Saturday, 28 November 2009

Snow angel tutorial

Ah, sorry to have teased you. This is what I've been working on - think of her as an early Christmas present from me to you and a thank you for reading. She's inspired by a little angel I saw on a Christmas tree in a local shop, and I couldn't resist her. Obviously, she's not a toy - if you make one please don't let tiny people get hold of her as she won't stand up to extended tugging.

If you do make one please post a picture and let me know so I can come to have a peep at your handiwork. I don't mind what you do with her: keep her for yourself, give her as a gift, make her to sell, but PLEASE don't pinch my pictures or instructions and use them as your own - that would not be in the Christmas spirit and would make me very sad.

OK, here we go - warning, there are lots of photos:

You will need:

* a piece of felt about 3" x 6" - I've used white but she'd be equally lovely in red or blue with white embellishment; or glitter felt, oooh!
* two pieces of stretchy plain fabric, each about 3" square- I used jersey but old T-shirt, or even tights would work too
* scraps of felt
* wool to match felt
* embroidery thread in eye, mouth and hair colours
* a small ball of stuffing, or bits of old tights
* a length of narrow ribbon for hanging, about 8" long
* needle and thread
* scissors
* knitting needles - whatever you have will do, as you'll see

First, make a template from paper:

Fold your felt in half, short ends together to make a 3" square. Pin and cut out the template - note where the template lines up with the fold! You'll end up with a piece like this:

Now cut out two little mitteny hands, which you will fold to make them double thickness - I don't use a template but fold the mitten felt in half and cut an appropriately sized paw, and then another:

Fold the hands in half as in the left hand example, and sew them around the edges with a tiny running stitch, as shown in the picture below.

Now is the time to embellish your angel's dress. You could applique a felt heart, as in the top photo, or embroider a snowflake, a heart, a mitten - whatever you like. Beads might be a pretty touch too:

Time to make the head. Stitch a circle around 2" in diameter in one of your pieces of stretchy fabric - I've used red here to show what I mean, but in reality I use thread to match the fabric.

Put the ball of stuffing in the middle and draw up the threads. Secure with extra stitches. If you can, gather most of the fabric to the back of the neck,

and leave the front as smooth as possible - this improves the end appearance. At this stage you could stitch a tiny gathered circle in the face to make a nose, but I generally don't.

Lay the second square of head fabric over, secure with a couple of stitches through the neck:

and then wrap the edges in and stitch them down, again trying to keep the front smooth and wrinkle free (if only skin care were really that easy). Wrap the thread a couple of times round the neck to tighten it all up:

The bulky straggly edges will help to give shape to the body, so leave them alone.

You now need to cut a neck hole. This needs to be only just large enough to insert the 'body' through, so go cautiously or you'll be darning up the neck hole afterwards. The easiest way is to fold the body in half at the shoulder seam, and then in half again, and then trim the tiniest sliver off at the corner you form:

You should end up with something like this:

Carefully feed the neck layers through, one at a time if necessary. Secure the head to the body by over stitching the edge of the dress to the base of the head - this isn't a toy so you don't need to go overboard.

Stitch the edges of the skirt together with a tiny running stitch.

Now, starting at the underarm seam, start to stitch round the arms, inserting the mittens as you get about halfway up the cuffs and letting your running stitches go through all 4 layers of felt. I actually then stitch back down over the mittens to secure them:

Hair next. Cut 6 strands of hair coloured embroidery floss, each about 8" long. Stitch them one by one to the head, starting at one ear, then over the top of the head, and finally out at the other ear. There's no need to tie them, but do pull all the strands so they're level and even on both sides of the head.

Now you need to plait them. This is the fiddliest part of the whole operation but I think it's my favourite feature in the finished angel. So take a deep breath and perhaps anchor her to your jeans with a pin before you start plaiting. Tie the ends of her plaits with thread, then trim them neatly. If you can tie a bow here I'll be green with envy. Take some time to make sure they more or less match up!

Embroider a face - or you could use fabric pens if you find that easier. You could use tiny French knots for the eyes as I've done here, or single stitches as in the heart-tummied angel at the top of the post. For the mouth you could do a single knot, or perhaps an "o" shape, or a single plain stitch, or catch the centre with a tiny stitch to make a little rosebud mouth. Attach your narrow ribbon, folded in half to make a hanging loop, to the top of her head.

The hat is made from a small piece of knitting. If you hate knitting you could also crochet, or even make it from felt, but I think the knitting looks good and it is about as simple as it gets.

You need to make a stocking stitched piece that's about 3" long by about 1.75" wide. I used bulky wool and 4mm needles, and that was 14 stitches by about 10 rows for me. You'll need to cast on what looks like a good number (stretch them out a bit and measure) then knit and purl a row or two and re-measure - you'll only be dealing with a few stitches so if your first attempt is the wrong size it won't take long to try again. Knit/purl in alternate rows to the desired length, then cast off and leave a long end for gathering. You'll note my piece is curly - and that's exactly how I want it:

Stitch the short edges together then fit the tube to her head, pushing the ribbon loop up through the middle and having the hat seam at the back. Secure to her head with little stitches and let the curly bottom edge curl up to be a sort of cuff. Use the remaining long end to gather the top edge with a running stitch, pull tight and secure the end.

And you're done! Phew! Well done if you got all the way to the end, and have fun. These take about an hour the first time but they get faster after that.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Rainbow goodness!

I received my Rainbow Swap parcel all the way from sunny Australia a couple of weeks ago, but have been having a bit of an unplanned blogging break so this is the first time I've managed to get my camera and laptop and any light together to post about the gorgeous goodies sent from Calidore - there were sweeties too but they're long gone!

An array of fabulously colourful cloth and wool goodies - from gorgeous stitching on a little bag to a wonderfully warm scarf that's been doing sterling duty this week on the bitingly cold walk to and from school. I don't care what the thermometer says - the wind is making it flipping cold here!

I'll leave you with a teasing glimpse of something I'm hoping to make a tutorial for if I can get my camera to cooperate ...

Friday, 13 November 2009

Kitchen Poetry, Friday

OK, so this is sort of cheating for my last Kitchen Poetry day. These aren't strictly speaking photos of my kitchen, but they were taken *near* my kitchen - there's been nowhere near enough light in there today to take a real kitchen based photo. One of Tall Small's spellings this week was kitchen - does that count?

These are the little things I made for Trashy's Rainbow swap; I'm fairly sure my swap partner isn't a regular reader and even if she is, she doesn't know I'm sending to her yet so I should be safe.

First of all a little bit of rainbowy-crystal necklace goodness, because who could resist such cheery sparkles?

And then a felty rainbow covered notebook that gave me such a lot of pleasure while I was making it. I know it's supposed to be bluebirds over rainbows, but my bluebirds looked more like dying ducks so I went with a butterfly instead.

I also included rainbow coloured thread, fabric, buttons and a mini stack of felty squares - hope it arrives safely and that she likes it!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Kitchen Poetry, Thursday

This is a tiny little tin that I have hanging from one of my cabinets, and it was given to me by Emma from Silverpebble, maker of fabulous jewels and scourer of vintage fairs par excellence. I love it, it cheers me up hugely - as does Emma :-) I'm lucky enough to live close to her and get to go bead shopping and tea drinking and giggling and gossiping; the next best thing is reading her blog, and if you haven't, you should!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Kitchen Poetry, Wednesday

There was an interesting post over at A Commonplace Life recently dealing with the idea that maybe in blogging we should try to reflect real life rather than always editing out the messy bits and cropping the untidy corners out of our photos. While I can sympathise with the frustration induced by viewing other people's seemingly perfect houses and immaculate children and endless talents, I'm not going to post pictures of the six empty milk cartons waiting to be recycled into the school swimming pool (dump in a handful of gravel and put them in the water and they theoretically prevent it freezing over in winter). Likewise you don't need to see the three sacks of logs waiting in my kitchen because I haven't yet stacked them and there's no room in the shed and I don't want them to be rained on overnight.

But I am happy to share with you this evidence of my hopelessness:

This is our weather tree. A lovely idea stolen from some inspirational parenting blog that I cannot now recall, the idea is to colour in a leaf each day to represent the prevailing weather - blue for rain, gold for sun and so on.

Well, daily colouring went by the by after about a three days, and we finally gave up even the weekly 'catch up' colouring sessions by February. We made a brief attempt to restart in April, but since then, nothing. And have I taken the wretched thing down? No, it's still there, reproaching me daily for being both a forgetful parent and a lazy housekeeper. Humph.

Oh well. Hope that makes you feel better!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Kitchen Poetry, Tuesday

So, having showed off our (not very shiny) coffee machine yesterday, I thought I should come clean and reveal what I really drink most of the time. I used to have a serious Lady Grey habit - a couple of pots per day, easily, plus frequent cups of coffee = a lot of caffeine. I've given up caffeine many times in the past - when I was pregnant, when I had just had the babies, and when I realised that if I missed my morning coffee I had the most appalling withdrawal headaches that it made me wonder whether it was such a good thing to be drinking so much.

The thing that triggered me this time was a friend whose sister is a nurse telling me about a patient who had such seriously high blood pressure he was about to be medicated, but was given one last chance. "Try giving up caffeine for a couple of weeks and see what happens," suggested the doctor. So, he tried, and lo and behold his blood pressure came back down to normal. Now, obviously this is second or third hand, and we don't know how much coffee he had previously been drinking, whether he had to gave up chocolate too (unthinkable) or even whether he actually existed, but it did make me stop and think about what I was drinking all day, every day.

Anyone who tries to tell you that Redbush tea tastes just like "real" tea is telling a big fib - there's a very definite and distinctive edge to it; but I have got used to it and now I rather like it. Don't worry though, there's still normal tea in the cupboard for visitors!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Kitchen Poetry, Monday

Last autumn, I took part in Kitchen Poetry and was surprised at how many things I could find to photograph in my kitchen. This year, it's being hosted by the lovely Mrs Fancy Elastic and I decided to join in again. A week of daily posting is going to leave me very short of words so please forgive me when I post dimly lit wobble shots and not much else!

This first one is our beloved coffee machine. It's older than either of my children, and has been bunged up with scale and cleaned out more times than I can recall, but it's still going strong. These days it's used mainly at weekends or when people come over, though the Smalls have discovered the joys of cocoa made with steamed milk so it may yet find it has a rather active old age!

There's still time to join in if you feel up to sharing photos of your own kitchen and what goes on therein ...

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


It was always going to happen. As soon as I'd made one little felt house picture my mental wheels started churning and I realised I needed to make my own design.

Not terribly original - mushroomy elf and mouse houses abound in blogland and beyond - but I am pleased to have conjured this out of my head and rendered it in felt and thread.

Now I need to try to translate some of the other silly images I have into reality. I have some outrageously glittery felt that is screaming out for festive treatment ...

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Behind the curve, as usual

I hope all that observe it had a lovely Halloween. We went a bit Martha Stewart this year and carved haunted houses instead of scary faces. It always ends up that the children draw their desired patterns on the pumpkins and I end up scooping out the pumpkin guts and wielding a not quite sharp enough knife while they wander off, distracted by shiny things. We even had our own pumpkins ready to carve but in the end they were just a teeny bit small so they'll end up as pie one day this week.

We went to a huge party with my sister and her family, and bagged quite a lot of sweeties, but not so many that Tiny Small couldn't scoff them all while my back was turned. Little monkey. She didn't give me a single one!