Yellow Rose Flower Brooch…

It’s the final day of school and I’m feeling a bit stressed.  There is much to do.  The house is a tip, I have to pack for our holidays and C is off sick with a fever (there is a nasty cold going around, both boys have it….as of yet *touch wood* I haven’t shown any signs).  I plan to spend today getting things into order, packing away school uniform and throwing anything that wont fit, come September, or is past it’s best.  I’d like to go away with a clean house and a tidy garden, I suspect that wont work out, but I can try.


With all this in mind I have closed up the shop.  I’ve decided to do so for the majority of the Summer holidays, in the past I’d have only dared do the minimum, ideally a few days at a time, a week at the most, I hate the idea of someone new discovering the site and being confused/annoyed by not being able to make a purchase (and, obviously, I don’t like not being there for lovely, loyal and regular customers either); but, this year I’m taking time off as we are away for a bit, and sales are always quite slow over summer anyway, so I like the idea of closing the studio up and hanging out properly with the kids.


I managed to squeeze in time to finish some yellow rose brooches that have been an open project for some time, sitting waiting for their backs to be put on and then to be packed up.


The buttercup brooches that I make are always very popular, I think it’s really partly down to the sweet little trio of flowers and the idea of the buttercup, but I do also love the colour, so I decided to make a double rose version in yellow.  When it comes to yellow, I am quite fussy, I like mustard and ‘sunny’ yellow (with a mustard tint) but not green/lime/acid yellows, they just don’t rock my boat at all.


I considered many different bead colours for the centres but actually liked the amber on yellow best, even though it doesn’t stand out as much.

DSC_0063Before the roses can packed, they have to go through the crucial de-fluffing process, which in my case involves lots of cellotape.  Tweed and wool felt creates so many little fibers, it’s quite satisfying to see them lift away, it’s also why I pack and store the brooches in cellophane bags, that way they stay pristine and fluff free.


I’ve talked about this before, but when I was packing up the flowers, it occurred to me just how much I enjoy this bit of the making process.  I was the kind of kid who spend happy hours playing ‘post office’ or (my favourite) ‘library’, where I got to order and stamp books with my date stamper and pretend to do joined up writing signing the names.

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This is the bit where I’d normally say they are listed ‘here’, but today, they aren’t because I forgot to list them….and the shop is closed anyway….but come late August they will be found in the Flower Brooch section.

Amongst my general need to clean, tidy and organise, I hope to catch up on reading blog posts in the next few days.  I have struggled over past months to keep up to date, there are always at least 100 or so unread posts in my ‘friends’ stream and I keep missing news, but do forgive me if I don’t leave many comments over Summer as I am attempting to cut back on my on-line time as well as my sewing.  Oh, and I am the only person who chose Feedly for migrating my Google Reader list to?  I think so…it’s like when I opted for WordPress only to find out everyone else uses Blogger.  I’d have so bought a Betamax 😉

Hope you all have a lovely Summer, back in a short while!


Teachers Gifts 2013…

We’ve just written the cards for this year’s teachers gifts, as next week, school’s out for summer – hurrah!  I have to say, we are ready, I can’t wait for a break from school run and to hang out with the boys for a bit…no doubt, come September I will be eagerly awaiting their return but let’s not think about that now.


So this year it’s flower brooch cards.  I had a few left over from the shop.


When I designed them, I though it was a genius idea to have the brooches mounted into cards, so they could be a kind of two in one thing, a gift and card together (the first being made for my Mum on her birthday back in 2011), but sales show that actually, people prefer to just buy the brooches on their own (which come mounted on a small square of card anyway).  So rather than have them sit in a box I figured they’d make nice gifts….there’s a little less child input than our normal gifts, but the boys enjoyed choosing the colours and writing the cards.

I thought it might be nice to do a round-up of past gifts, partly for myself to be honest, so below are some images and the links to the relevant posts (not sure that links show up well since I migrated to the new blog layout, but I do try to make relevant things clickable).

July 2009, for F’s key-workers at pre-school it was a mixture of chocolates, soap and one of the original lavender birds…wow, I’d forgotten they looked like this, the design has come a long way, I think.

DSC_0239 DSC_0241Next up was July 2010, with a mixture of bought notebooks (from Sarah Waterhouse), lavender birds and homemade jam all packed up with little birds from the shop.

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December 2010, Santas – I hope to make some of these for the shop this year.

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July 2011, was a mixture of jam with little birds, again, and linen bags.  We’ve borrowed this idea today, with a jar of home made jam for a training teaching assistant complete with bird.  We also gave the jam at Christmas (for the then, new teachers).

DSC_0026 DSC_0036 DSC_0034 DSC_0032Last year I made the apple lavender bags, and the boys wrote messages on the back that I free machine embroidered on.  We also gave little birds at Christmas, mounted on cards with messages and some pretty foil wrapped chocolates added (I never photographed or blogged these as we were too busy)


I rather enjoyed writing this post, mainly because to find the photos, I looked at the entire media library for this blog and got all nostalgic over the hundreds of images from the past.  It was quite fun, after I waited an age for them to upload.  Sorry if it’s a bit self-indulgent, it’s just nice to look back sometimes.

Must dash as I have Sunday lunch to start cooking 🙂

Oh and thanks for the fabulous response to the apple aprons, I was so pleased they were popular, and just so I’ve mentioned it, the shop will be shutting down for a big chunk of the summer holidays as of next week, we are around on and off but it’s too patchy to keep it open full-time.

Apple Aprons…..I Know, It Really Is a Miracle, They Are Finished!!

These have gone on forever and the honest truth is I haven’t enjoyed sewing them at some stages, my un-picker has seen a lot of action in past weeks.  In fact, I was so excited to finish the green version, that afterwards I opened a mini bottle of (cheap pretend) pink bubbly.  I wish I was joking.  On the plus side I love the end design and have put one aside for myself already.

So back in 2010 (yes, THAT long ago) I was searching for 1940’s apron images, as I was really keen to make a cross over back apron for the shop, a kind of hybrid Muji/vintage number.  I’ve made 1940 vintage aprons before, for the theatre and I really like this kind of style.  Whilst researching, I came across this image


and felt very inspired by the apple pockets.  I also realised that a full vintage style apron was a no go, as I simply couldn’t buy the linen cheap enough (and I felt they had to be linen or a linen mix fabric) and make a profit on what people would pay for the aprons.

OK, so then I doodled lots of images and bought some cotton/linen fabric from Ada and Ina Linen ready for sewing.  Then I did nothing, for over a year, which is when I decided that apple lavender bags (to go with the aprons) would be a neat idea.


The apple lavender bags done, I still didn’t get on with the aprons.  I had the entire design worked out and everything but lacked the time or inclination to get on with them.

So come last year, I had a big fabric sort out and it prompted a decision to make a point of using up some of the larger stacks for their intended projects (I have many on the go).  By then, I knew it was to be a half apron, so I obsessively checked out the ultimate size (for a fits all result, I did consider making two sizes, but knew it was adding lots of extra work which was very probably unnecessary)


I washed and cut out all the linen, including the straps (I had already thought about the best making method so knew how I wanted to cut them), then using the existing apple lavender bags and dissolvable ink, I worked out how to get the best apple position and size.


The apples were made up using linen bought especially for the job.  I went for gold stitched pips on the green ones, they don’t really stand out as well as I’d have hoped but they are OK.  By now I was becoming a bit of a whizz at close zig-zag stitching, a method I use a lot in my work.  The hard bit is getting a very close sitch but one that doesn’t bunch up, also it takes up a lot of thread!DSC_0030

I then stitched the pockets on.  This was take two, first they were stitched with a double (for security) line but quite frankly, it looked crap, so I decided to zig-zag around the edge instead.  I love how it looks finished, how it kind of hides the opening and echoes the rest of the apple stitching.  At this stage I did a ‘apple apron’ search on Etsy, to make sure no-one else was doing something too similar.  I have found, over the years, that no matter how original an idea may be, it has often been done before in some form.  Sometimes I check at the beginning of the design process, so I don’t waste my time, in other cases (like this) I make a point of not looking until I am pretty far down the line, this way my conscience is clear that I haven’t in any way been influenced by someone elses work.  It matters to me that I am as original as I can be.


Then I did another check on the dummy, with various widths of bias-binding to see what worked best.  Annoyingly, the 25mm binding I’d bought especially for the job looked wrong, it was just too bulky (see it here on the waistband) so I had a re-think and went for 15mm, knowing it’d be a right royal pain to stitch on neatly.

I also made the decision that no matter how tidily done, I didn’t like the backs, so I decided to cover them.


I loved the idea of dots, to echo the apples, but as the linen/cotton canvas was already quite solid, adding a quilting cotton to it would be too much, plus I found a stack of cotton gingham from my early Linen Cat days that I no longer use, so that seemed perfect.


There are many annoying bits in the process of sewing these.  A problem I already know about is that no matter how neatly you sew the zig-zag, however perfectly round the apples look, the process slightly stretches the fabric and when you steam it back into place, inevitably the perfect curve you stitched gets less perfect, mild angles forming in the weaker areas.  I hate this, but accept it can’t be fixed, I know from many hours of stitching cashmere bear belly patches, using every trick I can think of that it’s the price for using the tight zig-zag.  Also, I cannot exaggerate the hours I spent unpicking the binding,  as I like it to be as perfectly aligned as possible, which is quite tricky, especially when you’re using a narrower width.


Lastly, when I have come to list them (which has taken ALL this morning) I noticed that the apron ties on the red version are 20cm longer than the green.  I couldn’t work this out for ages, then I remembered that after trying the green sample on every waist I could find, I decided the cut version could be shortened and still wrap nicely around most, fastening at the front.


Clearly I forgot when I came to sew up the red apple ones.  Never mind, they still work well.


What else?  Oh yes, they were a nightmare to iron.  I pre-washed the fabrics so that there is no additional shrinking but even with a damp cloth and full steam they don’t iron fantastically, the linen/cotton is almost a canvas weight and I’d suggest ironing whilst damp in future.DSC_0041

Both versions have green gingham on the reverse, as that’s what I had to use up.  The red apples has green bias binding trim and the green apples, brown.


And they are now, finally listed here and here.  Pricing was tricky, as there really is a lot of work and a lot of material/thread etc in each so I have gone for £28.

I need to do a big studio tidy now and try to finish any other open projects so I am free to make new things.  There is a big call for badgers, I hope to find time to make those towards the end of the year, and I desperately need to re-stock cashmere bears and monster purses.  Then there’s the looming summer school holidays, but best not think about that right now 🙂