Thursday, 23 July 2009

Elephant and Bear en vacances...(& moi aussi!)

Meet Elephant & Bear. After my recent hedgehog crisis (where kind commenters where left talking me down from the parapet, such was the scale of the disaster, and my sister has since insisted on adopting some hoggy goodness, or should that be hoggy badness?), I am more than a little delighted by having sewn something that I think might actually resemble the intended creatures in my head.

They have been made to go in the little Teacake's holiday bags (bags of treats opened an hour into the long journey). Each one has a little pocket on the bib of their clothing, which I'm hoping might eventually double as a receptacle for milk teeth to be left out for the tooth fairy, for while Zebra-girl has a cloth mouse from France for this purpose, Dinosaur-boy has, thus far, had to make do with leaving his on his shelf for collection, which doesn't seem quite right at all.

They both have bendy, pose-able arms and legs - I found some illustrations in one of the Tilda books that show how this can be achieved with yarn and buttons and was amazed by the simplicity of the technique and have had to restrain myself from spending hour upon hour whizzing the arms round and round just for the sheer fun of it.

After studying how some of the Teacakes own shop-bought bears were made up and looking in books, I felt as though I'd had a small breakthrough with the comprehension of softie construction...bits of the 3D magic suddenly started to click a little more for me and by the time I'd finished the bear, drawing up the pattern for the elephant felt weirdly intuitive. So perhaps it's just small snuffly things that are my stumbling block.

But anyway, the time has finally come for the animals to be packed into their bags and for me to turn off my sewing machine and computer (the latter thrills me more than the former...I did wonder about taking it with me) for a week. I am feeling so in need of a break, for despite the fact that I feel head-spinningly in love with what I spend my time doing, I am now utterly shattered. The last two weeks I have been operating on the extended working hours of going to bed at 2am and rising to sew again at 6am, so that I could write my bag pattern and get all my custom orders made up and posted off before our holiday. Not because I have any impatient customers, but because it makes me feel anxious not to have everything done and all the loose ends tied up properly, in the same way that it would to leave the house untidy when we go away.

One final thing before the creatures and I depart though: Thank you so much for the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to the Tabitha Bag PDF and to all those that have bought a copy (I am so bowled over by how many of you want to make one - I can't wait to see some of them). For anyone wishing to buy a copy, you are still very welcome to, but if it is purchased after 5pm GMT on Friday 24th July, then the PDF won't be emailed to you until 3rd August.

Additionally, to those that have already bought a copy, you may remember that I said in my accompanying email to the PDF that extra photos were available for nearly every stage should you struggle with any part of bag construction - you are really welcome to email me, should you need to, and I will get back to you as speedily as I possibly can at some point after the 3rd August.

Wishing you all a sunshiny, happy week,
Florence x

P.S. And whooopeeee! As I've been spell-checking this blog post I have just received my first email from someone with with her very own handmade, brand new Tabitha Bag who says that she is delighted with her bag and really liked the pattern - I can't tell you quite how happy this makes me! The newbie pattern writer in me has had to exercise massive amounts of self-restraint not to take to the sofa and leap up and down doing my best impression of Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah's chaise declaring his love for Katie Holmes. Down on the carpet once again, the other thing that I will pass on is that this particular lovely bag-maker said that compared to other bag patterns she has followed, she found the order that I chose to do things in unexpected, but went with the flow anyway, and by the end completely 'got' why it made sense to do them like that for this bag. As someone who's never followed a bag pattern herself, I've never been aware that my order might differ to convention, but to those that do notice this, I hope that you will bear with it, as it seems to work out well in the end.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Tabitha Bag Pattern PDF

The Tabitha Bag pattern is finally finished and I want to thank you so much for all your suggestions and ideas about what makes a good pattern...they gave me so much more direction and confidence about the best way for me to do it.

The majority of people seemed to be saying that they preferred PDF because when the wish to sew something strikes one really doesn't have the time to waste a week looking longingly at the letterbox waiting for the postman to arrive with instructions. So that's the format that the Tabitha Bag pattern will be available in.

I've absolutely loved writing and designing this pattern - so thank you to the lovelies that nudged me to do it.

So, for those that are interested in purchasing a copy here are the details:
  • The Tabitha Bag is available as an instant-download PDF.
  • It has bullet-points for those that like their instructions concise and to the point...
  • ...With notes in between in italics for those who like a more wordy explanation with tips and reassurance.
  • Each point has one or more hand-drawn black & white diagrams to save on printer ink, with colour photos only appearing when a step might be particuarly challenging to interpret without.

  • The pattern pieces are full-size and can be printed out on A4 paper (portrait, not landscape, orientation) with no need to enlarge them.
  • The instructions include detailed explanations on how the pattern pieces should be cut and labelled, as well as an explanation of any terms that pop up during the pattern.
  • In terms of what level of sewer the Tabitha bag might be suitable for, I would suggest intermediate to advanced. It is a challenging bag to make in that there are so many pieces to it, many of which require being aligned very precisely for it to come together looking perfect.
  • The PDF will cost £6.50 (that's just over $9.50 USD) and is for personal use only Updated 15/03/10: small independent businesses are very welcome to sell bags made from this pattern on the condition that a credit to my pattern is given in the item description when selling online.

It has taken a huge amount of work to put this pattern together and has been written and tested, rewritten and re-tested several times. However, if you have any problems with it then please do let me know, so that I can smooth them out as quickly as possible.

As ever, you don't need a PayPal account to pay for this pattern - PayPal accepts credit and debit cards. Once you've paid, PayPal will take you to a page where you can download the pattern instantly, by clicking on the link provided. You will also receive an email containing the same link.

If you get the chance, I would absolutely love to see any photos you have of your finished bag.

Florence x

Monday, 13 July 2009

Colourful thoughts & I'd love your opinion...

These thread colours are making me feel so happy at the moment. My thread rack is opposite our bed and from early morning the sun shines brightly through our unlined curtains (black-out curtains seem to make me wake feeling bleary), giving me time to mentally sort them from my pillow...these five seemed to me to be the most exquisitely vibrant colours - sometimes it's hard to believe that a manufacturer can get it so very makes me think that there must be men going about their work in laboratories and factories, stumbling upon the perfect thread colour perhaps only once every couple of months and leaping from their chairs with joy when such a thing happens and perhaps gobbling a chocolate chip cookie to celebrate. What absolute perfection - I think they look almost too good to be real.

They've ended up temporarily on Dinosaur-boy's boat for these photos...I don't know where they're going...

Carrying on the sunshine theme...I actually made this yellow teabag holder a couple of weeks ago, but then the weather became so gloomy that it seemed unseasonal to post something so apologetically cheery.

It, and several others, will be finding their way into my shop at some point over the next week or so...but time seems to be going sneakily fast now and I can't quite believe that on Friday my little Teacakes will be at home for seven weeks...there is so much to do before then and my dream of having my hair cut and taking the cats to the vets before the Teacakes are with me all day seems most unlikely to actually end up happening....which will mean waiting seven more weeks for a haircut because the place that I go to is in a wonderful, architecturally beautiful place that in the spirit of restfulness allows neither children or mobile phones to enter the building. But I'm so tempted to try and squeeze them into my pockets on this occasion if I don't manage to make my way there this week (they can go out of pocket to the vets and will hardly be noticed amongst the mewling menagerie in the waiting's just less fun trying to cross roads with two children and a heavy, unsettled cat carrier).

So this week keeping me busy is a handful (well, actually far more than a handful) of make-up bags...and also trying to write the Tabitha Bag pattern that I mentioned in my last post - indecision has been cleared away in time to try and squeeze the writing of it into this last week of the school term...and I'm realising that it may well take the entire week, for not only is it the most complicated, multi-pieced thing that I make, it is a bag that I now know so well that I easily steer around the little quirks in my pattern, knowing where to give or take an extra centimetre or two...but I'm very aware that I need to hone my pattern to iron these things out before I can pass it on to other people to buy.

So while I'm thinking of pattern writing, I'd really love to hear your thoughts on a couple of things. What do you like in a pattern: diagrams or lots of photographs? Bullet-pointed instructions or a tutorial written with hints and tips for how best to go about each step? And finally, are you happy working from a PDF file on your computer, so that you can have your pattern almost as soon as you've paid for it, or do you tend to prefer to pay a little extra and send off for your patterns and have them arrive a few days later on paper? I'd love your opinions (irrespective of whether you'd ever buy my bag pattern).

Sorry for so many samey pictures...sometimes the light seems just too good to not take a whole series of photos of the same thing...but then picking which ones to blog can lead to much quicker to just put them all up there!

Thank you so much for the people who've resubscribed through Bloglines (problem still not rectified...oh dear) and for the lovelies who stopped by to check what I was up to when they noticed that nothing had appeared in their Bloglines from me for a while.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Bloglines...or not

Just a quick weekendy note to say that after I put on my technical hat to do clever things with Feedburner at the start of July, I inadvertantly put in some wrong code...this has somehow meant that my Bloglines subscribers have been cut off. One of my bloglines feeds has now been restored...but the one that contains 134 subscribers is still behaving oddly.... if you would still like to be told when I have posted more of my ramblings, then I wondered if you might consider re-subscribing to the feed that has the fewest people on (that's the rss feed), as I'm yet to find a way of solving the problem with the other one. 

Oh, and there might just be four posts beneath this one that you've never even read! 

Happy Saturday. x

(p.s. in future I won't be attempting any more clever technical things)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

More bags

I have had lots of custom orders for bags's not easy to become bored of making the same thing over and over when there's still the excitement of seeing each new bag take shape with a completely different look depending on what fabrics have been chosen. First is the confectionery combination of turquoise and brown - how is it that those colours make me think of sweets so much, I wonder, but they do - minty, chocolatey flavoured sweets. I remember having my first After Dinner Mint aged about 7, and falling quite in love with the whispery thin black paper that houses each mint and the lovely sweet, fresh smell that rose from the box the minute the cellophane was pulled back. I thought they were so incredibly grown up. Anyway, this fabric made me think of After Dinner Mints for the entire time that I was sewing.

So it was something of a relief to be sewing something entirely more sober later in the week.

The inky blues and blacks and muted sages in this fabric made a more conservative looking bag, which I love. I have to admit to trying it on in front of my mirror after it was finished, and like Narcissus, I fell quite in love with my own reflection (although, not entirely like him, in that my focus was on the bag, rather than my face) and I eventually managed to tear myself away to pick the children up from school rather than dying right there before the actually, the similarity is slight, thank goodness. But let it be known that I thought it looked damn fine with a pair of jeans.

I love this minty lining, but I mustn't think on that too long. Do you see? My life is perpetually interrupted by the linking of inedible visions to sugar-laden goodies.

I've noticed that all my bag pictures tend to be taken either on my cupboard doors, or next to my sewing books. I am limited in that I am terrified of taking them out of my sewing room into territory that may be home to the odd cat hair, and so a pattern has emerged in my limited surroundings: the minute the bag is finished it is hung up on my cupboard doors - this somehow seems the perfect place to look at it from a distance and make sure that everything is lined up nicely. The next morning it seems to find itself moved next to my sewing books above my fabric drawers where I tend to take one final photo before I wrap it and post it off...bags feel a little like the sewing equivalent of babies to me - they are a labour of love that are harder to part with than some other things.

And then after a spate of Tabitha bags, this bag below is based on the Melly bag and was created for a Mother-of-the-Groom.

It took many emails of outfit photos and colour swatches to find just the right shade of olive and lime to go with her outfit, and actually when the chosen fabric eventually arrived I was utterly shocked by the colour of it - the fabric swatches that we had been looking at on the Internet (and indeed on Ms Butler's own website) show this fabric as being a soft sage on an olive background, but in reality it is far more zingy (and even a little luminous). But despite the shop being willing to let me return the fabric, she was happy to go ahead with this more lively proposal...and I'm now so glad she was. It looked far less shocking once it was made up into a bag than it had as a flat piece of material and by the time it came to posting it, I was feeling much more enamoured with it.

In a fit of wildness I thought I'd put this one onto a chair to photograph. The little sash on the chair is a matching band for the lady's hat, and below is the inside of her bag...the dash of cream seems to do much to tone down the intensity of this print.

Anyway, back in May I blogged about the bag that my mother ended up putting her name on before it was even finished (that I've subsequently named the Tabitha bag - you can read why here). I've since had numerous emails asking whether I'd be willing to sell the pattern for it for personal use. I'm hugely, delightedly and suprisedly flattered that other people love this bag design as much as I do and the generous and kind comments that I've had about it have been so appreciated. I feel bad not to say yes instantly to this when I've had so many lovely requests but I'm mulling on it, primarily because it's one of the things that I sell in my own shop...and also because I'd never really considered that selling patterns could be another arm to my little industry (or that I could be capable of writing a pattern in terms that normal people could actually follow - I've only just recovered from shock of the positive response to my make-up bag many firsts here!), so it needs a little thinking about...and I do tend to think quite slowly. Bear with me. x
p.s. I've posted about this here due to my being so appalling at keeping on top of my inbox - I'm so sorry not to have responded to individual emails on this.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Cosy cushions for a rainy day

I had other things that I was planning to show you today...but they were yellow and sunshiney things, and today the weather is rainy and glum and so somehow posting such summery happiness seems all wrong. So instead, out of order (for I have a massive backlog of things to post about), I will show you this cushion that I've just finished which seems much more representative of the blustery weather: cosy and snugly.

I have been feeling desperate to make some ruffles recently. What only months ago seemed like 1980s hideousness, has somehow infiltrated my thoughts becoming destigmatised by frequent bouts of unexpected thought-exposure-therapy and eventually worked to make itself seem so delicious that a point was reached where I simply couldn't do anything useful until I have given in and satisfied my need to make some cushiony ruffleyness. Sometimes the wish to sew a particular thing can be just as powerful as in an insatiable desire to eat Guyllian chocolates.

So here it is: part gift for Zebra-girl, part shameless self-gifting for me. Sometimes it's even more fun to make the gift than it is to give it.

I'm now adding a ruffler foot to my list of coveted things...ruffling by hand takes time and can be fiddly...but not so fiddly that I feel like I'm entirely rid of my ruffling bug. Next time I'd like to make one for a bigger cushion pad to make it a little less fussy, for one doesn't want to be all ruffle and no cushion.

Thank you so much, lovely blog readers, for your restorative comments on my hedgehog crisis last week - you said so much to cheer me and your suggestions for de-ratting the hedgehog were so wonderful that, with a little cheerleading from the lovely Siobhan (whose comment made me laugh and smile), I don't think I am quite ready to give up on my quest for hedgehoggy perfection...or just hedgehoggy goodness as I'm aware that I may have to set my bar low in this area. So you may see more spikey snuffling here before long, but now I am off to do some much needed tidying up before the Teacakes return from school.


Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Wretched hedgehogs

Despite a mounting sewing To Do list I managed to fritter an entire dispiriting, awful day on making a family of wretched, half-finished, troublesome, ugly hedgehogs (I'd only wanted to make one, they became a family only as my reject pile grew bigger). I woke thinking of hedgehogs this morning as the still heat reminded me of a day spent sitting on our front doorstep as a child waiting for our cat Beanie to come home...he never came home but I do have strong memories of hearing rustling from the flowerbed and the flicker of elation that rose in the belief that it was my cat about to emerge from the undergrowth. It was actually a hedgehog, the first I'd ever seen, and I don't think I've seen another one up close since. Perhaps the infrequency of my hedgehog sightings (one every 32 years being relatively low) holds the key as to why I seem to have been so incapable of sewing something that resembles a hedgehog today.

Drawing a pattern for a hedgehog foxed me for longer than I might have imagined...but then I suppose it would - I don't often venture into the realm of softies and I'm not especially good at visualising the flat parts that make up a 3D shape. But then once a pattern had been drawn the sewing and stuffing brought yet further to stop it from looking so irritatingly seemed an impossibility, no amount of putting tucks in around the cheeks could convey the longer snoutiness of a hedgehog. Some were abandoned with only one ear, others without the nose being embroidered on...and so a family of disfigured hedgehogs was born. Standards slipped as I grew weak with the knowledge that this was a doomed project and that every hour spent 'having one more go' was an hour when I should have been doing something else.

How seamlessly a failed softie can repurpose itself into a this case the pins surprised me by helpfully going some way to giving the illusion of spikes...but even in its new utilitarian guise it looks more ratty than hedghoggy.

It is days like this when I lose my faith that I can sew or will ever manage to sew anything nice again...I felt like weeping at 3pm when it was time to pick the little Teacakes up - such a waste of a day: not only in time, but also general happiness and morale. I feel miserable (and a little dramatic - perhaps it's the heat). I will be staying away from stuffed animals for the foreseeable future. I had decided to make one for each for Zebra-girl and Dinosaur-boy's holiday bags (bags of goodies to be opened an hour into the journey - as you can see the blue colourway never met the light of day)...but in this case, I think I may actually buy some. Grrrr. One of those rare times when making things by hand feels all wrong.

When I went to the school I bumped into my lovely friend Tamsin: couldn't they just be mice she asked. That seems like such a reasonable suggestion...but no, they could never be mice when in my head they were meant to be hedgehogs. To allow them to be mice would be to accept my own uselessness. Also they don't have tails.

I'm so sorry to rant. I'm very much hoping that I shall wake up a normal person in the morning. x
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