Tag Archives: Crafts

A craft post – the bench project

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 was to make time for more creative stuff. I decided I will do one project a month, ideally small enough to do over a weekend. So for January, kicking off in grand style… I upholstered a bench.

I will tell anyone who will listen that I re-upholstered the headboard on my bed a couple of years ago. It justified the expense of the chunky craft stapler I bought, but it has been languishing in my drawer for a while, so here we go…

You will need:

  • your bench top
  • foam block(s)
  • fabric to cover the top
  • a big ol’ stapler

You may possibly need:

  • A second pair of hands
  • cushion pads
  • fabric or craft glue
  • your vacuum cleaner
  • ribbon or other trim (bench style dependent)
  • A method of making your new upholstery flame-retardant
  • Your tunes and snacks of choice

I have had this bench in my lounge since my parents dropped it off when I moved in to my current flat. I think my dad put it together from the old legs of a table or bench, and a random shelf, or cut off of ply. As you can see, the colours are totally different between top and legs. It sits under the living room window, so someone (totally not me) can sit and look out the window and watch (judge) passersby. It usually has cushions on it, which is fine, but I wanted a more permanent solution. As this is an existing bench, all I had to do was undo the screws my dad had used to put it together (he did it in a super handy way which meant very little faff – thanks past-dad!) but I have no clue about your potential benches (potenches?) so in however way it works, stage one is to have the top bit of the bench separate from the legs. Then measure the length and width of it, so you know how much padding/foam block to buy.

I bought a 4” thick foam block from a high street craft shop, in its standard size. I even put it on the floor and sat on it to see how much it would compact when sat on. Thankfully it was a quiet day and no one challenged me about it! The block I found was quite dense already so it didn’t sink too much. I also bought a couple of cushion pads to help give the top some shape and make the direct bum-to-bench feeling a little cosier. See what feels right for you!

I had to cut the foam to the dimensions of my bench top, which was easy enough with big scissors and a serrated knife. As you can see, it left my block a little rough on the edges but I’m OK with that. If you want the cut side to match the factory cut, the internet suggests either a foam cutting saw, or an electric carving knife. I also bevelled the edges to give a smoother line for the fabric to go over, rather than all the corners, especially given the density of the foam. No one wants lumpy corners! You will likely end up with foam bits all over the floor, so be careful if you have small kids or pets. This is why vacuum cleaner is in the materials list.

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Now for the fun bit. This is where you may need a second pair of hands to just keep stuff steady. I didn’t have that option, so I had to take out some staples and adjust as I went. I put the cushion pads on top of the foam, giving them a fab of fabric glue underneath for luck, though how it will fix to the foam I have no clue. Even if it only stuck temporarily, it ain’t going anywhere now it’s contained in a fabric prison! Then I stapled along one long edge, on the underneath side. I stapled far enough in from the edge to give me good stretching room. My top tip is to start with the centre and work outwards evenly. This helps to stop the fabric all shifting one way so that you don’t end up with too much at one end and not enough left to cover the other.

NOTE: My bench already had screw holes, so I made sure not to staple over them! If you’re making your bench for the first time, it’s up to you if you cut holes for drilling, or just fix through the fabric as well.

I used my fabric on the bias, which means at an angle to the edge. Depending on what fabric you’re using, this may be a good idea to help you get the top really tight. Using the bias of most traditionally woven cottons will give you the stretch that you just don’t get if you follow the grain lines. Depends on your fabric/pattern though! Mine is peacock feathers so I think it looks good at an angle. If you’ve got stripes or something really straight and regular, it might look weird at 45 degrees. You do you!

So, one long edge is stapled. Sure would have been good to have a second person help me for this bit! Ah well. I rocked the top over, pulling the fabric tight over the top, smoothing out the cushion pads and foam into a vaguely dome shape (and for bonus points, symmetrical!). Because the fabric is on the bias – and this is the downside – it was a little harder to stop wrinkles and bunching in the fabric. Just keep adjusting until it’s even on both sides and not totally pulled to one side. Staple the other long side!

Now is the time to do a little trimming of excess, so that the ends aren’t too bulky. Be careful though – it’s better to have to keep trimming little by little, than hack too much off at once and then have gaps. To do the ends, I tucked a little around the corner and pulled the end over before stapling. Not a proper parcel or hospital corner, but enough to get a little pleating at the ends, because I like that effect. If you want your ends smoother or more like envelopes, tuck in like you would a birthday parcel before pulling the end over, to hide that excess. Trim out some bulk if you need to.

Put your bench top roughly on top of the legs and step back. Is it as symmetrical as you want it? Have you got one baggy corner? I had a baggy corner, so I did a bit of emergency stapling. There’s always one baggy corner…

Once you’re happy, fix the top to the base/legs/box (whatever!). I was lucky – I just had to screw it back in. I bow to your own judgement on wood glues, different types of screw/nail or however else your project is going.

OPTIONAL EXTRA: I decided to glue a complementary coloured ribbon along the upright edge of the bench board, just to add a finish and cover up any little wrinkles along the edge. I didn’t have the patience or skill to do this with those big stud nail things, but that’s another option that looks really good.

Now sit back, admire your bench with a brew and something tasty. Then vacuum again. I vacuumed, sat down to write this up, and immediately noticed a piece of foam I’d missed.

SIDE NOTE ABOUT FIRE SAFETY: Depending on the fabric you’re using, you may wish to treat it with a flame resistant/retardant spray. It may not be fabric originally designed for furniture, but now you’ve made it into a furnishing! Just be aware if you’re making this bench as a gift or for sale – there are laws about this stuff, people!

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The Story of Rivka’s Christmas Present – July 2015

Alright. For this project you will need:

  • pens
  • paper
  • tracing paper
  • fabric
  • time
  • to be insane

I have decided to make Rivka a bed throw/quilt thing. Yup. It’s currently 4th July, and the design has been drawn out for a month already. Now I’m on summer vacation and Rivka will be out at work, I have more time and space to sort things without her seeing what’s going on. I’m aiming to have the main machine parts done by October so I can do the hand-embellishing.

So what’s my design? I have chosen to recreate a Tarot card. I am doing Major Arcana VIII – Strength. I chose this card because it is about the quiet dignity of perseverance when things get tough. It’s about going on when you don’t think you can. It’s that core of steel. I had a couple of decks to look at and I looked at Pinterest as well, and have stuck with a Rider-Waite style. I adapted the hairstyle of the woman in the card to be more like Rivka, because she really represents this card 100%.

At the moment (July) she is dealing with some tough stuff. Yes, she has been upset about it; she’s not a robot. But she’s not caving, and she’s not letting it rule her life. She is doing her best to punch it in the balls and rise above it. Her dedication to writing and promoting other indie authors is an inspiration and even though it drives her up the wall sometimes, she really cares about her author community and she wouldn’t give it up for anything.

That’s why I took this card:

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And made it look like this:

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As you can see I was brave and Sharpied it, and I clearly can’t draw hands, but I’m pretty proud of myself. Today Rivka is going out to teach a lovely lady how to make felt, so I’m going to start work on the lettering at the bottom. This thing is about the size of a single duvet, so it’s a struggle to even lay it out in the craft room upstairs at the moment. I have too many boxes up there! I have enough black to do a few letters, and the strip of white at the bottom. I might even cut some lion pieces. Oooh! I need a new box to keep all the pieces in.

At the moment I’m feeling excited. Check back in a week or so and I’ll be regretting the whole thing!

Photo updates and stories to follow!

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A Stitch in Time

This week, I have mostly been… well, I’m not really sure. I’ve not been doing much reading, I’ve done no writing, so I must have been working on Rivka’s Christmas surprise! And I have. I’m writing an update post for that soon, scheduled for after Christmas Day.

VERY EXCITING THOUGH: Katie Cross has sent me a copy of The High Priest’s Daughter and I am clearing the decks for that one. I will be tucked up early tonight so I can dive back into Antebellum and the crisis in the Central Network. I hope there are more dragons.

VERY EXCITING THING THE SECOND: A very clever chap I know has been giving me sneaky previews of his new book. E O Higgins is powering up his steam-word-processing-engine and bringing us a sequel to Conversations with Spirits (eventually).

Slow progress with all other book type things. Though I did catch a bit of Roald Dahl day last weekend. His books – particularly Matilda (guess why) and The Witches – were some of the most-read on my shelves. And as I got older, I graduated to the short story collections for more grown up readers. The macabre and twisted worlds he created, with their often grotesque inhabitants… well, there was no one like him. The Hitchhiker, Man from the South, Royal Jelly to name a few, freaked me out but kept me hooked to the very last sentence.

Rivka taught me dragonscale smocking the other week. It was a crazy Saturday smocking party in the Highlands! I think technically it’s a type of American smocking, but we know it mainly from the costume lady on Game of Thrones because she used it to make the textured scale effect on Daenerys’s blue dresses. But it looks really cool. It’s puffy, but you can iron it flat. Rivka has done more of it than me, but I might find a use for it…

So baaaasically I’ve been crafting and working. And not getting enough sleep. But I’m working on it. I have some holiday coming up in a few weeks that is going to be hectic (understatement) but productive. And then NaNoWriMo. Holy swearwords!

And now, back up to the attic…

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Project – drawstring bag

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For this project you will need:

  • sturdy cotton/twill fabric (I’m using denim)
  • a contrasting colour/fabric band for the top (printed cottons are jazzy!)
  • cord (fabric, ribbon, plasticised rope…)
  • embroidery thread
  • an iron, if you’re doing it properly
  • a big ol’ safety pin

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I’m making my whole bag from denim, and adding a contrasting band over the top, with top stitching, so that the whole bag is sturdy! I cut my main bag on the fold, to save sewing the bottom seam – a handy tip, because if you sew the seam, if anything pointy gets jogged about in there, it might start to snag the seam and make a hole, but hey, I’m making mine without a bottom seam! I sort of blagged how big I want it to be, so decide on size based on what you want it to carry. It might only need to be big enough for a book or two, or you might want it big enough for a chunky towel and swimming kit. Your choice, craft fans! **Just remember – you’ll lose a little on the measurements because of seams and the fold down at the top for the cord channel**

As I’m using a printed cotton for the top band, I need the pattern to be even as best I can. If you’ve got one with polka dots or tiny flowers or a stripe, it’s easier to get away with, but I think this lady will notice if I chop a fox’s head off! My contrast bands are two foxes deep each (metric) but it can be as narrow or wide as you want. Personalisation and choice, my friends. When the bands get sewn on, they’ll be sewn to what will be the top edge at both sides, so you’ll get a long rectangle with bands at each end (mirror image, so your animals are all the right way up!!) before you sew up the sides. Mine are two bands with a gap, but you can do one wide one, or a narrow one at the bottom: Up. To. You.

It is at this point that we must repair to the ironing station. Proper sewing people will tell you that you need to press a lot of things when sewing, and hand on heart I don’t always bother. But for this, if you want your contrast band to have a nice crisp edge (and this will also help your top stitching) you should really press your edge under. So steam up those craft rooms! Fold the top and bottom edge of the contrast under until it’s as narrow as you want it to be, and press those folds so you get a sharp line. It’ll then stay tucked under, making the pinning a lot easier. Dual purpose ironing!

OK, now the work begins. Luckily this stitching is all in straight lines! Easy peasy.

**Before you do anything else, you need to know how fat your cord is going to be. If you are using ready-made cord, or ribbon, great. Grab it. If you’re going to make cord by plaiting things, or rouleau tubes, you need to do this now, so you can work out how big the cord channel needs to be at the top.**

I’m using a synthetic cord rope stuff they sell at Hobbycraft in the ribbons and rickrack section. It’s not very fat, so I don’t need a huge turn down at the top. Right. So. Measure from the top edges of your backing fabric twice the width and a bit of your cord channel. That’s where the top of the contrast band will sit, so it’s neat along the bottom of the cord channel. Neatness is key in this project I’m afraid.

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Remember how we pressed the contrast bands? Those creases should have held nicely. We’re going to top stitch now, so the band needs pinning to the right side (the visible-when-finished side) of the bag. The top edge needs to sit juuuuust under where the cord channel seam will be, so you won’t accidentally sew over the cord channel and make it too narrow. Pin those bands, and neatly, gently, lovingly top stitch. I’m using a matching thread (the top machine thread is visible, and the bottom thread is on the inside) but you can contrast if you like. Hopefully, she says confidently, when this big long rectangle is folded in half, the two sides will match up. If they don’t; make a cup of tea, and don’t stress about it. It can be fixed. It can be saved. It can be beautiful. **This is when I stitched the name on the front, when I could still get to the inside easily**

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If/when your two halves match, fold the rectangle right sides together so you can sew up the two sides. It is super important to make sure the two outsides are sandwiched together so that the seams are tucked inside the bag when you turn it the other way out. Pin the two sides together (making sure the band edges still match!) and sew up to just past the top of the contrast band. DON’T sew right up to the top and close off the holes you need for the cord. If you want to, when that’s done, and you’re breathing a sigh of relief, and also marvelling in your awesomeness, you can quickly stitch at right angles at the bottom of the cord channel just to fix the top of the seam.

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In order to make the edges nice and finished at the top, you need to turn in the sides at the top by a seam’s width (about 5/8 of an inch is standard) as far down as you measured, and machine stitch. This should naturally fold to follow the seam you’ve just done.

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This will stop the edge fraying and make it look like you made something competently. It’s all in the details. Then, turn the top edge down, right side facing out, so the tucked under bit is on the inside of the bag. It is now up to you which way round you stitch. I am going to stitch this so that the top thread on the machine is on the inside (so I’m sewing while looking at the fold) and the bottom machine thread will be visible from the outside. It’s up to you if you want hidden or contrasting thread. I’m choosing not to contrast thread. Pin and sew the two top edges and voilà, cord channel halves. This seam should run just above the top of your contrast bands, as you can see on the left below.

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We are so almost done! Now we need to thread the cord. I am choosing to attach my cord top and bottom, to make shoulder straps, but again, you can decide how you want your finished bag to look. Keep it hand-held if you want. If you’re going to attach the cord at the bottom as well, make sure you cut an eyelet big enough to get the cord through but not so big it can come back out. Because of the cord I’m using, I can pass it through, knot it, and then melt the ends with a match to stop it coming undone. So my eyelets need to be smaller than the knots. If you’re lucky enough to have a beefy eyelet punch, go with that. If not, you’ll need to buttonhole the edges with thread to stop them fraying and make it look neat. I hate that part.

Time for the threading and then we’re done, I promise. How many cups of tea have you had by now? I know this seems like a really long tutorial but you can zip through it, honest! You need to cut your cord in half, to make it “drawstring” properly. Take one half, put the safety pin on the end to help with feeding it through, and push it into the cord channel. Feed it through one side and come back the other. Pull it through until the ends are even. Now put the pin on the other half of the cord, and do the mirror image, so you have ends on each side. Put them through the holes at the bottom and secure with a knot or stitch. Ta-da! (or just knot the ends if you’re leaving it at that)

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I added one extra step: stitching on the name of the recipient with embroidery thread. This is optional. You could get applique letters, or free stitch initials, or whatever. I free-stitched the name cursive in the gap I put between the two bands.

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Now it’s really, really done. Enjoy your bags and salt the earth of your craft room, never to return! Until next time…

KEY POINTS:

  • MEASURE accurately or your sides won’t match
  • IRON those cotton bands!
  • FIRST top stitch
  • THEN side seams
  • NEXT top channel and threading
  • EYELET HOLE needs to stay SMALL
  • CINCH!

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Personalised mugs

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A really simple project to do on a rainy day (or any time really!). It’s a bit of a cheat to describe this project because I didn’t design or invent anything. Basically, if you can write and you can wash dishes, you can do this craft.

You will need:

  • some smooth, plain ceramic items (mug, plate, tile, bowl)
  • ceramic and/or glass pens (all of the same fixing type see below)
  • your arm muscles
  • coffee or your beverage of choice
  • something cool to listen to while crafting
  • cotton buds (Q-tips)
  • scrap paper for blotting the pens
  • somewhere safe to store the pieces while they set properly

I am doing a really simple design on some mugs. I’m going on holiday next week with my old uni flatmates and since we all live far apart it’s hard to keep up with birthdays and Christmases. So I’m taking them a mug each with their name on it, and everyone else’s names on the back, to make a full set. I’m making one for me too!

FIRST – you need to wash the mug/plate/whatever and make sure it’s totally clean and dry. Try not to touch the area you want to paint with your fingers, because your fingerprints leave an oily residue. The glass pens I bought all say on the side that the surface you want to decorate must be dust and grease-free. There needs to be no barrier to the paint gripping to the ceramic.

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The pens I’m using are all designed to just air dry in three days. You can get ones that need oven-baking to fix. The place where I got my pens has them sorted by colour and nib size but not by type of fix, so I had to dig through to find the colours I wanted that were all the same type. I chose to use the ones that don’t need to go in the oven, just for convenience. The important thing is that your whole design is done in the same type of pen.

Now you’re set up with clean ceramics and shiny new glass/ceramic pens, it’s time to choose something to listen to and put the kettle on. Let’s do things in comfort and style, eh? I was drinking coffee and listening to The Infinite Monkey Cage podcasts, but whatever you want is fine. While that’s loading, brewing, etc, you will likely need to shake the pens to get the ink flowing. Sometimes this takes what feels like forever. No need to do weights on ceramic pen day! I had six to do so I was really flagging the end!

The only thing left to do is draw or write your design on the ceramic – being careful not to touch it unnecessarily! I was lucky because with the mugs, I could hold them by wedging my hand inside so I didn’t touch the outer surface. I started with doing block writing for each person’s mug. Everyone is getting a different colour (choosing who got which was the hardest part!) and on the back I wrote everyone else’s names in their colour. You’ll see in the photos.

NOTE: The pen will probably say this on the side in the instructions, but when you have shaken the pen to activate it, you need to take the cap off and blot the nib on paper first, to get the excess out of the way.

Some of the ink was runnier than others – the teal was quite metallic and thick, but the orange and green were more translucent and thin – so be patient and you can use cotton buds to clean your edges if you need to. If you’re super unhappy, you can always immediately wash off the whole lot and start again. I did that with the green, because the letters were too fuzzy the first time I did it. I found, because of the difference in ink, that I had to keep an eye on how they were drying, and keep turning them over to stop all the ink running to the bottom of the letters. I didn’t have any ink run outside the lines – it doesn’t go on that thick!

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After a few minutes, the ink will have set enough to leave and then mine took three days to be fixed for washing (or dishwasher). I had enough time to do mine in two stages, with three days between, because there was such a big area of paint on one side I didn’t want to smudge or accidentally smear on the table by trying to do the other side on the same day. So I did the first sides on Tuesday and then the second sides yesterday.

I did mine first, so I could test it was fixed! I re-washed the mugs to make sure that they hadn’t got dusty or greasy while drying (not that our house is a tip, mind!) and to make sure any fingerprints got cleaned off from me moving them about. Then I re-shook the pens, blotted them, and did the lines of text on the back. I did a couple at a time and waited for the runny inks to set a little before adding the next line, but I got all six sets of text done in 40 minutes, including washing.

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This is a great craft that is as complicated as you want to make it, and has a lot of possibilities. Personalised crockery is one, but why not potholder tiles; coasters; even a glass table top; champagne flutes etc. Just check your pens first to make sure they’re suited to the surface. And if I were you I’d stick to painting the outsides, just in case it starts to flake off in your food/drinks after repeated use and abuse. Even though they’re meant to be dishwasher safe, I’m going to recommend to my friends that they hand-wash the mugs at first, until they feel brave enough! I don’t have a dishwasher so it’s not an issue for me, but I’d be gutted if the ink flaked or ran because someone’s dishwasher was too brutal for it.

I still have enough time to add a little more to them if I want to, since I don’t need to wrap them for another week. I’ll see how I feel on Monday.

KEY NOTES:

  • WASH the ceramic first
  • follow the INSTRUCTIONS on the pens
  • DON’T TOUCH the ceramic as far as is possible
  • GET ARTY
  • make sure they DRY FOR THE FULL TIME NEEDED

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Catch-up

Oh, gentle blog, I have neglected you of late. I’m very sorry. I have been busier than anyone in their entire life has ever been.

As you know, I work with teenagers, and this particular group are staging a musical in the next few weeks. I’m in charge of costumes. And with three weeks to go, one of the principals ended up in hospital, so I’m now also doing their role. So I’ve been learning lines, songs and dances (including my solo song which I loathe) and frantically sewing. And doing my actual job. And still trying to do all that while looking presentable and feeding myself with better stuff than junk food.

This afternoon I had to sing my solo song (which I loathe) in front of the main cast for the first time. It wasn’t as bone-crushingly awful as I was afraid of. Rehearsal was pretty fun, and I didn’t miss the bus home. I think I have used public transport more times in the last two years than I ever did before I could drive.

We came round one of the many bends on Highland roads, and the sun came blazing on. It was spectacular. I smiled. My mp3 player decided to play all my favourite and most rocking songs. I feel good about the weekend. There’s still a lot to do – you should have seen last week’s to-do list – and I have to be up early and on the train at half eight in the morning for some more town centre trudging, but I’m thinking positively.

I need to make another list tonight. My laundry is already on, and I have a yummy chicken casserole in the oven. I’m sooooooo domestic. Hashtag goddess.

In the midst of the maelstrom, I did manage to catch the first episode of Orphan Black, now showing on terrestrial TV in the UK. So cool. Quite looking forward to episode two tonight. Also quite excited by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D coming next week. I think they clash actually, so I will be torn on what to watch live and what to watch on catch-up…

Hashtag firstworldproblems. On the other hand, maybe I can just watch Avengers again tonight while I do more hand-sewing? I do love Avengers. AND it’s almost time for Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing to come out on DVD! Spoilt for choice the next few weeks, eh?

Now back to the sewing.

Also, mental note: Don’t pin a russet coloured blanket around yourself while also wearing a forest green jumper. Similarity to a Hobbit evident.

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