Sunday, March 25, 2012

A cover for my Kindle

It finally happened. After all my protestations of how it wasn't for me, of how I was happy in my old fashioned ways, I finally succumbed to the lure of the Kindle.

It arrived on Friday and so far I've read one whole book on it. I'm quite pleased that I weakened and bought one. It's so light! It enables me to sprawl in all kinds of new ways whilst reading. Also, I'm impressed with how little packaging it arrived in.

When I bought the Kindle I didn't like the look of the covers that were available for it on Amazon. I googled for covers and also didn't like any of the alternatives that I found. So my only option was to make my own cover. Huzah! I dragged out my scrap box and made this:

It's padded on the inside with fleece to keep the Kindle snug and safe. I also lined it with cardboard to help keep the cover stiff and secure against knocks.

Aw - look how happy the Kindle is in its little cover.

This cover is my second attempt as the first one turned out too small.

Today I'm going to have a sit and make more covers for my up-and-coming Etsy shop. That's right The String Empire will soon be on Etsy! Watch this space.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

A misadventure with Dylon dyes

A week or two ago I decided to dye our sofa throw a new colour. We'd just had our washing machine replaced because as well as eventually refusing to even turn on it had for several weeks been coating our washing in some kind of brown sludge. So the sofa throw, which was white, wasn't looking so hot any more.

Note: The throw in this photo is concealing all kinds of junk I couldn't be bothered to move off the sofa for this photo.
What better way to celebrate a new washing machine than throwing in a whole heap of machine dye? I decided on Dylon machine dye because it seemed easier and the least likely to stain my body in the process. 

I chose the Tulip Red  dye because we have various red things like a rug and a bin so I thought it would match nicely. Once dyed I was then planning on embroidering the throw in some beauteous manner. 

In went the dye, the salt and the throw.

I was mildly concerned that my washing machine suddenly looked like it belonged in a Japanese horror film. I hoped really hard that this wasn't a permanent condition. To be sure I ran the throw through several wash cycles.

Then I took it out and this....THIS.... was the result.....

Is that red? Is it?? Noooooo. Very likely I should have used more than one packet of dye. This photo doesn't quite do justice to what a BRIGHT shade of pink the sofa throw now is.

Oh the horror!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Do Ho Suh in the Tate Modern

Staircase - III, Do Ho Suh
This installation in the Tate Modern by Do Ho Suh is made of polyester and stainless steel and is a replica of the artist's apartment in New York. It is suspended high in the ceiling of a large room in the Tate. It is amazingly detailed - even having a power socket on the wall of the stairway.

When I saw it there were several children dancing underneath and attempting to jump up onto the stairs. They were a long way off of course but I thought that was lovely.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Laura Ashley prints at Uniqlo

Image from Laura Ashley blog

Uniqlo has launched a spring collection in collaboration with Laura Ashley. They’ve used a number of Laura Ashley’s archived prints from the 1950s until the present day. They’re very pretty and make me think of spring just to look at them.

I learnt of this collaboration by accidently strolling past the launch party on Oxford Street and was excited because it combined two of my favourite clothes ‘designers’/retailers.  I went in on a different day to get my mother a present and ended up leaving (like I always do in Uniqlo) with a bag stuffed full of goodies.

Image from Laura Ashley blog

The collection includes scarves, t-shirts and tunics. I think these will sell out fast so I recommend hop-skipping over to Uniqlo and picking up some pretty Laura Ashley prints at a reasonable price.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

This is a portrait I made of my mother last week. I'm giving it to her this year for Mother's Day. The green coat is iconic.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Venus of the Rags

Venus of the Rags, Michelangelo Pistoletto

This is kind of what my flat looks like at the end of a work week. There are less naked marble statues though. This piece is currently installed in the Tate Modern and is one of my favourite art works there.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Spy: Embroidered Stains

By Elvis Robertson
Whilst wandering the interwebs I came across this amazing project. That isn't an incredibly dirty table cloth in the above photo. Those are embroidered stains. I know. Amazing right?

Here's a close up of a different but similar piece of work:

This is all the work of Elvis Robertson. I found his/her (?) work on the blog lovely textiles. Sadly it seems this is no longer an active site as it hasn't been updated since last year. This may be due in a large part to the fact that the artist has a new commercial website here. Wonderful work though. I'm going to have to read through the blog's whole archive I think. It looks well worth a flick.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Review: Fa la la la Felt by Amanda Carestio

This book is full of amazing Christmas decorations you can make at home. The editor, Amanda Carestio, has gathered together ideas from designers all over the world. You can make tree ornaments, stockings and miscellaneous 'decorations'.

Designer: Cathy Gaubert

It has some lovely, inspiring pictures and very clear instructions. There are also templates for all of the items at the back of the book.

I was given this book as a Christmas present and it really is fabulous. It's a great book for beginners I think as the steps are very easy to follow and it also provides clear instructions on how to do a variety of stitches.

It's available on amazon, and I'm sure other places too.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Attack of the felt goldfish

Felt goldfish attacking a bemused lady.

I've spent the last few weeks making a swarm of felt goldfish. I now have nine. This is how many I could cut out of one square of orange felt. I do have more felt but I think it would be mentally unhealthy to make more. I've found myself cackling in triumph as I add each new fish to the swarm. Best to step away now I feel. I'm already pondering what I will do with nine felt goldfish.

The pattern for the fish is from Fa la la la Felt edited by Amanda Carestio. The designer of the fish was Lisa Jordan. It's an amazingly simple pattern. You can probably copy it just from these photos. More impressive is the idea itself which comes from the book. These are recommended as Christmas decorations, which I just love as an idea. What's more Christmassy than a flock of goldfish peeping out from your tree?

Close ups of four fish
They are actually 3d. Both sides of the fish are decorated and they're stuffed, which isn't immediately obvious from these photos.

I'm going to have a go at making some more of the things in this book and then I will give it a proper review. I just wanted to share my fish. My numerous, beautiful and terrifying fish.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A study in felt: Robert Morris at the Tate Modern

Untitled, Robert Morris. 1967-8 remade 2008.
On a recent visit to the Tate Modern I happened upon the above work by Robert Morris. I really like the simplicity of this artwork. As the felt tumbles from the hook the straight lines mingle to create interesting patterns. I also like the fact that the work is never static. Each time it is moved and displayed it changes. The felt never tumbles in the same way.

In 1967 Morris bought sheets of industrial felt and cut a series of straight lines into them. When hung the strips of felt fell to the floor under their own weight, changing each time they were exhibited. The Tate Modern says that Morris "wanted to question the fixed geometric shapes of Minimalist sculpture and the way Minimalism imposed order on materials".

It's left me wondering where I can buy industrial felt from. I wonder....

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A mixed media book cover

Opium Dreams

This was so much fun to make! It involved glue, paint and acrylic wax. Three of my favourite messy components. It was fairly messy. Luckily I for once remembered to put down newspaper before beginning - hello flat deposit, I will see you again.

This technique was recommended to me by my mother based on the work of the fabulous Beryl Taylor. Beryl Taylor is a mixed media artist. This means she uses a variety of materials to create her work, including fabric, paints, dyes, glue, paper, etc.. The list goes on and on.

Her work is so beautiful:

Wings, Beryl Taylor

Go to her website and have a good nose at her work. It is inspiring. She also runs classes which I'm sure must be great fun to attend.

Anyway, back to my modest book cover...

I made it by getting a piece of calico, coating it in a mixture of PVA glue and water then sticking down pieces of paper napkin (pick one with a pretty pattern).

Next I placed a sheet of tissue paper on top and paint-brushed PVA glue/water over the top to keep it in place.

Then I had to wait a long time for it to dry as it was quite sodden. Speed this step up by using a hair dryer to dry it.

Once it was dry I whipped out my water colour dyes (I used Koh I Noor Travel Sketch Set) and started painting on details.

Once I was satisfied, and the paint had dried, I painted over the whole thing with acrylic wax. This made the whole effect nice and glossy. Then I trimmed the whole thing to size and sewed it onto my nominated notebook.  

The yellow piece to the right above is one I experimented on at the same time but have yet to make into anything. The process was the same except that for this one I also stuck down scraps from wrapping paper, stamped it with my initial and sewed metallic thread lines onto it. The metallic thread didn't work so well as it kept snapping in the machine. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Patchwork Baubles

This is a really cute way to use up those pesky small scraps of fabric whilst making Christmas (or anytime!) decorations. I read about patchwork baubles on the Guardian website about a week before Christmas. Despite having a billion things to do I abandoned them all in favour of getting messy with some PVA glue.

One of the things I like most about this project is that it is really quick, easy and gives a nice effect. And it involves glue.

What you need:

  • Some cheap baubles, shiny or mat
  • PVA glue
  • Scraps of fabric
Make sure the scraps are quite small. At first I used big pieces which created a rather lumpy, unwell looking bauble. Once I trimmed them it worked much better. 

Add the PVA glue to some water in a bowl and mix well. Dip the fabric pieces into the glue, squeeze out excess water and then place on the bauble. Repeat until the bauble is covered then hang to dry. 


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Book Review: Creepy Cute Crochet by Christen Haden

This, as the title suggests, is a very cute book. It provides patterns for making a variety of amigurumi creatures. Amigurami is Japanese art where you make small stuffed animals or creatures using knitting or crochet. This book is all crochet.

The creatures within the book are all very imaginative and fun. You can make a vampire, a ninja, a zombie, a Spartan and many others. The photographs in the book of the creatures are all adorable and inspiring.

Haden provides clear lists of material needed to make each creature. My only criticism of this book is that it can be difficult to follow the instructions. This is not a book for those who are new to crochet. Also, you really should invest in some crochet markers (like pins to mark your place in the crochet) because I kept losing how many stitches I'd done.

Skeleton bride and groom from Creepy Cute Crochet
I made the above skeletal bride and groom from the book as a wedding gift for a friend. Well, I made the bride and my mother helped me keep to time restraints by making the groom. The stitching on the groom was not pulled quite so tight which is why he is far larger than the bride. This was no veiled comment on the groom himself. It was a little difficult to get started but once started easy to complete.

This is a fun book and I recommend it. It is available on Amazon and probably other bookshops.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

T-shirts recycled into a quilt

A couple of years ago I returned to my home country after a few years spent living abroad. My parents had patiently stored my clothes, books and other miscellaneous possessions all the time I gallivanted around with nothing but a rucksack. Upon my return I was told in no uncertain terms that now was the time to 'sort it out'. I discovered that majority of the clothes I had stored away either did not fit me or were too scratty to wear any more. 

Oh this was sad.

Many of them were clothes I'd had since college and had sentimental value. Because of this and because they were too worn to give to a charity shop I decided to cut them up and make a quilt. A good thing about old, worn clothes is that they are lovely and soft. I homed in on the softer of the clothes, t-shirts, pants (waste nothing!), and some cord trousers.

The process of making a square.

I cut some 20cm/20cm squares out of an old sheet. T-shirts are made of stretchy material and to stop them warping when sewn together I thought it best to sew them onto a non-stretchy fabric, such as this cotton sheet.

I randomly sliced up the clothes. I cut strips out of some, I carefully cut around any pictures or slogans on others. I arranged the scraps onto the sheet squares and pinned them down. Then I zig-zagged the scraps down using a sewing machine.

Altogether I made 24 squares. I cut long strips out off another sheet and sewed it to the squares as a border, gradually joining all the squares together.

The squares were so soft I decided to use a piece of fleece for the backing of the quilt, no filling. I pinned the front of the quilt (with the squares) to the fleece and then hand-quilted it with a simple running stitch before sewing up the edges using a sewing machine again.

A collage of the finished quilt with some close-ups of panels.

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