Saturday, 22 September 2012

Richard III inspired craftmaking!

I feel so privileged to be able to deliver one of my weekly creative cafe workshops in what is the oldest and, by all accounts, most haunted buildings in Leicester city centre!  The Guildhall is one of the best preserved timber framed halls in the country dating back six hundred years.  The stunning Great Hall itself was built in about 1390 as a meeting place for the Guild of Corpus Christi and over the next 100 years the Great Hall was extended with two wings at either end.  Over the years the Guildhall has had many uses as a town library, a courtroom, a townhall, headquarters of the local police, a school, a venue for performances and is now a museum - you can find out more about the Guildhall and it's history here
Beautiful timber frame of the Great Hall from the courtyard
The Mayor's Parlour, one of the side wings
I am very excited by all the kerfuffle that's taking place just a stones throw away from the Guildhall where there has been lots of interest in an archaeological dig that may have discovered the final resting place of King Richard III. Last week, during the creative cafe, a group of academics from the University bought over some artifacts that had been dug up over the road and set up a display cabinet ready for viewing by the general public and we were the first to see them:

Artifacts found at the Richard III dig site
I felt so blown away by it all and felt that I wanted to contribute something of my own, to mark the amazing possibility that Richard III's resting place has finally been discovered.  So inspired by that little piece of a medieval pot there (in the lower right hand corner) and that virtually intact tile with a phoenix on in the top right hand corner, I set to work replicating them using some very special yarn.  The yarn I used was donated by Shauna and Mark Richardson.  Shauna is the exceptionally talented artist behind the Lionheart Project commisioned for the Cultural Olympiad by the Art Council for England and I feel so honored to be able to use this wool for other projects such as this one.  The medieval pot and tiles I made took me a weekend to do but, boy, did my hand ache afterwards!  I cannot even begin to contemplate how difficult and physically intensive it must have been to make those 3 enormous lions. The Guildhall staff where very pleased to be the new owners of a crocheted versions of the artifacts and these are now installed in the Guildhall.  
Crocheted Medieval pot (my interpretation!)
Crocheted and appliqued Phoenix tiles hanging in the fireplace in the Mayor's Parlour.
Ethel Floeda models a crocheted Phoenix tile.   I used old felted jumpers for the applique.
So if you are passing by, why not pop in to see these amazing artifacts but whilst you are there, see if you can also spot my (complete) medieval pot and 3 phoenix tiles.  

If you fancy learning the beautiful craft of crochet, I run creative cafe sessions at the Guildhall every Friday morning (except school holidays) for just £5.  Book via the Guildhall, Leicester by calling 0116 253 2569.
More information about our project work, open days and workshops on our website
Also if you're in Leicester go to the King Richard III Visitor Centre

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Garter Yoke Ravelry Pattern

There's nothing like the prospect of a new baby to get the knitting needles clacking.  As always the ever useful knit and crochet community Ravelry had just the pattern for my need.

This lovely garter yoke baby cardigan was knitted on a circular needle and is seamless so virtually no need for sewing lots of pieces together.  Once I finished the cardigan I decided to make another Lara Puppy like the one I wrote about in my previous post, along with a couple of hand crocheted cloths and a Morsbag to put it all in.  The only thing missing was an hand made card.  By coincidence, I met a lady called Sabina from Sabivo Design at a creative networking event, run by Creative Leicestershire , last night and she whipped out a bunch of most beautiful hand painted greeting cards and told me to choose one to keep, and there amongst the pile of lovelies was one for a baby girl.   

I feel really happy that I can hand over a gift that has been handmade.  It's given me a real sense of achievement.  Perhaps you would like to share your stories about gifts you have handmade for someone?  I would love to hear about them and how it made you feel when you handed the gift over.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Lara the puppy

I have spent the morning finishing off a little project that my daughter set me.  Lara was first spotted in the lastest 'Mollie Makes' magazine and it was love at first sight:
 Her entrance into the world was rather fiddly given the length of the legs in relation to the length of the body coupled with the fact that my amazing indestructable sewing machine was destructable afterall (it's awaiting some maintainance).  Still we have the JL mini sewing machine which is good for lightweight projects.
We decided to give it my signature Tim Burtonesque look with some extra surgical stitches here and there but Lily drew the line at my suggestion to make it into a zombie dog.  Anyway she loves her little puppy dog, that she has called Lara, and is planning a welcome picnic for her as I type!
If you would like to make your own Lara dog (aka known by the exciting name of 'a plushie dog') designed by Tania Ho you can download a copy here but there are no instructions.  You will have to buy the lastest copy of Mollie Makes magazine for that!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Winselmann Titan

This little beauty was given to me a few weeks ago but it remains tantalisingly shut.  

The key is missing.  I have tried a paperclip and screwdriver and we even had a go at unscrewing the beautiful brass plate at the opposite end to the lock but, it still won't let me in.  I know something beautiful is inside.  I have seen pictures of these Winselmann Titans on the web.  I really want to get in it because my old faithful Singer has decided to stop working. 
For now, I will just have to sit and admire the lovely casing whilst I await and expert machine fixer and lock picker to come and open it up.  In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions, about how to get in it without damaging the lock, then please let me know!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Pennant Project

A great opportunity came my way via Charnwood Arts these past few weeks since.  I have been working in a local school, helping them to make pennants for the Picnic in the Park event taking place in Loughborough next week. Working with children is always a dynamic, full on experience, but I do enjoy their enthusiasm and honesty. It was good for me to experience teaching some of the skills I'd formerly taught to adults, to a group of young people. One noticable thing I noticed was the way any rigid lesson plans or time schedule tends to disintigrate fairly quickly as the lesson progresses, and the teacher has to react and respond quickly and effectively with demanding learners. The end results indicated that they learned a great deal, and It was a great lesson for me in thinking on my feet!

Monday, 28 May 2012


A little while ago I was asked if I would have a go at crocheting a bra for two lovely ladies who had registered to do the London 2012 Moonwalk also known as 'Walk the Walk', it started 15 yrs ago in New York when 13 women decided to walk the New York marathon in their bras to raise money for breast cancer awareness.  Since then over £75m has been raised.  My mum had breast cancer and died from complications associated with treatment so, I jumped at the chance of being able to do something for these ladies and maybe help to raise awareness of this wonderful cause.

They are supposed to be cupcake cups but they kind of turned out slight Maddonna - ish but the girls were delighted nontheless and, apparently, they caused a bit of a stir.  I used a DK yarn and crocheted the cake bit 'freestyle' and the pink icing was made from the tail created by a french knitting dolly and embellished with red crochet for the cherries and red and silver sequins for the sprinkles.  Don't ask me for the pattern because it's resides in my head!

The cherry on the cake is the all the money raised for such a good cause!

So if you fancy a bit of a Moonwalk yourself in 2013 or just want to look at some of the amazing pictures from the night clicky right here!

Sarah & Sarah outside Buckingham Palace following their epic adventure!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Mini Jubilee Bunting Tutorial

In this tutorial, and expansion to the one published in the Beacon Magazine, I will show you how to make a bunting for your jubilee celebrations, which will cost next to nothing!  Measuring approx 124cm in length, this mini bunting can be used to decorate your home, inside or out. It can be used as a door decoration or, as I have done, a decoration for a child’s playhouse.  This tutorial is quite easy, and suitable for children to do.  Don’t worry if you can’t sew because I have added in a ‘no-sew’ suggestion.  That said, if you are not very confident sewing, this is a great way to practice!  If your stitches look a bit wobbly, I personally think this adds to the unique charm of the item! So please don’t aim for ‘technical perfection’, because other factors like imagination, playfulness, experiment, and engagement with your materials are much more important. Most of all have fun! 

Take a look in your clothes cupboard for old fabrics with the main colours of red, white and blue.  Look for items of clothing with interesting patterns and textures, or even motifs which can be incorporated into the flag design.  I utilised my children’s old clothes.  They grow out of them so quickly and I have often kept the good quality items to use in projects like this one.  If you don’t have many clothes to use, try looking around charity shops or jumble sales for items of clothing.  Cut along the seams of the clothes and iron them flat ready for cutting:

Next, you will need a template for your bunting.  Get a piece of cardboard (an old cereal box will do for this) and cut out a 10 x 10cm square.  Mark a line at the bottom end of the card, halfway at 5cm.  From that half-way point, draw a line to each corner at the top and cut out the template to make a triangular shape:

Now that you have a template, you can start choosing your fabrics.  I used 3 of each colour, carefully placing the template over interesting parts of the fabric.  With this red one, I placed the template over a flower on a dress that my daughter had grown out of.  I used an ink pen to make a mark around the template and carefully cut on the inside of the ink line:

Next, I cut 3 of each colour making 9 flags for the bunting in total.  Next you need to cut a binding to hold the flags in place.  I cut a strip of fabric measuring 124 x 3cms.  Fold the binding in half lengthways.  It’s helpful to iron along the fold line to make a crease as this will help you with the next stage.  Lift open the binding and place the top left hand corner of the first flag approx 11cms along the binding and up to the crease line:

Pin in place with the pins pointing downwards.  This will make it easier for you to remove them as you sew.  Continue pinning the flags to the binding leaving approx 2cm gap in-between:
Now, using a contrasting colour (I used a red thread on blue and white check, start sewing using a running stitch.  Don’t worry if you are not used to sewing.  Random stitches can look beautifully quirky- and children can produce unique and playful stitches which add to the overall effect:

If you prefer not to do any sewing at all, you can even peg the flags to the binding with mini pegs that are used for paper crafts:

When all your flags are in place, you can embellish the plain flags with appliqué if you like, or add buttons or even a bit of embroidery.  In keeping with the jubilee theme, you may want to use red white and blue threads.  I appliquéd on a diamond shape with a running stitch inside it, I also edged some of the flags with running stitch and added a blue and white button to another flag: 

And finally, hang your bunting and admire.  One of our hens Pepi loves it so much that she tried to eat it!