Monday, 31 December 2012

Christmas Gift Crafting

I'm just back from Canada and fighting jet lag - I think it's much harder in the winter when these dark grey days make staying in bed seem like a great idea!  But I had a really lovely Christmas with my brothers and sisters and their families - and a few jet lagged days is a small price to pay.

This year I wanted to make most of my presents - and I'm happy to say I was pretty successful.  Of course, me being me, despite starting well in advance I still ended up doing finishing touches on Christmas Eve!  But the gifts were all well received and definitely worth the effort.


For each of my brothers and sisters I made one of these family cushions (I put cushions in before I gave them!) - and I was so pleased with how they turned out.  

I designed the name collage in the Cricut Craft Room and then cut it out in Silhouette heat transfer flocking.  

I was pretty excited when I discovered this stuff - as until then I had no idea how I was going to use the collage!  The flocking is on a transfer sheet, so as long as you remember to flip your image before cutting the rest is reasonably straight forward.  

I ironed the flocking on to the felt (this took longer than I thought it would!), sewed up the seams and then finished the cushions with large co-ordinating buttons.


My niece Sarah and her boyfriend Ryan  have just bought their first home so I designed and decorated this frame for them. (Freddy is the cutest dog in the world!) 

I started with a plain frame that I painted a lovely shade of blue.  I cut the words out in vinyl - again using Cricut Craft Room for the design work...

and then stuck them on to the frame.

I painted the front of the frame (covering the vinyl) with a pale mushroom colour and then used a stencil to add the blue and pink dots. I finished it off by stencilling on a few flowers in gold.  (The paints I used were Eco Green Paints which come in beautiful colours.  They are my favourite acrylic paints at the moment!)

When the paint was dry I carefully removed the vinyl exposing the dark blue paint underneath.

For my niece Dylann I made a scrapbook page in Craft Artist using a photo of her and my father which has always been one of my favourites.  To me it looks like he's a 1930's con man, and she's a little lost orphan who has attached herself to him -- in a film you know by the final scene she'd have won his heart forever.

I used the same technique I used for Sarah's frame to decorate this one.  

This final (non-knitted!) gift was for my best friend and her family -- who have been building gingerbread houses with me for 21 years. I made the scrapbook page in Craft Artist and printed it on photo paper.

I painted the frame gold, and then added the vinyl lettering (once again, designed and cut from the Cricut Craft Room).  I added six (six!) layers of ultra-thick embossing powder.  I stamped into the final layer while it was still hot and then added a thin layer of crafty notions gleam - because I love the stuff!

 I also knit up some gifts - but I'll post about those on my knitting blog another day!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Gingerbread 2012

Somehow 2012 is coming to a close -- what an amazing year it has been!  Of course every year for the past 21 years we've marked the beginning of Christmas with the gingerbread construction and this year was no different.

After last year's Who-ville masterpiece  I was feeling a bit of pressure when it came to picking a theme.  There was a lot of interest in an Olympics gingerbread display but I thought that recreating the stadium might be tricky(!) and I really, really like snow on my gingerbread house.  So I vetoed that and decided to go for the snowiest place I could think of - Santa's workshop.

The Coopers (Pat, Caroline and the 4 minis - Gen, Suzy, Mads and Louis) arrived late Sunday morning a week ago and we set to work planning the general layout.  They embraced the theme and quickly decided we needed elves on the inside of the house at work, and a conveyor belt bringing the presents from inside the house out to Santa's sleigh.  

From there we were off!

I really love the help wanted sign - although clearly UK employment law would never permit the bit in parenthesis.  Apparently employment lawyers have not yet hit the North Pole.

 The elves are hard at work inside the workshop, warmed by the roaring fire (Mads made that) ....

...preparing presents to send out to the sleigh through the conveyor belt door.

(These photos were taken before we put the roof on.)

Outside of the workshop, Gen added a solitary elf is ice fishing (even elves gotta eat, although I don't think Santa got that figure from a fish diet)....

... and behind the elf you can see the conveyor belt is full of presents ready for loading into the sleigh.  

I hadn't noticed while we were building the house but only the sack of coal has actually made it into the sleigh.  I'm not sure what the meaning behind that is - perhaps there is a mini Cooper worried about what list they're on!!

Suzy created this great Santa and Rudolph, and the sleigh was a joint effort by Pat and Louis.

Of course, where you have reindeer, you have a reindeer feeding station, and reindeer - errrr - droppings.  

Our gingerbread creations are nothing if not sophisticated!

Although I vetoed the idea of an Olympics theme, I did suggest that a 'nod' to the Olympics would be ok.  And from this little display I think it's clear that Santa was a bit of a team GB supporter!  I think that explains their phenomenal performance!!

Tom Daley apparently trains at the North Pole (why not?).  Here he's at the top of the diving platform waving to his adoring audience (the little green elf).  

...and a pair of swimming trunks are floating in the pool - lost by some poor diver who we can only assume is in hiding while he looks for something to wear.

A bird bath, some trees and a lumpy but adorable snowman (Caroline's annual addition) finished the exterior.

The mini-Coopers are pretty grown up now - Louis is the youngest at 10 3/4 years old.  They are all quite expert in the art of building with sweets and their creativity amazes me.  But adult or 10 3/4, we all enjoy watching the Grinch (animated version) and Charlie Brown's Christmas while the roof sets on the house.
For those of you who wonder what happens to the gingerbread house - well, the following Sunday afternoon  the Coopers have a Christmas party.  While the adults enjoy minced pies and some mulled wine the children stare longingly at the house until towards the end of the party when they are gathered into the playroom, the house is placed in front of them and they are allowed to tuck in.  This year the demolition took about 4 seconds.   

Thanks to anyone who is still out there and made it through this crazy long post!  Wishing you all the best for the holiday season!!!  

Thursday, 22 November 2012

How Not to Make a Quilt

Today's lesson is in how not to make a quilt.

Many months ago I bought a couple of Kaffe Fassett jelly rolls - because they were so beautiful (I'm a Kaffe fan from his knitting days) and thinking maybe I'd make some cushions or small projects.  I admired them when they arrived (a set of greens, and a set of neutrals)(Kaffe Fassett neutral - so still pretty colourful!) and then put them away... where they sat until the morning my new sewing machine arrived.

While looking for fabric to 'test the machine out' I remembered the jelly rolls and started making what I vaguely recalled was a log cabin square.  It was fun...and before I knew it I had 9 squares...and then 16...and finally 20 haphazard log cabin squares.

Clearly something had to be done with them and so it seemed I was making a quilt!

I have done some small quilting projects in the past - nothing this large but I felt up to the challenge (and I had 20 squares I had to do something with!).

My first thought was just to stitch the squares together but the haphazard way I'd pieced the strips together (before I realised I was making a quilt) meant that wouldn't work. (Or at least not in a pleasing way - the seams would NEVER line up.)

Adding a strip of fabric between the squares seemed the only option so I set about cutting those (I'd invested in a rotary cutter, mat and ruler to help out) and stitching all of the pieces together.

At each stage of this project I bulldozed my way through - and then did some research and discovered how it SHOULD have been done.  I have no idea why - particularly as there is so much great information a quick search and click away.

But you know, despite no planning and my 'give it a go' approach, when I finished stitching the binding on Monday I was in love with the quilt!  I wouldn't let a real quilter within 5 feet of it - but I think it's great.  I love the colours and it's perfect for curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea and a good book.

I do think I need to make another one now -- but with a bit more planning and a LOT more research into the  best techniques.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Cutting and Sewing up a Storm

Discovering how easy it is to cut fabric I've been cutting anything I can get my hands on!  I was particularly pleased to discover that I could cut felt - as the general feeling seemed to be that felt wouldn't work.

But quality wool felt, with Heat n Bond on the back cuts like a dream!  Hurrah.

My biggest recommendation is to make sure your blade is sharp (I now keep my fabric blade separate from my paper blade, it's marked with a Sharpie pen so I can identify it easily.) and that your mat is sticky.

Also, I've found the world seems split on whether or not the Heat n Bond backing sheet should be removed before the fabric/felt is put on the mat - and I fall firmly in the 'remove it' camp.  It helps the fabric stick to the mat and (for me) results in a cleaner cut.

The banners are some basic tag shapes - I removed the holes using the 'hide contour' feature in CCR.  I used a simple label shape (might have been from Craft Room Basics)(but any would do), and the letters are the shadow from Cricut Alphabet.

The fabrics are all Tilda fabrics - a beautiful range of read, white and green patterns.

To give a finished look to the banners, I actually applied the Heat n Bond to the stripey fabric, ironed that on to some red backing fabric BEFORE CUTTING.  I decided that cutting the pieces separately would waste Heat n Bond (and time).  That did make it harder for the fabric to stick to the mat so I needed to use my stickiest mat for these shapes.  It worked alright for the basic tag shape but I'm not convinced the same technique would work too well with complicated cutting.

Would love to stay and chat but I've got more fabric to cut!!!!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

More Fun with Fabric

Ever since I heard about people using their Cricuts to cut fabric I've been meaning to give it a try - but just never got around to it.

What a shame!

I confess that part of what was holding me back was a niggling concern that it would be one of those things that other people make look easy - but it isn't. But it is!!!

Just iron on the adhesive reinforcement stuff (I used Heat n Bond Ultra - it came highly recommended during my research, apparently Heat n Bond Lite works as well - but needs some sewing to be permanent), peel off the back paper, place it on  your sticky mat and cut!

My experimenting resulted in this banner. Very pretty I think --  even if I did put the fabric pattern on upside down for a a couple of pieces.

The fabrics are from a bundle I bought last summer - full of lovely red and green patterns.

I see many banners in my Christmas decorating this year!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Loving Craft Artist

When I bought Craft Artist Professional (CAP to us addicts) last year I wasn't entirely sure how I'd use it - but it just seemed to do so much that I knew I needed it.

And how right was I!  CAP has become such a useful bit of software that when Craft Artist Professional 2 was launched I bought it immediately.  It has a few new features and some nice enhancements to the old favourites.

The software (either version) is easy to use - but it does have a learning curve and if you are new to it I really recommend checking out some of the video tutorials on DaisyTrail and just playing around.  The beauty of playing with an online tool of course is that you can 'undo' to your hearts content and you don't waste your favourite papers and embellishments on learning.

One of my favourite tools in CAP (and CAP2) is the cut out studio - which allows you to cut part of an image away from its background.  The three projects here all started with a photo that I thought needed to be 'transplanted' and the cut out studio made that possible!

Freddy the Wonder Dog

First I tackled a card for my niece Sarah - starring her amazing dog Freddy.  The source picture was taken last Christmas, you can just see Dylann hiding behind Freddy the wonder dog while we were playing cards (Rummoli in this case - a Christmas family favourite).

I cut away the background in CAP, added a paw in front of the cards (basically just cut and paste of his other paw), added in some beer cans, and moved the 'Mortgage Money' jar in a little closer.

I print out the new version, added a few Spellbinder circles, an embossed bit of craft card and a 'Beware of Dog' sentiment and voila - a card!

Inside the card it says 'He's gambling away your savings.'

Lean on Me

This second project started with an old photo of my parents from the 1970's that has always made me smile.    

I cut them out of the photo, and placed them in the middle of a field of flowers (created using the brush feature).  I added a title and a bit of journalling to finish the page.

One of the things I love about CAP is that you can create the layout in the software, and save it to print or email as a flat picture, OR print and cut the individual elements to make a more dimensional physical page.

In this case I've done both!

The digital page will be part of a digital scrapbook I'm making, but I also print out the elements to make this layered page.

The background page was print from CAP and then I added the cut out of my parents.  I print a few pages of the flower field which I cut across randomly to create 4 layers of flowers to provide a bit of depth.  I love this shadow box.   It is a really nice way to display pages with the added benefit that they can be switched out really easily.

Bon Voyage

This final card was made for my friends Shirl and Gav who this morning have flown off for a fabulous well deserved mid-life 'gap year'.

The photo was taken a few days ago as a 'before' image (thus the exaggerated glum faces), and we expect a sunny smiley tanned duo in the 'after' picture!

I used CAP to cut them out of the original photo and then placed them on to a cartoon London setting.

I cut out a zillion Union Jack bunting triangles and hung them across the top of the page and added a 'Bon Voyage' sentiment.

Inside the card I added a faded blue Union Jack, and the happy couple again - this time with fake moustache and crown.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Wire - I love it!

This summer a lovely new shop opened here in Greenwich called Papillon and it takes all my restraint not to visit every day and buy pretty much everything.
It's a gorgeous collection of quilting fabrics, felt, yarns, roving, buttons (oh the buttons!), ribbon (even more amazing than the buttons), lace (see ribbons comment), wire, wood, threads, books and more I'm sure that I'm forgetting....

On my first visit (about 10 minutes after it opened on the first day) I bought a lovely fabric stack and some wire.  I didn't really know what I was going to do with the wire - but the book (which I also bought) had some lovely ideas.

I started with a simple project -  making these cute fabric and wire flowers.  The most difficult bit was figuring out how I was going to make them stand up on their own.  I made and painted the little boxes out of card - but they were too light and the flowers kept toppling over.  How could I weight the boxes?  I pondered and pondered and finally the penny dropped.  Pennies!!  I glued 3 pennies together, stuck them in the bottom of the boxes and heh presto - standing flowers!

My second wire project was a bit more elaborate - but I really loved the result.

I made the wire heart shape and then added the beads, buttons and ribbons to decorate.  The wings were made using white linen (an old shirt in fact) that I randomly stamped on to with a large Tim Holtz stamp from a set called (coincidentally) Papillon.

Because I think everything is better with words I stamped a sentiment onto torn plain card, inked it up a bit and then covered  it with clear embossing powder.   I attached the tag to the heart with an antique coloured screw brad.  

'She only flew when no one could see' is my favourite sentiment stamp at the moment.As I said to Gen and her sisters - I have no idea what it is supposed to mean but somehow it speaks to me.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Flowers two ways

Hels Sheridan runs weekly challenges on her blog and this week I decided to get involved.  The theme is Stamped Flowers and it immediately made me think of the very first stamp set I bought - a beautiful set of floral stamps from Anna Griffin.

I don't generally think of myself as a flowery person - but I think I might be wrong!  I LOVE Anna's designs (which are mostly florals) and since buying the stamps I've become a bit of an Anna Griffin addict buying pretty much any of her stamps or paper packs.

I've used a few of the stamps over the past year but decided that for this challenge I would use all of them.  On one card.

Then when I started stamping I changed my mind every 2 minutes about whether to colour the flowers, or leave them as black outlines.  Decisive to the end - I did both!

The black and white flowers were stamped, cut out and then layered onto a plain 6x6 card that I stamped 'In a Garden of Friends, Happiness Grows.'  I matted that onto black card, and then framed it with the silver mica flakes (I LOVE mica flakes), matted it onto more black card and then attached it to the front of an 8x8 card.

The coloured flowers were stamped, coloured with Pro-markers (my colouring skills are non-existent, luckily these stamps are so detailed they don't need much., and then cut out and layered onto a plain 6x6 card outlined with purple and stamped with the same sentiment.

Because it seemed to need more flowers(!) I did some more stamping, colouring and cutting to make the frame.

I really like both, and change my mind about every 2 minutes about which one is my favourite!