Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Nostalgia Time - The Golden Hands Craft Encyclopedia (part one)

Did everyone have a lovely Easter? Lots of chocolate consumed, I hope? I spent the weekend with my Dad's family, and there was a massive family outing to Bolton Abbey, the kind which requires multiple carloads of people, several bags of food and at least one dog (my brother's girlfriend's dog, Lola, obliged). I spent most of the time being towed around at high speed by my six-year-old neice and debating the possible reasons for fountains (don't ask, kid-logic is incredible). The weather has been lovely and a good time has been had by all.

You can make absolutely everything here.
But today's post is about something nice that happened to me before Easter. You see, my town has the best flea market for miles around, and while I was hunting around its many and varied stalls (seriously, you can pick up anything from a WWII army jacket to an old Gameboy, this place rocks), I found this. For £2. Two pounds, people, that is ridiculously cheap.

Does anyone remember the Golden Hands Craft Encyclopedia? I won't be surprised if you don't, it was published by Marshall Cavendish in 1975 and is therefore older than me - it was first published as a 98-part partwork and my mother collected, oh, let's say three quarters of it. I'd say about a quarter of the finished product is in this book - unfortunately not all the bits I'm missing, since my collection is missing parts throughout and this book just seems to have the first quarter. But it does have several things I didn't have, and a few pieces of information I'd been looking for for some time. Like, for example, a beginner's guide to crewel embroidery, a whole sheet of motifs that I'd had but had been ripped out of the relavent magazine and gone missing, seaweed marbling - which is that ultra-controlled marbling you see in the endpapers of expensive books, working with Japanese handmade papers - oh, yeah, and especially this.
It doesn't teach you how to make a *real* Faberge egg like the one in the picture. But close.
The collection of magazines I have shows various egg-dying and painting techniques, but this one shows egg-cutting, which was the information I was missing. For one thing, it honestly wouldn't have occurred to me to keep the contents of the egg in the shell while cutting it - now I know. But this book shows you everything from single-window cuts to those multiple-panel cuts that make the egg open up like a flower. Hmm, this will, obviously, take practice. Maybe I'll have something to show you by next Easter - the museBOT is thinking maybe we can get hold of a dremel and make a FrankenEgg.

Since I have a lot of GH Crafts magazines and their derivatives, I'm going to leave an actual review for later. In the meantime, how was your Easter? Did you do any egg-dying - or anything more complicated? Tell me in the comments!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Giveaway at Creature Comforts!

Yes, that's right, we have a giveaway - unfortunately not my giveaway, you have to go over to the lovely Ez at Creature Comforts and see. Jill Bliss is giving away this fantastic Drawing Nature journal, and naturally I am entering the competition - you should too.

  • For your entry, please leave a comment at Creature Comforts telling Ez why you'd love to win a copy of Drawing Nature (if you plan to give it as a gift to someone, she'd love to know who the lucky person will be).
  • BONUS ENTRY is available if you blog or tweet about this giveaway with a link back to this post.  Be sure to leave your regular entry comment PLUS a second comment with the link to your post or caption of your tweet (including your twitter username).
  • All entrants, please be sure to include your first name AND last initial plus a VALID email address when commenting or Ez will not be able to include you in the final drawing when selecting the winner.
  • One comment per reader unless you have been given a second entry by posting about this contest. (Ez does use IP tracking)
  • Contest open to everyone - US and International entrants welcomed.
  • This contest will end Tuesday, April 26th and the winner will be announced here on Wednesday, April 27th. 
Aaaand that's it! Good luck to you! And yes, naturally I posted it here because I wanted an extra entry, but I also wanted to spread the word. Don't hold it against me, please...

Friday, 15 April 2011

Bats and finished things!

Firstly, what I'd like to say is: FINALLY! All the work I was doing for the Help Japan charity auction is finished. The keyrings are finished. The weather is crummy, so the photo leaves much to be desired, but they ARE finally finished.

The second bat is also finished. And both bats are off to their destinations. The keyrings are part of a bigger parcel so they have yet to go, but I have no more actual work to do on them.

I do have plans to make more bats shortly - a friend has commissioned another bat from me, and I want to make several hanging from a couple of sticks (a bat-mobile, of course - thankyou, I'll be here all night), but this is the last for a while, until its back to the squid.

But I have another bat to show you. Remember when I said I'd bought a bat netsuke from the antiques shop in town? Well, I photographed it for you - not a good photo, but I eventually lost patience and thought I had a better picture than I did. It's far too late at night for me to go down and try again, my hands are shaking like anything, it'd only be worse. So here you are - one more bat, with a very cute face:

Sleep tight!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Promises, promises...

So the good news is that this blog is now ten days old and I haven't run out of ideas yet, not anywhere close. Oh, no, there are many things planned for this little spot of netspace.
The bad news is that I'm still working exclusively on the Help Japan bat and keyrings, so I can't actually put any of these plans into motion until they're finished. Working on it, I promise. However! Today I'm going to tell you what I have planned. Aside from finally finishing that bloody squid.

First of all, this place needs a banner, a proper one. One made in cloth and stitches by me, so I'll be designing and making that, and putting it in place.

Second, Sara at The Split Stitch has a lovely little easter sampler which you can download for free and which I certainly will - as you can see from this WIP picture, it is most egg-sellent (pause to be pelted with rotten eggs) and versetile. I am thinking of doing it in appliqué and embroidery, with plenty of nice glittery beads and sequins to set it off with.
Sara's work, not mine. My french knots aren't anywhere near this neat.
Also, I should be showing you Stuff That's Been Inspiring Me Lately - I could do that now, except that I think we need a day for it, maybe Thursdays, for no other reason than that's flea market day here in my town and that makes it a fitting day in my mind to throw a bunch of links and pictures at my readers, plus you get to hear me gush about what bizarre thing I found on the flea market/at the antique shop/wherever. So there.*

I almost forgot! There will be tutorials on this site in future. Free charts, patterns, all that kind of thing - I'm not going to give up the Psychotoy pattern but frankly, that one is so unbelievably simple that I'm stunned nobody's worked it out themselves yet. But there will be other animal toys, and dolls, and cross stitch charts, and other embroidery charts - all kinds of cool stuff, as well as the reviews of magazines, books and craft equipment that I mentioned before. One thing you're going to have to bear with me on, though, is that my computer graphics skills are minimal at best and I don't have a charting program, so these will mostly be hand-drawn. I will test them myself and if they are not clear they won't be here.

Is that everything? Pretty much, I think. Glorious June weather here in England - funny really, since it's only April...

* - Today it was a bat netsuke. It's got a very cute face and it's made so that when it's attached to a string, it naturally hangs upside-down. I'd squee, but I'd die of shame.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Spring has POUNCED!

The town I live in is a very pretty town, always full of flowers in the spring and summer, very brightly-coloured in autumn and in winter, stark in that picturesque Christmas-card fashion that tends to involve snow and robins and sheep and occasionally Shetland ponies. It is, all in all, a very inspiring place to be and it's no wonder that we have, at my last count, six galleries and a community art college across the same half-mile stretch of ground.

Only right now? I am far too busy for this.
Spring has sprung like a well-aimed mantrap, offering me bright flowers in all directions. There are planters, memorial gardens and instances of guerrilla gardening all over the place, all of them bursting riotously into bloom and I am up to my neck in Things I Really Should Be Doing, so there is no way I can drop everything and start embroidering pointless bits of cloth in frivolous pastels.
But it is at least a beautiful day out there, so the daffodils look sunnier than ever, and there are thousands of them. The Patmos war memorial garden in the centre of town has so many, and they bloom all down the sides of the train track - if I wasn't so busy with ofther things I'd be making yellow satin stumpwork daffodils right now. Or maybe forget-me-nots.

Forget-me-nots are possibly my all-time favourite flower, like a little scrap of sky with a sun in it, and they're abundant round here, too - and in a few of the communal beds, someone's made them grow in white and hot pink and navy blue as well. Incredible.

But the bloom that is reminding me of my duty projects and making me really happy that I'm doing them is this. The cherry blossom, or as they call it in Japan, the sakura. There's a lot of these in my town - they're just starting to really come into flower now, in a couple of weeks these and the apple trees will be in full flower and the air will be full of whirling blossoms like something out of a Japanese film. Before I came here I thought the showers of blossoms blowing in the wind in romance scenes was just a special effect but it really does happen just like that - at the end of my road, at the right time of year, you can stand under the cherry tree and feel like a romantic film star as the petals swirl around you and get caught in your hair.

So how much have I been motivated? Well, I had two Psychobats and two keyrings to make, and yesterday afternoon I was at this stage:

Today, I've done a little more on that second keyring and the turquoise bat - oh! and the blue and fuchsia bat is finished and ready to post! Here he is!
I call that progress, don't you?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Magazine Review - Cross Stitch Card Shop

Remember that I said that the designs for the Willow Pattern keyrings came from an issue of Cross Stitch Card Shop and that I wasn't sure why I didn't buy that magazine anymore? Well, I bought the latest issue and now it's time to find out if it's still as good as it used to be.

Cross Stitch Card Shop is published by Origin Publishing and the website links six different cross stitch magazines including this one, four of which I have bought at one time or another. This one comes out six times a year and this is issue 77, for March/April 2011 (the one I'm using for the keyrings is issue 43, and I'm assuming from the fact that it says the following issue goes on sale 1st of September that this is the July/August 2005 issue).
The designs in CSCS are all small enough to fit in a fairly standard-sized card blank, although in my opinion many of them are much too complex for something as disposable as a greetings card. But that's by the bye - I've always found these smallish designs pretty useful as little gifts and time fillers.

It always has a free gift kit on the front of the magazine - in this case it's featuring Somebunny To Love, who is the creation of Michael Abrams and is one of those patched pastel-coloured toy animal characters you see such a lot of these days, like Newton's Law or Tatty Teddy or Forever Friends. Very twee and sickeningly sweet, but one thing it has in its favour is that the chart is in the packet with the rest of the equipment, and not in the magazine, which means I can drop it at my stepfather's place for something to do next time I forget my sewing kit.*
Near the back of the magazine is a couple of pages teaching the very basics of cross stitch - if you're buying this magazine one may assume you already know this stuff, but all cross stitch magazines have it, from what I've seen. How to read a chart - with a sample chart to start you off; this one is a seagull which would probably make a nice keyring once finished - about threads, needle size, fabric choice, how to do cross stitch, backstitch, fractional stitches and french knots, washing your finished work and mounting it in a card blank. All very clear and with pictures to show you exactly what they mean - most magazines have similar beginner's blurb like this and I'd recommend a magazine for a beginner but possibly not this magazine. Cross Stitch Crazy, from the same publisher, is very good for that kind of thing.

So what's inside? Well, there's another bland licenced character - this one is new since I last bought a cross stitch magazine, it looks like just another squirrel to me and pretty much forgettable - a set of fairy cards, some Easter cards, some circus font cards, a Royal Wedding card (no comment - yet), a set of new baby cards, some William Morris flowers, the reader's requests (archery, flamingo, Formula 1 and fishing), farewell cards, retro cat cards, Aries and Taurus in the ongoing Zodiac set, and a set of Easter mini-charts.
How many of these would I want to do? Well... huh.

I can see the fairy cards being useful one day, seeing as I have neices, except that I have no shortage of fairy designs. They are everywhere. The circus font cards are pretty cool, and although there's not a whole alphabet it wouldn't be beyond my ability to chart one. The Royal Wedding card shows Westminster Abbey and so I can see myself using that, although I am finding the wedding itself tedious in the extreme. The retro cat cards are good, the zodiac cards are alright, and the flowers would be OK if I changed the colours - really, some of these are hideous. There is not really a shortage of things I can use here.
And yet, there is nothing here that catches my imagination. Issue 43 has seven charts or sets of charts that I would gladly make at a moment's notice. In fact, I probably will. But everything in issue 77 is kind of bland. Also, the finesse that used to characterise almost all of the designs has gone seriously downhill.

But it could just be a one-off thing? Well, the preview for the next issue promises some interesting-looking classic car designs and a few graduation cards that would be good if I was graduating or knew anyone who was - other than that there's another couple of bland licensed characters (I think there has to be at least two) a set of Sunbonnet Sue cards, some simple wedding cards... and some flip-flop cards.
Why send a card that says 'I <3 Flip-flops'? Who would you send it to?

* - Me being the kind of person who starts making precarious stacks out of anything within reach if I don't have anything to do with my hands.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Now that it's not April Fool's Day any more...

No, me starting a blog was not an April Fool's Day joke. Whether you continue to get one post a day may become one, though, but right now I am in bed with this horrible cold and a large amount of crafty things on my mind. My muse, just lately, has become very demanding - I've started to stop visualising it as another image of myself, like a shoulder angel with a needle, and started to think of it as, well, a bit like this:

These are plush personality cores of GLaDOS from Portal, and I found them here. They're by Katy Creider from Oklahoma and if only GLaDOS had a craft core, this would be what my muse would look like. It gives me the passive aggressive treatment, tries to double-bluff, tricks me into buying ridiculous things and promises me that there will be sales (the sales are a lie). It is also very enthusiastic, and on deciding that more projects than I can possibly finish in a whole year would be a great idea, demands that I start all of them first.

However, I am overriding my muse for the moment, for the sake of the charity auction, and working only on things which I have offered for said auction. One of which are the microembroidery Willow pattern keyrings that I promised I would show you as soon as I could, and in fact, here is the first work in progress shot, taken in front of my bedroom window since it is in fact a lovely day. (Which makes me almost wish it was a dreadful day so I could appreciate having a cold.)
As you can see, the first of  them is nearly finished, I am just outlining it, and there is an outline ready for the second.
This design is being done in cross stitch in one strand of DMC stranded cotton over one strand of DMC white linen, and I have gone wrong in a couple of places - easy to do when you're working so small - but I don't think it's that noticeable. Progress has been quite quick - what you're seeing here is about two day's work - but then that may have been a mistake. I really should be sparing my shoulder and elbow joints more. Time will tell.

DMC products are among the most easily obtainable on the market, and magazine designs like this are often charted in DMC, but it's actually easier for me to get Anchor threads - I have to go all the way to Manchester for DMC, and since there's a lot of things in Manchester I can't get anywhere else, I invariably end up spending far too much money.
The muse, of course, doesn't help, with a shopping list that basically consists of, 'SHINY!'

Friday, 1 April 2011

Well, hello there!

Hi y'all, and welcome to my new craft blog, broadcasting from the UK, glad to see... anyone? No? Just me, then. Oh, well, never mind. How long this blog lasts will be a mystery - I think my record so far is three months, but that wasn't a creative blog. Let's hope this one lasts longer. I has PLNZ.

Well, it's not exactly a beautiful day here in Yorkshire - very windy and a bit drizzly - but the cherry and apple trees are in blossom, so the landscape is full of pink and white, which I'm sure will make me eager to work in pastel colours quite soon, but right now I am in the midst of a rather heavy cold and wading through a backlog of Stuff That Needs Doing Now, with a side order of Stuff That Should Have Been Finished Weeks Ago, so blossom-coloured flights of fancy are not on the agenda.

And what is the thing that has me so eyeball-deep in urgent craftings? Well, for a start, I got involved in one of the charity auctions that have sprung up on LJ to collect donations for the survivors of the disaster in Japan. Round one is over, but I gather that there's a round two coming up, and if you are perchance reading this and wish to donate goods or services, or bid on some of the excellent goodies there, the link is http://community.livejournal.com/help_japan/.
I offered several things (the largest of which didn't sell, but oh well), and so now I'll be busy making two of these, which are the nearest thing I have to a trademark piece.

I'm also going to be making a pair of microembroidery willow pattern keyrings, which I will show you as soon as I have some photos. The pattern for these is from issue 43 of Cross Stitch Card Shop, a magazine which I don't buy anymore and I'm not sure why, because although I seem to have aquired the view that cross stitch is slightly below me now and magazine charts are schmaltzy mush, I tend to do an awful lot of it to keep my hand in, and CSCS does a lot of useful, handily-sized charts that are good-looking, easy to adapt and certainly nice enough that I wouldn't put them on something as disposable as a card.*

The other current project is one that I've been working on since November, and which was supposed to be a Christmas present for the oldest of my three neices. All of my family have seen its progress, all of my friends have either seen it or heard me gripe about it - The Squid has become fairly notorious.

Here you see it hanging upside-down by its feeder tentacles from my closet door - this being the only way I can store it in my overly-cluttered little house when the wash basket is in use. It's about five feet long, and has ten tentacles, and hundreds of these white fluffy suckers. I am SO tired of making suckers. Still, only need to finish two more legs, attach the four that are loose and sew up the gap and then the godforsaken thing is DONE!
Did I mention I sew everything by hand?

* - Speaking of which, one thing I'm going to try to do in this blog is craft magazine reviews. Just not today.