed. The sewing tools were downed and quickly replaced by the gardening tools. Work feverishly began to repair all the ravages of the endlessly cold winter months. The newly acquired greenhouse rapidly came into its own as planted seeds began to sprout and take over during the next few weeks. A wonderful sight —–flowers and food for the coming months! And all because the sun shone

Paths were newly formed and old ones cleared of tenacious weeds. Flower beds were dug over, tidied and in many cases replanted. Shrubs and fruit trees had a trim. Vegetable beds were prepared and purple sprouting broccoli, curly kale and spinach continued to provide us with a rich harvest. Wonderful, worth all the effort of the previous year.

Pictures speak louder than a thousand words so please enjoy these.

Just some of the many Strawberries

Just one of the many Strawberries

I can't manage without a variety of herbs

I can’t manage without a variety of herbs

A favourite fruit - Pears

A favourite fruit – Pears

Colour from the Alliums

Colour from the Alliums

Looking forward to the Blackberry harvest

Looking forward to the Blackberry harvest

--------and the Currant harvest

——–and the Currant harvest

Mixed leaves are so useful during summer

Mixed leaves are so useful during summer

Basil enjoying the greenhouse

Basil enjoying the greenhouse

Godetia - nearly time for planting out

Godetia – nearly time for planting out

In amongst the shrub cuttings lurks the Tarragon - French, of course

In amongst the shrub cuttings lurks the Tarragon – French, of course

An overflowing sink

An overflowing sink

I trust you enjoyed the garden snippets.
Next time, it’s news of the stall at the ArtiGras Festival.

Last week saw us taking a trip to our favourite capital city, London. We were off to the Design Centre at Chelsea Harbour www.dcch.co.uk in order to view the latest products displayed during the London Design Week. We were not disappointed.

The building is interesting. Everything radiates from a central hub with extensions to the North, South and East. Large domes cap the areas and these allow light to flood into the whole place. The products were amazing, ranging between bathrooms, lighting, furnishing fabrics, furniture, wallpapers, carpets and much more.

It was a creative person’s paradise. We both thoroughly enjoyed the visit (for different reasons!) I was particularly impressed by the sumptuous fabrics, the dramatic use of colour and the innovative designs. I came away with my creative juices flowing!

The following photos should give you a flavour of the event. Click on images to zoom:-

‘Outside the London Design Centre’

‘Outside the London Design Centre’

‘Me having a much-needed sit down BEFORE beginning our tour!’

‘Me having a much-needed sit down BEFORE beginning our tour!’

‘Balconies around the hub of the Centre, 1’

‘Balconies around the hub of the Centre, 1’

‘Balconies around the hub of the Centre, 2’

‘Balconies around the hub of the Centre, 2’

'Looking down on the ground floor'

‘Looking down on the ground floor’

‘Preparations for an evening function’

‘Preparations for an evening function’

 ‘One of the many bathroom suppliers on show’

‘One of the many bathroom suppliers on show’

 ‘Mood board 1’

‘Mood board 1’

 ‘Mood board 2’

‘Mood board 2’

 ‘Mood board 3’

‘Mood board 3’

 ‘Mood board 4’

‘Mood board 4’

 ‘Mood board 5'

‘Mood board 5′

'Mood board 6'

‘Mood board 6’

 ‘Macramé is back!’

‘Macramé is back!’

‘The new always has to thank the old’

‘The new always has to thank the old’

‘Appliqué still has a part to play in design’

‘Appliqué still has a part to play in design’

‘This is an exquisite model of a dining table and chairs and, YES, we did see the real thing – clever!’

‘This is an exquisite model of a dining table and chairs and, YES, we did see the real thing – clever!’

‘Chelsea Harbour was not a disappointment either – the Marina looking out over the Thames’

‘Chelsea Harbour was not a disappointment either – the Marina looking out over the Thames’

‘One of the many impressive buildings that surround the Marina’

‘One of the many impressive buildings that surround the Marina’

‘Administrator of Dot’s Workbox, IT Co-ordinator, Photographer, but more importantly, my husband!

‘Administrator of Dot’s Workbox, IT Co-ordinator, Photographer, but more importantly, my husband!

‘Old and new sit comfortably side by side on the banks of the great River Thames’

‘Old and new sit comfortably side by side on the banks of the great River Thames’

As the light was beginning to fade we wandered back down The King’s Rd enjoying the great variety of commercial businesses flourishing. It seemed to be a fitting extension to our day. I must present to you just one more picture, taken of the window display in the Swedish shop. It’s fresh, it’s clean, it’s classic, it’s beautiful and it’s easy to create aspects of it in your own home.

Swedish furniture

Now, I challenge you to be inspired and create something special in your personal living space. Until next time ——-.

Have you been watching the third series of the Great British Sewing Bee?  (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03myqj2 ) I do hope so. It airs on Thursdays at 8pm on BBC2. Along with the TV drama stuff, that you may or may not appreciate, comes some very helpful sewing principles – a ‘must’ if you are looking to improve your sewing skills.

For the last two days, I have been working on a patchwork style cushion cover. I remembered that I had promised myself a set of cushions to match my new teal coloured settee (See previous blog, 21.01.15). I thought it was time to plan two larger ones.

Armed with my colour sample sheet, I descended into ‘The Workbox’. This is a basement area that we have converted into a sewing area and a computer suite. I searched amongst the boxes and shelves for a suitable material that would make two covers and eventually found a light turquoise, strong velvet furnishing fabric – absolutely ideal. Now I also needed something lighter as a contrast. I found an old batik printed cotton skirt in my recycling basket. With these two finds and a roll of lining wallpaper I surfaced to the main part of the house and began to plan.

I am going to take you through each stage of making one cover. I am keeping both the patchwork and sewing skills simple so that beginner sewers can attempt to make their own successfully.

STAGE 1 – MAKING THE PATTERN

  • Measure your cushion pad in either inches or centimetres, whatever you feel comfortable with. The label on my pad stated it was 18”x18”.
  • From your lining paper cut a square the size of your cushion pad.
  • Fold it in half and then fold the top and then the bottom in towards the centre fold and open out. Turn the square round once and repeat this.
  • Make 2 diagonal folds from corner to corner
1. Paper pattern of front cover
1. Paper pattern of front cover
  • Now, with a broad marker pen, draw over the fold lines as shown in the photo. Number the sections and other marks and cut on your pen lines. These are your pattern pieces for the front of your cover.

  Now, to ensure your success, I need to discuss ‘NAP’ and ‘GRAIN’ – no, that’s not an invitation to have a kip in a haystack! If you want to eventually branch out and make your own clothing, you must understand this terminology, otherwise —— it could spell DISASTER!

‘GRAIN’ – This has to do with the weave of the fabric. Tear a small piece of woven material into a square (anything from the rag bag will do) and hold the corners diagonally and pull. The diagonal line will stretch and fold. It is now more unstable because it can stretch. This is the cross-grain. Now hold the same piece of fabric at the top and the bottom and from left to right and pull again. In both cases you will notice that there is resistance and no folding. The fabric is stronger because it doesn’t distort. This is the straight grain.

READ ALL OF YOUR PATTERN INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY.

Look to see whether the pattern pieces should sit on the cross-grain or straight grain of the fabric. It could be either and according to the design will result in success or failure for you. Success is the goal!!

‘NAP’ – This is anything to do with the pattern or the texture of the fabric that needs to be taken into consideration before cutting into it.

2. 'Nap' - same fabric, different directions

2. ‘Nap’ – same fabric, different directions

Look at the photo of the two pieces of velvet. They are both the same fabric but one piece has been turned around. Find a piece of velvety material and run your hand down it. If it feels smooth, then it will look lighter. If it feels rough, then it will show up darker. In most cases the material should be cut out so that it looks darker. This is VERY IMPORTANT when making CURTAINS. The pattern on the material is also important. Patterns/motifs need to be matched vertically and horizontally. If the fabric you buy has a clear repeating pattern you need to purchase more (a commercial pattern will tell you how much), in order to achieve this. Again, VERY IMPORTANT when making CURTAINS.

LESSON OVER AND BACK TO OUR CUSHION COVER!

STAGE 2 – USING YOUR PATTERN PIECES

3. Cut pattern pieces with 1cm seam allowances added

3. Cut pattern pieces with 1cm seam allowances added

  • Lay out your pattern pieces as shown in the photo, taking note of the markings and leaving a space all round each one.
4. Pattern pieces on straight grain of fabric

4. Pattern pieces on straight grain of fabric

  • Cut out each pattern piece making sure you have a seam allowance of at least 1cm all round.

NOW AT LAST YOU ARE READY TO BEGIN SEWING!

STAGE 3 – CONSTRUCTING YOUR CUSHION COVER FRONT

  • At this point I used my contrasting cotton fabric to insert strips between the 4 seams. On the straight grain I cut 4 strips, 4cms wide and the length of each seam, folded them lengthwise and inserted them into the seams before continuing (the raw edges of the strips against the raw edges of the pattern pieces).
  • Using a 1cm seam join:-
  • part 1 to part 1a
  • part 2 to part 2a
  • part 3 to part 3a
  • part 4 to part 4a

You will have 4 triangles

5. Parts 1 & 1a joined wth decorative insert

5. Parts 1 & 1a joined with decorative insert

HERE’S ANOTHER QUICK LESSON ON PRESSING

It is important to press every seam you sew before you go on to the next stage – skip this at your peril! There are always 4 stages to pressing a normal seam (not all seams are normal but those we are dealing with today are – phew!). Press it flat on one side. Press it flat on the other side. Open out the seam and press it flat. Turn it over and press again. Simple! Please do it now before you proceed to the next step. There are many other aspects to pressing when sewing including the use of cloths etc. The most helpful, professional site I have come across for everything to do with sewing is to be found here – http://www.threadsmagazine.com/how-to  ENJOY!
I am still using the muslin nappy liners that my children (now adults!) wore. How to embarrass your offspring in one quick blog!

NEXT STEP

  • Join 1 & 1a to 2 & 2a
  • Join 3 & 3a to 4 & 4a
  • PRESS

You will now have 2 large triangles

6. Two triangles joined together to make half the cover front

6. Two triangles joined together to make half the cover front

  • Now join these 2 triangles together
  • PRESS
7. Two halves joined together to make the completed front cover

7. Two halves joined together to make the completed front cover

Your cushion cover front is pieced together. At this stage you can insert another contrasting strip all the way round the cover front. This time make it 5 cm wide and sew on before you continue.

8. Front cover with added decorative edging

8. Front cover with added decorative edging

STAGE 4 – MAKING THE PAPER PATTERN FOR YOUR CUSHION COVER BACK

  • Measure the length of the sides of your front cover – they should all be roughly the same. Mine were 18½ “.
  • From your lining paper cut 2 rectangles,
  • one 18½ “ x 14”
  • one 18½ “ x 10”
  • Use your own equivalent measurements and add the markings
9. Back cover pattern pieces made and ready for cutting

9. Back cover pattern pieces made and ready for cutting

  • Using the paper patterns cut out your fabric pieces noting where the ties are to be placed and where the 2 parts overlap each other.
10. Back cover pieces edged and laid out ready for attaching to front cover

10. Back cover pieces edged and laid out ready for attaching to front cover

  • Make 4 ties for the back, about 5 cm wide and 44 cm long. Fold the strips lengthwise and iron, turn in the side lengths and iron again. Stitch down these long lengths and attach to the positions marked on the pattern.
  • Stitch the 2 back pieces onto the front, right sides together.
  • Press the seams back and front, Trim the 4 corners down to reduce bulk and then turn inside out.
11. The finished cushion cover

11. The finished cushion cover

12. Back view of cushion cover

12. Back view of cushion cover

  • You have now finished your cushion cover. Congratulations!

One of the great pleasures in my life is that of entertaining others in my home. I’ve always enjoyed having guests, whether friends or family, around the meal table.

Table For Six

Table For Six

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have found that the process of preparation for these occasions is an event in its own right. I have to ask myself a number of questions: what will please my guests? Do they have preferences food wise? What little touches can I provide to surprise them/ bless them/ make them feel at home/ make them smile etc?

I always approach the preparation stages with the following in mind. Perhaps these points may help you towards taking the first steps to being hospitable. At the moment, it may seem to be a daunting prospect.

  • Plan the menu well in advance – keep it safe and simple if this is your first time
  • Make as much as possible beforehand and freeze items
  • Make ‘To Do’ lists as you progress including shopping lists
  • Plan the timing of the cooker in relation to the courses you are offering
  • Lay the table completely in, if possible the day before
  • Welcome guests warmly from the very first moment
  • Have everything in place BEFORE guests arrive – drinks, snacks, extra serviettes, flowers etc.
  • Give yourself ‘ME’ time to get ready
  • Decide where you will begin in the house – I often like to start in the kitchen with snacks and drinks, then move to the dining room for the main courses, then over to the lounge for coffee, chocs etc. (Do not expect guests to sit on the same spot for 4+ hours!)
  • If there are choices for one of the courses write them down on a board. (I have 2 blackboards in the kitchen.) This gives people time to think and choose and helps you also
  • Consider giving your guests a little gift to take away with them – they will remember their time with you
  • If you have more than 4 guests, especially if they don’t know each other very well, you might want to have a relevant activity before the main eating begins
  • A theme for the event sometimes helps to give you ideas and co-ordinate the planning
  • Finally, make sure you know where you want your guests to sit at the table

IN OTHER WORDS – ORGANISE

I WOULD LIKE TO ENJOY THE TIME TOGETHER AS WELL. IF MY GUESTS SEE THAT I AM FRAZZLED AND DISORGANISED THEY WILL FEEL VERY UNCOMFORTABLE.

Last week I was privileged to welcome two couples into our home. I planned a ‘heart’ theme – well, it was so near to St Valentine’s Day!

For gifts I made small, lacy, lavender scented heart sachets for the ladies and wrapped up some chocolates for the men. These gifts were popped inside their glasses on the dining table.

Lavender Hearts 1

Lavender Hearts 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lavender Hearts 2

Lavender Hearts 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made card name labels for the seating positions and painted the hearts in with watercolours. If you would like to do the same, we can send you a copy which you can use for yourself. Please request it on the contact form on the web site or use the comments box below. There are 6 labels on an A4 sheet.

Seating Labels

Seating Labels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes in life it is worth giving just a little bit more effort. PEOPLE ARE IMPORTANT!

An Apple Themed Table

An Apple Themed Table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The evening was very special for all concerned including my husband and me!

Dot's Workbox

Arts and Crafts from the 'Box'

Keeps Me Out Of Mischief!

My endless quest to keep myself being creative and staying organised

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