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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Simple crystal pendant...

I've talked before about how my style seems to have been simplifying over the last couple of years. Somebody I work with was surprised when I told her I made jewellery because apparently I never wear any! That's mostly because I don't see the point of trying to jazz up my work uniform (hey there tunic and bottle green trousers!) but even outside of work I find I don't really wear that much jewellery, normally just a necklace or earrings. I have accumulated a lot of statement necklaces over time but sometimes I just want something a little more dainty. When I was shopping for beads for my shop plans (which are currently on hold) I spotted this pretty 10mm tourmaline vintage Swarovski crystal which I just had to buy for myself :)


If you have made jewellery before then the picture is probably all you need to recreate this pretty necklace. but here's a little step by step in case you're new to it...this is the perfect project to start with :)

What you need:

I had a ready made chain and eye pin to hand so I used these. If you don't have an eye pin then just use wire - you just need to make an eye loop before adding the beads. Also if you don't have a finished chain to hand, all you'll need extra is a clasp and two extra jump rings. I use flat nosed pliers to bend wire at sharp angles and round nosed pliers to 'roll' the wire but round nosed pliers would do both jobs adequately if you don't have both pliers to hand.

1. Add the beads to the eye pin and bend the wire 90 degrees with pliers.

2. Trim the excess wire to 1cm.

3. Make an eye loop with round nosed pliers to close the wire (learn how to make an eye loop in this previous post).

4. Find the middle of the chain and cut in half. Use the jump rings to add the pendant to the chain. If you're not using a ready made chain then you'll just need to add the two jump rings and clasp to the other ends of the chain.

And that's it :) Despite wearing green every day for work it is still one of my favourite colours so this is a perfect splash of colour for me to add to any outfit!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I did it! I finally made a quilt!

So my 'passion' for learning how to quilt was one of the ways I first justified buying my sewing machine. 4 years ago. I even bought a couple of quilting books and pinned plenty of beautiful quilts for inspiration but I failed in the one really essential part of quilting- that is actually making a quilt.

But September was the month it happened (and November is the month I finally do my blog post on it!). I can't believe it but I have finally made my first quilt! I'm relieved to say I also enjoyed every moment of it as well so I'm hoping it won't be the last I make! I've spoken before of how I tend to be drawn to crafts that can be completed quickly as I do tend to get bored and forget about projects that seem to go on. and on. and on. I can't help but feel as though I miss out on the process of 'making' by being focused on the end project so I have tried to challenge myself to stick at some longer term projects - my aim being to just enjoy the therapeutic nature of being creative. Knitting is one way I have tried to challenge this and quilting seemed like another good option - given my apparent dedication to it all those years ago!

 A close friend of mine was expecting her first baby and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally get down and learn how to quilt. Making it as a gift was also a good way to stop me from thinking 'oh it'll be fine' and take silly shortcuts that, let's face it, hardly ever work out.

I have a couple of books with patterns but after browsing Pinterest I decided to work out my own pattern inspired by this quilt by Whitney Deal. This was perfect for me because it helped me to learn and practice a basic but useful tool in quilting - half square triangles - in fact I made 120 of them so I feel fairly confident now!

I have no intention of teaching anyone how to quilt as I don't really have a clue - but I thought it might be helpful for anybody else thinking of having a go for me to share what I found helpful along the way...

1) Enjoy the process - it felt a long time before I actually started 'quilting', what with cutting out 120 squares, sewing them together and cutting them up to make 120 different squares, then measuring and squaring up the squares, pressing fabric, working out the design and then piecing it together. But I surprised myself by just being able to enjoy each step. Don't rush through the early stages, which leads me to the next thing...

2) Accuracy is key - I am guilty so often of rushing or skipping stages and making things up as I go...generally things do work out but I'm so glad I didn't do this here! Measurements matter so when cutting your original squares make sure they are at least the right size but you could also cut them bigger and cut them down to size later on. I think I'll do this next time as I had a mini falling out with my rotary cutter when cutting my original squares and a few of them ended up slightly narrower than I wanted (I'm pretty sure rotary cutters are meant to be simple to use so don't ask me how I managed to complicate it!). I didn't have enough fabric to recut them so had to make do but it did mean I had to adjust my measurement of the overall squares and quilt. If they were all exactly the same size it would have made matching up the chevrons in the quilt top a lot easier!

2) I had no idea what half square triangles were until I started googling tutorials...this tutorial for making half square triangles is really clear and helpful.

3) Square your squares - this was a step I was tempted to skip but I'm so glad I didn't - maybe it should be obvious how to square a square but I found this tutorial really helpful! It really is worth the extra time to make sure your squares line up.

4) Putting the quilt together - I used the book Material Obsession to help guide me through the process of putting the quilt together. I learnt that the backing fabric and wadding should be about 4" larger all round than the quilt top - I didn't read this before I ordered my backing (I went with flannel) or wadding but thankfully I had sufficient fabric! It probably sounds silly but I also really didn't know whether I should quilt before binding or just in case you're also wondering - quilt before binding!

5) Binding - Again Material Obsessions was really helpful in explaining how to bind but they recommended the traditional technique of blind hem stitching the binding to the back of the quilt. I really didn't trust my hand stitching abilities so looked for how to machine stitch. This video tutorial helped as well as Kate Haxell's Me and My Sewing Machine. She also gives a really clear explanation on how to mitre a corner...I never expected my corners to look so neat! Binding was the one place where I ended up having to make it up slightly as the binding I had bought was quite see through so I had to be creative in how to make it thick enough so that the quilt top didn't show through - the only thing it meant was that I ended up still having to hand stitch a lot of the back to tidy it up...but in doing so I discovered that hand stitching isn't as scary as I first thought!

So there you have it, my first blog post in months - sorry for the how quiet I've been. I'm not sure how often I'll be making an appearance on here over the next few months. I'm currently in a knitathon to get some presents finished for Christmas so hopefully I'll be able to share my most recent adventures in knitting with you soon :)

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