Monday, 30 July 2012

Follow your nose on the Zakka trail ...

Oh my, isn't this this cutest thing ever?  Rachel Roxburgh of Roxy Creations has created a little gem - a linen patchwork bread basket (Patchwork Notes is hosting this week).  This lovely basket is perfect for BBQ season - or 'barbies' in Australian lingo.
Like many of the projects in this Zakka Style sew-along, my book is strewn with pencil marks and scribblings.  I don't know if you can make it out but the note at the bottom of the page for this project says "why? oh why?".  It is referring to the joining of the handles to the main bread basket (paragraphs 3 and 4 of 'Basket assembly').  In the project Rachel instructs us to stitch these on after we have added the sides to the bottom panel.  And this is where my exclamation comment arises.  Surely, it would be easier to stitch the handles to the ends of the bottom panel before we attach the sides to the bottom panel.  I followed Rachel's instructions for the outer shell but then did it my way for the lining.   I have to say I found my way simpler and quicker.

If you do follow Rachel's instructions I would recommend that, when stitching the side panels to the side of the handle (paragraph 4 of 'Basket assembly') you stitch down from the handle to the base rather than as per the instructions which suggest you stitch "up the side of the handle to form the box corner...".  I found it less tricky to sew into the corner than away from the corner.  And this will only work if you have followed paragraph 3 of 'Basket assembly' exactly and "stop sewing 1/4" from each end".

Also, section 2 in the 'Basket assembly' should really be section 4 of the 'Front patchwork panel'.  It is easier to add running stitches before you apply the fusible interfacing.  A small point I know, but worthy of mention.
My final recommendation is that you pick your patchwork fabrics carefully - they are the focal point of this project.  Small 1½" squares of colour will either make this a stunning little item or an 'okay' project.  Either way, I would thoroughly recommend this project.   Even if you don't need a bread basket I have a couple of suggestions to make this project work for you.
My first suggestion is that you use a stiff fusible interfacing and then this project will double up as a gift basket when presenting home-made preserves at your local summer fete or as a gift.  You could even cut a piece of strong card and affix it to the base between the lining and the outer.  This lovely little basket will hold three pots of jam or two pots and some scones. 
But it is my final suggestion that really is the clincher and the inspiration for my blog title.  You could use this lovely little item to get yourself invited to all the best BBQs in town for the cost of a few burger buns and a couple of fat quarters.  Just fill up the basket with bread, follow your nose and turn up at any BBQ, invitation or not.  Who could resist you when you turn up offering bread and this little gem?  And, if you are really canny you will grab your home-made bread basket once you have eaten your weight in steak and burgers and make a discreet exit.  That way you can re-use next time and eat all summer long for the price of a bun or two.  Clever no? 

Gotta go - the smell of sausages sizzling on a 'barbie' is wafting through the window.  If I follow my nose (and my canny suggestions) the money I save on food this summer can be spent on buttons and fabric!!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Handmade Zakka Bag - Week 17

My little elephant bookmark was reminding me that this Zakka Monday was dedicated to a 'delightful linen bag' designed by Mette Robl.   The blog host, Sukie noted that the photo on page 83 of the Zakka Style book makes this little bag look bigger than it actually is.  The finished size is 5½" x 7" which is quite dainty and very desirable.   You may be thinking - 'do I really need another pouch - after all I've already made The House Pouch, the Patchwork Pencil Case, the Zip Organizer and the Orchard Path Pouch?"  My answer would be a resounding 'yes' - this pouch is simplicity itself to make and will come in handy for many, many things.  I am going to use it for my 'lunch-time refresher kit' for work (more on this at the end of this blog).
As you will know if you have read my previous posts, I constructed the elephant bookmark whilst in the Lake District on a wet and cold day in July.  Well it wasn't the only damp, dank day of my holiday.  So, with time on my hands and a couple of sample squares of Moda 'Flora' fabric to hand, I set about making this little pouch.  Bear in mind that I did not have a decent pair of scissors (only nail scissors) or a tape measure - I had to improvise somewhat. 

I am after all, called The Patchsmith so it seemed reasonable that I patch the fabric for the front of this pouch.  Using the inch markings on a walking map (aren't I the resourceful one?) I constructed a pinwheel block from four 2½" moda squares.  I trimmed the block to 4" square, as per the project directions and blanket stitched it onto the front of a linen strip of fabric.  I added a little bit of ribbon and five buttons I had popped in my sewing travel kit (for possible elephant eyes).  This was all I had to hand.  But I am really pleased with the outcome.  The bag is lined with the same fabric I used for my elephant's face and legs.
I bound the top of the bag with binding constructed from another Moda 'Flora' sample square.  However, the pink ribbon I used on my elephant didn't go with the patchwork I had constructed so I needed to come up with a little bit of ribbon for the closure loop.  Employing my newly found resourcefulness - I snipped the hanging loops off a turquoise top I had packed and used a 4" piece of that (what does it matter if my top lay on the bottom of the wardrobe - at least I could complete my Zakka project!).   Finally, I added a handmade button purchased from Hawkshead, the village where I was staying.

This project went together easily and I am really pleased with the results.  I changed the pattern slightly by constructing my body front and back from one linen strip of fabric measuring 14" x 6".  This I folded in half matching the 6" edges thus saving me from having to stitch a seam along the bottom.  I just stitched up the side seams and voila (another of my talents - knowing the odd word in French, German - "Liebfraumilch", Italian - "perdiana", American - "pastrami-on-rye" and Australian - "strewth").  The book actually advises you stitch two rectangles together but I was stitching by hand and wanted to keep sewing to a minimum.  I also constructed the lining the same way.
My 'delightful linen bag' will sit in my desk draw.  It will contain dental floss (to remove spinach just in case Brad Pitt pops into the office), eye drops (so that I can see the boss coming and look busy), small hair brush (for the days when I forget to brush my hair in the morning and only realise when catching my reflection in my computer screen at work!!) and chocolate (for energy just in case Brad wants to take me somewhere secluded).  Stop laughing - it could happen - after all my teeth are clean, my eyes are sparkly and my hair is perfect coiffed   .......... and I have the bag to prove it!

Oooh, I nearly forgot - I know the Russian word for squirrel - unfortunately I don't know how to spell it in Russian - I can only pronounce it - it sounds like 'cott' I think.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Zakka Rag-Ribbon - Don't do it my way!

UPDATE:  I have retitled this blog - Don't do it my way.
Linda from I finally have time has come up with a great solution to all the threads.  It is to cut the strips on the bias.  Check out her blog about it here.  What a clever lady she is and her ribbon looks so lovely.  I would still recommend you check out the notes below regarding the finished length of ribbon.  But hey - all it needed was some lateral thinking - doh!!!
If you have yet to start project 16 on the Zakka Style Sew Along I have only one word for you - DON'T!  Melody Miller's project looks enticing and quaint but it is the final sentence that is the real indicator that this just may not work - "The frayed edges and patchwork really make this ribbon stand out."  Actually it makes the ribbon look like a rag.  Not only will you spend your time, electricity, cotton and scraps making this project but you will have thread all over yourself, your floor and, if you attempt to wrap a gift, the gift.  You will spend as much time trimming the frayed edges and threads as you do stitching the ribbon itself.  Unfortunately, this project just didn't work for me.
 
You may be thinking that you haven't got much to lose - after all this project uses scraps after all.  I still say - DON'T.  There are much better uses for your scraps - make a coaster or place mat, make the leaves ready for Week 24 on the Zakka sew along, make scrappy binding - make anything except rag-ribbon.  I already had several patched squares of scraps sewn together so I decided to use one made up of my favourite greens.  I followed the instructions for the 'narrow ribbon' and cut the patched square into 1" wide strips.

If you are determined - as I was - to complete as many of the Zakka projects as possible then note that section 5 of this project instructs you to sew strips together "until you achieve the desired length."   I believe this should read "until you achieve twice the desired length" because the next paragraph instructs you to fold the ribbon in half matching the short ends. This will half your constructed length. I also cut the ends of my ribbon on the diagonal thinking it would make a neater finish - but in all honesty, nothing is going to make my ribbon look neat.
If you do persevere and complete this project I would ask - when will you use it?  Put it on a friend's gift and that friend will think you have lost your marbles - especially when they unwrap the gift and they have threads all over the place.  They will be envisaging you sat somewhere, looking slightly crazed, hair unbrushed, mumbling to yourself whilst sewing together small pieces of fabric so that it looks like a rag!!
Maybe it is me - maybe it just didn't work out for me.  Melody's ribbon looks so neat.  However, I did notice that the pictures in the book have been zig-zag stitched AND overlocked along each edge (look particularly at the large picture on page 76) - that is a huge amount of machine time and cotton.  In my opinion you should save yourself some time and energy and pop down your local fabric store to purchase some wonderful, pretty, purpose-made ribbon. 
Never mind - it is a learning curve.  Can't sit chatting any longer, I've gotta go and hoover up the threads all over the sewing room floor!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Forget-me-not Elephant Bookmark

I would like to think that some of you may have wondered where I've been and why I haven't posted this week's Zakka project but, in all honesty, I think that my absence wasn't forgotten just unnoticed.  Well I'm back from my holiday in the Lake District in England having just spent a week in a little whitewashed cottage in the small village of Hawkshead.  Yes, 'tis Beatrix Potter country and I saw her original black-and-white pictures which were on display for the first time in the gallery there.  I also visited Wray Castle where Beatrix and her family spent their summer holidays - also open for the first time this year. 
I have been going to the Lakes every summer for the past decade so I knew that the rain would arrive and when it did, I was ready.  Tucked away in a corner of my suitcase was my Zakka travel sewing kit, Zakka book and a few charm squares of fabric.   When the rain set in and the hardened walkers went out exploring, I curled up on the sofa in front of the fire (yes - in July!) and set about this week's project - a lovely little bookmark in the shape of an elephant designed by Kat Mew of Zakka Inspired.  
I am pleased to say this project went without a hitch.  The instructions were clear, the template was the exact size and the project was perfect for hand-stitching.  I wanted my elephant's face and feet to be rather plain so I hand-stitched a strip of beige striped fabric to the top and bottom of a Moda 'Flora' square and used this for the elephant's body.   Even turning the body out the right way was relatively simple although turning the trunk was not!!  I added ribbon embellishment, a little button for the eye and tied a little piece of pink ribbon into a neat bow for her head. Hey-presto - a pretty little reminder of where I am in the Zakka sew-along.

One of my favourite places in Hawkshead is a little tea shop called 'Poppy Red'.  Not only is it a tea shop but it also stocks lots of lovely little knick-knacks.  I popped in there for my lunch on Tuesday and demolished a cheese and chutney panini washed down with a frothy coffee (yes, it was as lovely as it sounds - the birds were hopping on the back of my chair singing for a crumb - 'not a chance' I sung back!).   After lunch I took a stroll around the shop and picked up a trinket for my sister (and a couple of hand-made buttons, a notebook and some ribbon for me - just out of support for the local artists you understand!!!)   It wasn't until I arrived home today and unpacked that I realised how very appropriate my sister's gift was for this week's Zakka project - it is a little hand-carved forget-me-not pot.  So that is one person, at least, who will remember me next time I am late with my post!!!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Zakka meets Plants vs Zombies

Imagine the scene ..... it is Zakka Monday in a little house in a little village in England ........ 

Beth would you like a bottle carrier?” I ask my daughter.
“Are you making it?” she responds.
Yes,” I reply.
“Does it have gingham in it?” she asks.  (I am so proud my daughter knows what ‘gingham’ is!)
“Maybe” I answer.
“Then no”, she says definitely.
“It doesn’t have to,” I offer.
“Still no,” she replies.  “Can’t you make one for David instead?”
“Possibly but I thought it might come in handy for you when you are on the train?”  
“David would like it more,” she argues.
“Okay”, I concede.
Now imagine the scene again ..... it is Tuesday evening in a little house in a little village in England ....

“That’s awesome,” daughter says when I show her the bottle carrier I have made for this week’s Zakka project.
“Do you think David will like it?” I ask
“I thought you made it for me?” daughter retorts with a bottom lip that is about to scrape the floor.
“You said you didn’t want one” I reply.
“But it is so cool and it will leave my hands free to play my DS on the train,” she flutters her eyelashes at me.
“But what about David?” I ask.
“You can give him next week’s Zakka project,” daughter skilfully manoeuvres, “he’ll love it”.
“Mmmmm”, I murmur as I imagine my son’s face when I give him a bookmark of an elephant wearing a pink floral dress with a bow on her head! 
This week’s Zakka project was a bottle carrier designed by Pascale Mestdagh from http://www.pm-betweenthelines.blogspot.co.uk/.  It was not the best of patterns as it contained two errors – one of which left me, for the first time in this sew along, totally confused.   (Paragraph 2 should read: “Align the selvages of the muslin along the bottom (11½”) raw edge of the batten-lined linen....”).   

However, the blog host, one shabby chick,  helped out within minutes of me asking a question and I was back on my way.  I already have a bottle carrier which suits me just fine as it is thinner and taller than this pattern and is perfect for a soft drinks bottle or a water bottle from the shop.   It was also made out of scraps and didn't cost me a thing!  The free tutorial can be found here
 
So after deciding I would make this week's Zakka bottle carrier to give to one of my children, I set about appliquéing it to suit them.  ‘Plants vs Zombies’ is one of their favourite computer games so I decided to go with a zombie and a sunflower from the game.  It was quite fiddly but I really enjoyed it as I love appliqué.
This pattern was more for a sports drinks bottle – the sort my daughter carries around with her.  I changed the pattern slightly by only making the long strap and stitching it to the carrier.  This was relatively easy to do and the construction went together fairly well – once I got passed the pattern mistakes.

And therein lies the problem with this book - out of fourteen projects undertaken to date, four have had errors which effect the success of the project.  That is a really high error rate for a sewing book.  I have thought long and hard about saying anything as I want to support the bloggers and creators of these projects.  But it is very frustrating and disappointing to have so many errors.  Also, due to the number of mistakes, I wouldn’t recommend this book to other people nor would I buy it as a gift and that is a shame as many of the projects are lovely.  Please let me know what you think - I have set up a discussion topic onFlickr so please drop by or leave a comment below.