Sunday, 16 May 2010

My Stitched Self (3)

I thought that dressing tiny Stitched Self was going to be plain sailing. I was wrong! I couldn't make up my mind what she should be wearing. It was the same frustrating dilemma I have most mornings in front of the wardrobe, but on a miniature scale.

I had an idea to make her a tiny patterned silk tunic top, and team it with a diminutive denim skirt, but I couldn't find the right fabric. I thought it would be cool to cut her top from a vintage silk scarf, but visits to all my local charity shops came up with nothing suitable and I didn't want to cut one of my own up. Buying new fabric to make clothes with just felt like cheating, as it occurred to me that I wouldn't actually own the same top (or anything in that fabric) in real life, so it just didn't seem appropriate. It all became rather obsessional!

But then I had a brain wave - how about I make a copy of one of my own dresses, and make the fabric for it too? So that's what I did. I photographed my trusty and much worn purple toadstool dress, worked on the shot in Photoshop, then printed the image onto a sheet of printer cotton. When the fabric was dry, I cut the pieces for the tiny dress, setting in the sleeves was very fiddly work. I finished by edging the neckline in lavender coloured ribbon and, finally, Stitched Self has some clothes!

The idea for the knitted Uggs came way before the dress as I had some bits of an old brown sweater lying on my desk from another project. I only wear my knitted Uggs indoors (I just never understood the idea of woolly footwear outdoors where it's invariably wet!) Stitched Self, however, will be heading off to London in hers very soon!
Does she look like me?
Stitched Self is not too sure...

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

My Stitched Self (2)

Tiny Stitched Self now has a face and hair! She is still as naked as the day she, but now she looks like a real doll instead of an artists mannequin.
I was determined not to simply use wool or embroidery thread as hair, sadly my real life hair just isn't that bouncy and mane-like. And so, I cut brown satin and organza ribbons into small petal-shaped pieces and sewed them in an overlapping fashion until I had created the long bob shape my real life hair is in. A lot of my work is about texture rather than colour, so I'm pleased to have a similar technique in part of my Stitched Self - the effect created by the overlapping ribbons -plus I added some strands of embroidery floss here and there, tacked down with cotton to keep them in place.

From my last post you will see that her poor little face was very plain indeed, it put me in mind of a fencing mask. I felt it needed some subtle sculpting to give it some definition and features so I used a few little stitches, pulled tight, here and there to create something of a nose and mouth - not easy at this size! Then it was time to sew on her Coraline inspired black button eyes, the tiniest I could find at just 5mm. A few pink stitches for a mouth, and - she lives! Albeit with a vaguely amused expression. I suppose I should get her dressed now!

Monday, 3 May 2010

My Stitched Self (1)

Stitch London announced an interesting experiment in stitchery the other day. There is to be an exhibit at the Science Museum in London this summer to commemorate the re-opening of their 'Who Am I?' gallery, and all are invited to make a tiny sewn version of themselves. The collection of models will go on display from the 30th June. You can either knit or sew your Stitched Self and patterns for 'blank bodies', plus the rest of the details, are available here. Exciting Stuff!

Challenges of this kind make my head buzz, and I knew instantly I had to do something Coraline inspired. I also knew I didn't just want to do a 'flat' doll and knitting or crocheting a 3d one from the patterns was out of the question. So, I started to draw up pattern pieces for my tiny self. It was only then I realised how very tiny the Stitched Selves had to be! Approx 15cm (6 inches) tall, which really makes for the smallest doll I've ever sewn. For something of this size all the seams need to be on the outside. It was quite a task to make everything as neat as possible and I used a pale biege embroidery silk to give smoother stitches. To make things even harder, I used the cotton lining fabric from a pair of vintage 1970's curtains for my 'flesh', which I thought was very apt, but it frays like mad. However, this all adds to the weird, slightly disheveled, 'Miss Haversham' effect that is a trademark of so much of my work, and has turned out to be highly suitable for making creepy voodoo effigies!

A few evenings later and the basic body of my Stitched Self is ready - here she is! Admittedly, she came out spookily more human than I had imagined. The exciting stuff comes next: hair, features,!!

Naked, featureless, tiny me.

Scenes from Dr Frankenstitches workshop.
Below, I had to use a cocktail stick to stuff the legs!

Amongst cotton reels and pins for scale.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

The Easter Tree and Baking

Nothing will ever come close to a Christmas Tree in my books. When I put all the decorations away back in January I counted how many I carefully wrapped in tissue paper and stowed safely in shoeboxes, I've close to 200 now. I've been collecting Christmas tree decorations for 14 years, so it's no wonder really.

I've always loved the little wooden painted eggs and rabbits you see at this time of year and I finally got round to getting a couple of sets a few years ago. And now, every Easter I have an Easter tree! It's just a twig arrangement in water, but I enjoy the same aspects of it that I do with my Christmas Tree. Choosing the right twigs has become an art - I look for hazel branches in the forest that have shed their catkins and whose leaves are just beginning to unfurl. Then the Easter decorations are hunted down (never a mean feat, they always seem to hide!) and the tree is assembled.

I have eggs, rabbits and few larger wooden decorations in pastel colours. But I'm always on the lookout for more - I have some way to go with Easter decorations before I have a collection to match the Christmas ones.

I'm of the opinion that chocolate Easter eggs are a complete rip-off and so every year I like to bake something chocolatey on Easter Sunday. Last year I made a huge chocolate cake, topped with primroses, which was really a bit too extravagant! This year, I just made cupcakes - Chocolate, with chocolate icing, and topped with hundreds and thousands and a mini egg, and Apple and Lemon curd ones too - topped with tiny sugared violet flowers.

They almost look too pretty to eat, sitting under the Easter Tree, but, I can be persuaded.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Mad Bunny Bonnets!

Aren't these the silliest Easter Bonnets ever?!

Me and my little friends had a lot of fun making them this afternoon - and even though the skies outside were grey, their millinery creations were the brightest and sunniest imaginable!

We started off with paper plates for the brims and small paper dessert bowls for the crowns - lay the plate face down, put the bowl upside down on top of that and draw round it. Cut out the centre of the plate about 1cm in from the circle you just drew, then poke the bowl through from underneath and fasten with sticky tape. Then you and your little pals can have fun sticking scrunchy tissue paper flowers, ribbon bows and pictures cut from plant catalogues all over the little hats. You can attempt to add an element of education here as you can see how many of the flowers they cut out they can identify. For the bunnies - draw a basic bunny outline on another paper plate and let your friends colour them, when they have finished, cut the bunnies out and fix them to the top of the hat with tape and a piece of folded card to make them 'boingy'. When you are sure you are done with decorating, punch a hole either side of the brim with a holepunch and thread with ribbon long enough to tie under the chin in a big fat bow.

A very happy, funny, bunny, Easter!

Top right: Miss H opted for a viola picture on the top of her bonnet, the other girls sported jolly bunnies. Bottom left: Miss L and Miss J modeling their bonnets, with jaunty side bows.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Mairzie dotes and dozie dotes...

...and little lambsie divies.

Is what I really tried very hard not to hum when visiting the lambs this afternoon at Prestwick Farm. They were indeed very cute, and two new ones plopped out as we were visiting! This is a mosaic I made of the best of the pictures, some nice earnest looking sheep portraits and curious lamb faces too!

Out of my own curiosity I just had to look up what that daft song is about, and apparently it translates as 'Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy', which, of course, they do not at all, which just makes it even dafter.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Millicent Chop's Raspberry Vanilla Cupcakes

This is Millicent Chop.

She likes vanilla cupcakes and raspberry jam. She's been ever so careful not to get any crumbs or sticky jam dabs on her dress because very soon she is going to live with Jeremy Sock (formerly Bill, The School Sock Elephant). She is rather looking forward to this and if she had a little suitcase I imagine it would already be packed and by the door - pink tutu, angora cardigan, and very, very soft and tiny cashmere socks.

Poor Millicent waited ages for me to finish her, but quite by chance, as well as finishing Millicent today, I have made some cupcakes that combine her favourite foods. She is absolutely delighted with them as you can see.

Millicent Chop's Raspberry Vanilla Cupcakes
(Makes about 8 substantial cupcakes or 12 smaller ones)

You will need:
100g soft butter
100g caster sugar
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
100g self raising flour
25g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
a couple of handfuls of ripe raspberries, lightly squished.

To decorate:
50g very soft butter
100g icing sugar
2 tsp milk
a tiny drop of red food colouring
8 nice fat raspberries

What to do:
1. Line a cupcake tray with 8 large cupcake cases and preheat the oven to 170 degrees.
2. Beat the sugar and the butter together until smooth and creamy. Combine the eggs and vanilla essence then add to the butter mixture a little at a time, beating well. Fold in the flour, baking powder and ground almonds, and then the squished raspberries, distributing evenly.
3. Fill the cupcake cases to two thirds full, then bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until risen, golden brown and springy to touch. Stand the cakes on a wire rack, and when cool combine the butter, icing sugar and red colouring* to make a frosting. Spread all over the cakes, and top each one with a raspberry. Delicious!

*tip: use a cocktail stick to add just the tiniest trace of colouring to make a very pale pink. Then beat, repeat, until desired tone is achieved. A little goes a very long way.

Millicent was inspired by a project in 'Sock and Glove' by Miyako Kanamori

Monday, 1 March 2010

Is it Spring YET?!

Surely it must be. If it isn't, it must be just around the corner, the first crocuses are in bloom. And look! They are *almost* the same colour as my wellies! :-D

Friday, 8 January 2010

The Circus Beetles are in town!

I've been making Circus Beetles! This is my name for these brightly-coloured little busy-bodies that appeared while I was recovering from flu. Perhaps I was delerious.

I had an idea to make some fabric insect brooches, because I love insecty jewellery so much. I did two prototypes first of all, in the scraps left from my winter bird obsession. One was deemed too three dimensional to be a brooch (it may resurface again as a Christmas tree decoration) the other was lovely but a bit...dull. Finally it was time to use some colour after months of...beige.

Pale Beetle - Positively anemic by comparison!

Last summer I bought a pair of vintage 1970's curtains simply because the colour and pattern was so amazing. They are a glorious riot of pink, red and mustard swirls. I cut some of the individual motifs from the fabric and used larger ones for bodies, smaller ones for wings. As a contrast I used a red and white spot fabric on some of the beetles, which I aged down with tea to match the vintage fabric. For the wings I layered red, pink, gold and brown ribbons on pieces of tulle, then edged them all haphazardly with chocolate embroidery silk. Each little face has it's own character, beady eyes on most and antennae on some.

Beetles in Progress

I have an idea to mount them in a shadowbox, each with a vintage scientific label and pinned through the abdomen - of course - because I love how they look all together. Once I had decided they were Circus Beetles, I also had a jolly vision of them fluttering out of the folds of a tattered big top, each time it is unpacked for a show.

Like I said, delerious.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Snow Days

Nothing handmade here! But I was very pleased with this little mosaic of snowy detail snaps I did this afternoon. I've had the past four days off work, two for flu, and two for snow/flu. I'll write about what I've been up to on my snow days very soon, they have been quite productive.

Friday, 1 January 2010

New Year and the Bjork swan dress

I've always wanted to have at go at making this dress, and so, as soon as I got an invitation to a pop star themed New Year's party, it was clear who I should go as!

When Bjork wore her infamous swan dress at the Oscar ceremony back in 2001, the critics fell into two camps, either loving it or hating it. Either way it caused a stir and was a unique and iconic fashion statement. 

I didn't have that long to make the dress because I knew I was going to busy with Christmas, so I admit I cheated a little by buying a pre-made tutu from Ebay. I found one that had a drop waist, the ruffles starting from hips rather than the waist and therefore a little more flattering. I did make some modifications however, taking the whole thing off it's elastic waist and adding some darts to make it fit better also opening up the back seam to make it into a kind of wrap skirt which ties at the back with ribbons. 

Making the swan neck was the fun part. It was basically a shaped tube made from white jersey fabric, rounded at one end for the head, and wider at the other where it was going to be joined to the skirt. I stuffed it, then added lots of tulle ruffles, some fluffy marabou feathers on the inner neck, and made a beak from orange felt and a black fabric scrap. A couple of black buttons made beady swan eyes, and then it was ready to be sewn to the skirt. A few more tulle ruffles masked the join, and it was finished!

Caution: Swans like champagne - I'm sure that glass was full...