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Author Archives: Verity Limond

Matisse-Inspired Greetings Cards

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Card Line-up

Card Line-up

Greeting card-making is something that I do in fits and starts. Every now and then, something will motivate me to put together a batch of cards, usually enough to last for a few months worth of birthdays and suchlike. Last time, it was the discovery of an old set of stencils which caused my enthusiasm. This time, re-discovery of my paper stash was partly responsible. When it comes to paper, I am a hoarder. I have a folder full of chocolate wrappers, origami paper, assorted card and cardboard, tissue paper, corrugated paper, and all of the snips and scraps left over from previous projects which I just can’t put in the bin.  Looking through this folder made me realise just how much I have kept, so, in a true using-things-up fit, I got out the scissors and the glue. Inspired by the Matisse: Drawing with Scissors exhibition in DLR Lexicon, I set out to snip and create a range of designs using scraps and odd shaped left-over materials.

Abstract Card Designs

Abstract Card Designs

In Matisse’s abstract cut-out paper works, an interesting feature is the way that he uses not only the cut-out shape, but also the rest of the paper, which would otherwise be discarded as scrap. I like looking at his work and trying to figure out which pieces would fit together. Therefore, when I was making my cards, I used as much of the paper as possible, including the oddly shaped trimmings which I would usually discard. Another feature of Matisse’s work which I love is his use of colour, this is also something which I tried to emulate by using a variety of colour combinations on the cards. I experimented with different colour combinations and paper textures before finalising a card design.

Close-up Designs

Close-up Designs

We bought a packet of blank cream square cards with matching envelopes recently, so I used those to save cutting and folding the cards myself. These useful ready-made blanks are sold at the Art and Hobby Shop for just a few euro. My finished cards are all bright, random looking collages. I made nine designs before my fit of enthusiasm ran out and I turned to another project. At least I am well equipped for any possible occasion requiring a greeting card in the next few months! I have made most of the cards blank and suitable for any purpose so they are quite versatile.

What have you been making lately? Drop us a line in the comment box below…

 

Whatever Happened to Dublin’s Wool Shops?

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I have been thinking lately about the wool shops located in and around Dublin, and it worries me that a few have closed in the past year or so. The closures may be linked to the recovering economy. During the recession, DIY and craft activities surged in popularity, but they may be losing ground now that some people have a bit more money to spare. However, when I did a bit more thinking, I realised that there are still several lovely knitting shops within a reasonable range, many of which we have visited on our perambulations around the city. Here is a quick wool shop report for anyone looking for inspiration in the wider Dublin area.

Woolly Snood

Wool from ‘Take me Home’

The two branches of a very nice craft and home decor shop called Take Me Home have shut down, one in Nutgrove and one in the old Dundrum Shopping Centre. The unit in Nutgrove has been filled by Tiger, while the premises in Dundrum is now home to a different kind of needle, in the form of an acupuncture clinic. I was surprised when these shops closed, as whenever I was in the Nutgrove branch it seemed quite popular. On the other hand, the Dundrum shop was much smaller and always quiet. I bought the wool for my snood (see picture above) in this branch and the staff were very nice and helpful.

This is Knit

All sorts of wool

Another sad closure was that of Knit’nd Make, which was a wool shop in the Swan Centre in Rathmines. Although very small, it was packed full of wool in a riot of colour. In my opinion, this was an attractive little shop that was an asset to the shopping centre, and I think it’s a real pity that it is no longer open. Now, the premises has been incorporated into the one next door and is occupied by yet another branch of Tiger.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Tiger is a great shop. It’s very useful and it does sell some wool and craft supplies such as ribbon and sequins. However, for quantity and variety, its wool section can’t be compared to a proper knitting shop, so I can’t help wishing it would stop expanding and pushing out other shops. Also, the health food shop opposite to Knit’nd Make used to provide space for a knitting group run by the shop. I wonder what happened to knitting circle after the shop shut?

The Constant Knitter

Another lovely wool shop.

On the other hand, Dublin still has The Constant Knitter which is located on Francis Street, in an area known for its antiques shops. Another wool shop in the city centre is This is Knit in Powerscourt Town Centre. This shop is a decent size, but it’s often quite expensive to shop here. Of course, there is our old stand by, Hickeys, which is centrally located on Henry Street. Hickeys sells haberdashery, soft furnishings and craft items, but it also has an excellent wool section on the top floor.

A little further afield, there is Winnie’s Wool Wagon in Blackrock. I’ve never been to this shop but it has been highly recommended to me and, if the website is anything to judge by, its stock is very good. Although Bray is not in Dublin, but rather in Wicklow, I’m going to include Love to Knit, because it is one of my favourite knitting emporiums. Love to Knit is fairly small, a trait which is shared by most of these shops, but it has wool in every weight and colour imaginable. I don’t get to browse there as often as I’d like, but I definitely recommend it.

These shops also have a stock of knitting and crochet needles, row counters and other accessories, not to mention patterns and instruction books. Many of them offer knitting and crochet classes for a variety of ages and levels, as well as weekly or fortnightly knitting groups.

Love to Knit

Patterns galore from Love to Knit

Initially I was worried that Dublin’s knitting scene was is decline, but it seems I was wrong. There are quite a few wool shops out there, when you look hard enough for them! If you want to follow anything up, just click on the links for shop contact details.

Where is your favourite wool shop? Or have you visited any that I’ve mentioned in this post? Drop us a line in the comment box…

Shop Picture Credits: the wool shop websites (see links above)

 

Creative Card-making

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Recently, I’ve been experimenting with a bit of card-making, spurred on first by Christmas and then by approaching birthdays. Another motivation was a paper craft workshop which I observed at Liberties Upstairs in Terenure recently.

The idea that I used for the Christmas cards was making what I have termed, ‘hole punch snow’,  which I made  from the silver paper Christmas cracker hats. I punched holes in the paper and used the little circles that are the side effects of hole punching as snow. The snowflakes are cut from folded coloured paper. I’ve been using basic bought cards and envelopes to save the hassle of having to cut them out straight.

I’ve also started to make some birthday cards using stencils and markers. I decided to use both sides of the card for most of these because the stencils that I have are quite large. Although very simple this technique looks striking, particularly when bright colours are used. My stencils are from old kits or colouring sets, but it wouldn’t be too hard to make your own from cardboard, maybe I’ll try that next.

Stencilled Cards

Simple, striking birthday cards

Another idea I tried was making designs from simple leaf shapes cut from paper. I arranged these shapes to represent flowers, waves, the beach and so on. It’s easy but the different colours and sizes make it very varied. I also tried using textured paper for this as I had some coloured corrugated card in stock as well.

Collage Cards

Designs made with paper shapes

The paper workshop that I watched at Liberties Upstairs also gave me some ideas. This class, facilitated by Camilla Fanning involved ribbon weaving to make card designs as one of its techniques. This is something I definitely want to try. I could use wool, raffia or papers stripes as well as ribbon, so look out for future updates on my card-making attempts.

Quilling is another skill which is useful for card making, and I’ve done a bit of this before. For quilling, you use narrow paper strips and roll them into different shapes. However, as it makes 3D designs, it makes the card difficult to post. Also, I lack the patience to spend time cutting the strips, particularly as mine never seem to end up with straight edges. There are excellent tutorials on Youtube about quilling and it’s not at all difficult, so do give it a try if you have never done it before.

Quilling Cards

A design made with quilling

Card-making can be very simple and is useful and practical as well, because often a home-made card will suffice even if you have no present to give!

Please leave a comment below if you have any other ideas or projects you are working on!

Crazy for Craft Kits

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I realised after Christmas that I had several craft kits which wanted making up. Firstly, there was my gingerbread reindeer kit. Then, my Big Hoot owl and finally two model aircraft.

The gingerbread reindeer was a Christmas present which I made up a few weeks ago. However, there is still some of it left to eat. In this kit, the body and head, antlers, base and legs were all supplied as pre-baked gingerbread biscuits. There was icing sugar, sprinkles and little chocolates with coloured shells. The assembly was easy-peasy. We used out own icing sugar to make the icing with, because we had a packet open already. The gingerbread base had slots into which the legs could be stuck with icing. Then, we slotted the body into the legs and put the antlers on.

Gingerbread Reindeer

Jazzy Gingerbread Reindeer

When it came to the decoration, I strayed away a little bit from the picture on the box, and I used the small coloured disks which we already had in instead of the sprinkles. The result was rather jazzy! Unfortunately, the reindeer’s neck soon broke under the weight of the antlers. We hadn’t re-baked the biscuits through first because the instructions said only to do this if they seemed soft. In hindsight, we probably should have done it anyway. Also, the icing really needed to be left to set before the antlers were placed on. Still, although my reindeer didn’t last long, he looked good while he did!

My second kit, also a Christmas present, was for painting a model plaster owl. It was merchandise from The Big Hoot, an outdoor exhibition of giant owls across Birmingham city centre, which we saw last summer. The exhibition was very similar to the Easter Egg Hunt and Pigs on Parade, both of which we saw in Dublin.

The kit comes with about five tiny paint pots in a basic range of colours and two small paint brushes. When I started doing this kit, I quickly realised that the brushes and paints supplied were hopeless. Although I stirred up the paint as best I could, some of it was too hard and set to mix. I got my own paints out to replace them. The bristles on the brushes were too long and bendy to be accurate, I tried cutting them down, but this had little effect. In the end, I got out my own paintbrushes as well. So much for kits with ‘all materials included’! Anyway, at the moment the owl is half-finished and awaiting a second coat of paint.

Finally, I have two model aircraft kits, one from a trip to Cosford Air Museum last summer and one was a Christmas gift. The Red Arrow kit is by Airfix, similar to the Hawker Hurricane and Gloster Gladiator that I made before. The other kit is quite different. It’s a Hurricane in balsa wood and tissue paper which is rubber powered and can really be flown.

Hawker Hurricane

Hawker Hurricane kit

I’ve never made a plane kit like this before and I’m looking forward to doing it as a summer project this year. Also, I’m going to finish my owl sometime soon. He Who Put The Shelves Up suggested making it an Emperor Owl and painting on some gold leaf to suggest a chest plate or chain mail. Gold leaf is sold in lot of craft shops and I might pick some up to try out this unusual idea.

What have you been making and baking recently? Drop us a line in the comment box below…

Scandinavian Scarf Storage

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Inspired by a clever storage solution we saw in a certain popular Scandinavian furniture store, I have made a scarf hanger, which solves a particular storage problem that we have had for some time. A shortage of hooks and pegs in our house meant that our scarves didn’t have an ideal home. Now, we have the super-duper-deluxe-six-ring-scarf-hanger (bit of a mouthful), and all our scarf-related problems are solved!

The hanger is formed of six rings which were made by twisting wire into circles around a food tin. I then padded each ring with strips of cotton fabric cut from old t-shirts. These strips were wrapped around the rings. Next, I wound wide satin ribbon in pink and black over the cotton layer. The ribbon ends were stitched down and I used short tabs of ribbon to fasten the rings together. The rings were attached to the hanger in the same way.

As for the hanger, it was a perfectly normal and ordinary (as magicians say) wire hanger, like the ones used by dry cleaners. I also padded the hanger with cotton and wrapped it with matching ribbon. Scarves can thus be hung on the hanger as well as through the rings, creating extra storage space.

This project would work with any number of rings, hung in any arrangement or shape. It could be used for storing belts, long necklaces, tinsel, fairy lights, leg warmers, tights, you name it! This makes a storage system that is both practical and decorative. It was a very quick project which I finished in a couple of days because there wasn’t much sewing involved at all.

 Any kind of wire could be used, even green garden wire, because it’s all covered over and padded. It might be possible to exchange the cotton padding for foam. All of the rings could be covered in different coloured ribbon (mine came from Tiger, see resource page) or narrow fabric strips. As far as I can see, the creative and storage possibilities are endless!

 

 

 

 

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Woven Upcycled Bath Mat

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Some time ago, I wrote about beginning to make a bath mat from old fabric strips, and now it’s finally finished! It is made up of six pieces of woven blocks. There is one piece made from half a pair of leggings, two made from a pair of tights, one using shoelaces and two made from a t-shirt. This gave a good mixture of colours and textures of materials. It is also a fine memoir of several items of clothing!

Bath mat

The finished bath mat

The part using the legging fabric was the most recent one I did. The leggings were striped, and so the material acted liked self-striping sock wool when I wove it. The tension changed quite a bit over this piece, so one end is wider than the other. I found it quite difficult to keep the tension uniform, as the material stretched while I was working.

Bath mat

The mat is sewn with white wool

When it came to assembling the bath mat, it was difficult to fit the pieces together because they are all different sizes. The finished shape is a bit unusual, like a rectangle with a few bits missing. I sewed them using the same white wool with which the fabric was woven. However, what to do with the wool ends presented a challenge. Sometimes these are left on as decorations, but because mine were all kinds of lengths, I decided to neaten the edges by hiding them. In the end (pardon the pun), I pulled the tufts under the weaving at the back, and then trimmed them.

Bath mat

Underside of the mat

I decided not to edge the mat in any way, but I suppose blanket stitch or even shop-bought trimming would be suitable. There are plenty of finishes that could be suitable and somewhere like Hickey’s is a good place to search.

I enjoyed this project and I’ve now got some proper use out of my wooden loom. In particular, I like the fact that I put to use fabric that might otherwise have been wasted, and this foray into upcycling has been a very interesting experience. However anything bigger, like a rug, would probably take quite a while to make, so weaving may be put on the back burner now that the bath mat is completed.

Have you been working on any craft projects lately? Drop us a line in the comment box below…

Guilty as charged, for knitting Innocent hats!

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This year, we participated again in the Innocent Big Knit. This fundraiser, organised by Innocent Smoothies, calls for knitters everywhere to make little woolly hats for its smoothie bottles. For every ‘hatted’ bottle sold, 30c is donated to Age Action. Each years the event raises thousands of euro for Age Action’s Care and Repair programme which provides volunteers who perform DIY jobs that elderly people may not be able to do themselves.

Hats

Innocent Big Knit Hats

Anyway, our knitting needles have been out for a few weeks and we have just sent off our contribution. In 2014, we made 16 hats, this year our count has reached 22, all complete with pom-poms! We went for variations on the basic striped pattern, on the grounds that although the animal and fruit themed hats are more fun to knit, they take longer and use more wool. This is fine, but they raise no more money per hat than the simple ones.

However, we did have fun with choosing colour combinations for the stripes and experimenting with moss stitch and ribs. We also went for two-coloured pom-poms, many of which dwarfed the hats to which they were sewn! Our resident bear enjoyed modelling the hats and insisted on keeping a Santa Claus themed one for himself, in preparation for the festive season.

'HATS' display

Go mad for hats!

Have you been knitting little hats for the Big Knit? Or working on any other projects you’d like to share with us? Drop us a line in the comment box below…

Bear with hats

Laying in the winter hat store

Sir Hiss, Chief Excluder of Draughts

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I wrote some time ago about the upcycled bath mat I was making from old clothes, inspired by the talk given by Lynn Haughton from the Upcycle Movement. Well, the bath mat still isn’t finished but another project inspired by the same talk has come to fruition. There was a discussion after the talk about various craft techniques and project ideas, during which a member of the audience described a draught excluder that her friend had made using repurposed leggings and tights. I shamelessly pinched the idea, and here is the result: my own upcycled draught excluder.

The snake draught excluder

The snake draught excluder

A lot of the draught excluders sold in shops are designed like animals, usually some kind of dog. I was reminded of the cardboard snakes that I made when I was about three, out of the cardboard toilet rolls, and I liked the idea of making my project a snake.

The body was made using half of an old pair of stripey leggings. The body was too short to reach across the door so I made a tail and head separately out of felt to give it some extra length. One side of both tail and head is turquoise, the other purple. I was trying to pick out one of the stripe colours from the body. I decorated these pieces with lines of beads, of which we have far too many. I think they mostly came from jewellery making kits. The red tongue is also felt and the eyes are buttons.

The head of Sir Hiss

The head of Sir Hiss

I stuffed it mostly with felt and fabric scraps, wool ends and a couple of pairs of old tights. I cut these into rings and then into little pieces. In the end, I had to use some bought stuffing to top it up, but that didn’t work as well because it’s not firm, so now there is a soft part of the snake while the rest is quite solid.

I sewed the beads onto the tail and head pieces. Next I stitched the two tail pieces together and stuffed them and I did the same for the head pieces. I almost forgot to put the tongue on at this point. I pushed the end of the body into the tail and used running stitch to attach it. Then I ran a gathering thread through the other end of the body and stuffed it into the head. Finally, I sewed the head on with running stitch as before.

The tail of Sir Hiss

The tail of Sir Hiss

I like the result very much and it’s also useful. The bath mat should be done soon. I have one, or perhaps two, more pieces to weave and then I can sew all the parts together. I’ll keep you posted about that upcycling project!

Reaching for new heights with a new foraging tool

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The blackberrying season came around this year and although we delayed a bit at the start, we have managed to get a good haul. This year we are freezing the berries in an empty biscuit tin as we gather them. When the tin is full and the time is right (ie: when we remember to buy the sugar), we’ll make bramble jelly.

We’ve been on three walks with intention to pick so far and all have been very successful. The tin is nearly full. We pick our berries on the banks of the River Dodder and sometimes in Bushy Park, where the brambles are both big and bountiful. On the first two expeditions we played safe, with the bushes we could easily reach on the bank or the shingles. On the third trip we aimed higher, with the aid of The Invention.

The Invention

A wire coat hanger

The Invention was originally Chris’ idea to help with foraging last year. We kept forgetting to make it until a few days ago, but it has now become a vital part of our foraging equipment (together with a bag, box and pair of gardening gloves). The Invention consists of one item only…drumroll, please… A COATHANGER! One wire coat hanger (see Fig. A), for which we owe thanks to the local dry-cleaners, makes the most perfect reaching tool imaginable.

First of all, Chris pulled the hanger so that the hook was at one end and it could be held at the other end (see Fig. B). That worked well until we became tempted by berries that were even higher than our newly extended reach. As an experiment to demonstrate human greed, a blackberrying scenario would surely be perfect. No sooner than new heights have been obtained, even higher ones are sought in the quest for the biggest blackberry!

The Invention 2

The coat hanger pulled out of shape.

Which brings me onto the next stage of development for The Invention. The hangers are only made of soft metal and it was easy to untwist the hook and pull the wire right out into a single length, with the hook on the end of this extension. Even more berries were now within our reach, both at the top of bushes and over the edges of parapets, where the bramble clings to the stonework in a huge tangle.

The Invention 3

The final version

Anyway, with our tin nearly full, we will probably make the jelly in the next few weeks. We still have frozen damsons from last autumn as well and we’re planning to make jumbleberry jam with some reduced price fruit as well, more on that soon!

Have you been foraging for fruit this autumn? Let us know what you’ve made!

Weaving Upcycled Fabric

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A few years ago, I got a weaving kit as a present but I didn’t end up using it as much as I had planned. However, it came back into use a few weeks ago after I listened to a talk by the upcycler Lynn Haughton of The Upcycle Movement at Liberties Upstairs as part of Heritage Week. She showed a rug she had made, woven out of strips of reused leggings. The next day, I got out my loom and started experimenting.

Woven fabric

Fabric woven from a t-shirt and shoelaces.

The first piece I made was with an old t-shirt cut up into strips. I made a second piece of fabric using the rest of the t-shirt, but I threaded the loom differently and fastened the two pieces together as I wove it.

Weaving kit

The comb, loom, shuttles and massive, tangled ball of wool.

Next were the shoelaces. I had a bundle of old, dirty shoelaces that I didn’t need so I had a go with those. This proved very successful because all the shoelaces were the same width, something I had found hard to achieve when cutting strips of the jersey fabric from the t-shirt. I think I’ll have to bleach the finished piece to get rid of the marks, something I neglected to do before I started the weaving.

Finally, I cut up a pair of old purple tights. These had been bought for a school play and I didn’t want them for anything else. The woven patch is very striking in colour. I still have five strips of fabric left (the tights made ten in total) so I should be able to make another patch the same size.

Weaving

The inevitable mistake…

Keeping the edges neat has proved a problem, I may have to sew around the edges at the end. When I was taking the purple fabric off the loom, I found a more secure way of finishing the edges by tying each wool end to its partner but also to another end to make a firm edge. Chris suggested that the pieces could be put to good use as a bath mat, which I think is a workable idea. It might be difficult to match the edges of the different pieces neatly together though.

I have a pair of striped leggings to cut up as well, which should make at least one other patch. The mat will also need to be backed with something. I have a hessian sort of material which might be suitable. Upcycling fabric is an area I haven’t ventured into before and although it’s limited by the unwanted bits and bobs you can find, I like the new challenge.

Have you tried any kind of upcycling? Let us know about your projects…

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