Ticking the list off…

I’ve knuckled down a bit here and thanks to a rainy day today have worked though some more of the half done projects.

First up I finished the lavender stack.  It’s pretty high when piled up (it will be fastened with a nice ribbon and tag for selling) so I’m now wondering if I should actually sell them in stacks of two instead?  I should also mention these are quite big 13 x 12 cm in fact and stuffed only with lavender, also the backs are in plain linen, which annoyingly cost more than the Echino so was a bit of a stupid move.

I guess they would then be sold in the pairs above, I haven’t worked out the pricing yet but it’s going to be about £15 for a 4 stack and £7.50 for a 2 stack (before P&P), all thoughts on this are most welcome.

I also spent today making up some new brown Linen Cats (shocking light today so please excuse the photos)

I used to make a dark-ish green linen cat but I found the weave a bit flat in colour whereas this brown has a different warp and weft thread so it has a bit more life to it.  I really like the green button eyes.

I had some dresses already made up but still need to pick the final bead details (for the ‘hair’) and the third is a boy so he needs his tweed trouser/scarf combo.

So, all in all a pretty productive day.  I want to work through all my open projects (which could take some time) and then sort out the studio.  We are having the flooring fitted downstairs soon (wooden over electric under floor heating) and it’s the final biggie of the house, I have become mightily sick of staring at the cheap unfitted lino and I’m ready to put skirting on and pictures up throughout the house, after 4 years here now I think I’ve earned that 🙂

I’m back….sort of…

After the blog lull of the Easter Holidays everyone else seems to be back in the swing of things and I am feeling suitably guilty at my lack of posts.  We had a nice break, once we got over the flu/cold/eye infections, we made the most of the beautiful weather with lots of trips to our local parks, zoos and woods and there was a daily ‘picnic’ in the garden for the boys lunch.  I have to admit though, I was ready for them to go back to school, they had become a little bored towards the end and I was starting to feel like one of those stressed entertainers you see at some kids party, all smiles and jolly faces, frantically trying to keep the kids entertained but inside screaming, “get me out of here!”.

I was holding off blogging in the hope of showing you all my lovely new makes but I am finding myself distracted by the house which I want to Spring clean and decorate (and tidy first!) and there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  I have found time to made a start on some new Linen Cats and Bunnies,

there is a bit of a boy shortage in the shop plus it will soon be my 100th post so I am planning to give one away (I will hopefully be blogging the giveaway shortly, once the girls are completed).  As you can see I am enjoying the bright colours of Spring flowers in our garden and this is reflected in my fabric and trimmings choice.

That is, of course, the final distraction, April is rather a busy time in the garden but things are getting under control now so I should be able to spend some proper time in the studio soon and finally finish some of the projects in process, now wont that be nice!

Linen Mice…

I love Ocado, there is a feeling of satisfaction having a fridge well stocked with nice food and I’m afraid in my case not having to take the kids with me shopping.  The only hard bit is getting the bags emptied quicker than Charlie can remove all the things he wants to eat, seriously, I am amazed how much a 2 yr old can pack away.

Mr C started Pre-School yesterday, there has been a delay to the new term due to road works, I have been waiting for this moment for 5 years it will be my first regular time alone and please don’t think I am wishing my children’s early years away, I am aware how precious this time is but I am more than ready for a little time to myself.  So what did I do, dance around the house to loud music whilst sipping a mini bottle of Champagne, watch day time TV other than Cbeebies?  No, rather pathetically I did some sewing and not a lot of it at that.  I sat down and suddenly it was time to pick Mr C up, where did the time go?!  He had a great time by the way, after the initial tears just to make me feel guilty he was, “brilliant” apparently.

Shall we get to the photos?

I stitched together the first batch of mice, sadly my dyeing session of unusable linen didn’t improve it enough so I have some on order (in brown), but the first 2 colour ways are up, boys in Kaffe Fassett’s Asha in grey with royal blue cord shorts and girls wearing Dots dresses in magenta.

After the recent pattern tweaking, I ended up back at almost the original, with the neck a little wider to allow space for the stuffed arms and legs to fit inside.  When I see the above photo I tut at myself for cutting the corners, it weakens the seam and when making costumes is a big no-no.  Old habits die hard, but it was difficult to get the corner shape without a trim.

I love the ‘road kill’ shot, I had to resist the urge to stuff them as I went along, just so I could take a photo of the piles of flat little mice.

I am really pleased with the finished result, I was worried they may end up a bit twee and not fit in with my other designs but I think they have kept a ‘funky’ feel (or I hope so).

The light was awful this morning so these aren’t great photos and please excuse that fact that they are not stitched up yet on the sides but I had decided to have a no sewing day and get down to some house tidying.  It’s all getting a bit out of control and I am slightly jealous of the number of spring cleaning bloggers out there, I do feel much more relaxed when it’s not such a tip but have a habit of putting housework last on my list.  On which note, I had better get on as it’s already lunchtime, oh, thanks for all your lovely comments it really is nice to read what you think, makes me feel a bit more connected.

Projects in process…

It’s warmed up today and after a few more inches of snow yesterday, we now have a snowy drippy mess.  I am quite looking forward to seeing what’s left of my garden once the final bit has gone and I’m happy, for now, to say goodbye even though I’ve loved every minute of the Winter Wonderland we have been experiencing.

One thing I will be grateful for is the delivery services getting back to normal, UPS were happily holding onto a number of parcels and the post is a rather slow, as a result I have to keep stopping mid project.

I was waiting quite a while for the new labels, as above, which I’d hoped to use in the spring birds.  They are a slightly scary maroon colour with gold lettering but I needed a colour that would ‘mingle’ with the ribbon tails of the birds and allow me to add a tag without it being too intrusive.  In the end I decided not to use them, I will on next winters birds but they didn’t look right here.

(The labels come from Woven Labels, I normally use orange or green lettering on a white background, also I had just been kneading bread on the below photo so please excuse my grubby nails)

So, having waited a few weeks for the labels I am no longer using (duh!) I got to work on putting the first batch of birds together, only to run out of stuffing.

Yellow are done and the rest are waiting half finished for their stuffing and marathon bead eye stitching session, then I will need to wait for a sunny day to photograph them.

I wanted to mention the amazingly cheap plastic ‘boxes’ I’m using from Ikea.  They are part of my new organised self,  I’m very lucky to have a studio space even if it also serves as our spare room but I do frequently move between the kitchen table and the studio, due to being a full-time Mum and having to go where they boys need to be.  The stacking boxes make life a lot easier, I can keep projects separate and empty the kitchen table quickly for eating.

The lack of stuffing means I’ve also had to halt the Linen Mouse project, even though the fabric and dye have arrived.  Thanks for all your advice, I am sticking with the mouse design with stitched ears (which I was supposed to do before fully stuffing the original) and a bit of pattern tweaking.  I love being able to ask advice via blog, sometimes I feel a little isolated in my own small creative world and the whole blog thing helps me feel connected.  I love this online community.

After a bit of thumb twiddling boredom mingled with the guilt of knowing I should be tackling the mountain of housework I started on new egg cosies, rabbits to go with the existing mice.

Right, best get on, they wont stitch themselves up!

Is it a mouse, a cat, a bear…?

For those who know my work, The Linen Cat started with, in fact, a linen bunny which quickly progressed to a cat and these are still my favourite things, I especially love the mix of linen against the bright cotton prints.  The cats/bunnies are, however, one of the most expensive things that I sell as there is a lot of work and fabric involved (all the tweed trousers and dresses are removable and lined) and although I go to every length to make sure they are hard wearing and washable the buttons mean I have to state they are unsuitable for children under 36 months.  I have thought for a while about making something that mixes the same combination of fabrics but is a bit smaller, simpler in construction and young child friendly and also has a hint of my mouse egg cosy.

Some designs are very organic and ‘just happen’, others I think about, draw down and tweak a lot before I am happy.  In this case my starting point was the linen cats/bunnies, the mouse egg cosy and existing patterns (as I have written before I like to try and keep some continuity with shapes and sizes – the latter to make easier packaging and posting!).

Pattern one is based on the one used for the Wool Bunnies, and it’s passable but not right.  The head doesn’t work, I quite like slightly weird shaped heads but I know from sales, not to go too abstract.  By the way, the cute owl fabric is from the new additions at Fabric Rehab and was an extra sent to me on my last order (thanks Sally), I am rather smitten and will have to buy more.

Apart from the head shape, I struggled to stitch up the body, there wasn’t enough room to tuck the arms and legs in (the legs in the corners of the triangle dress were a nightmare) so I have made pattern two wider at the top and I’ve moved the legs in a bit.

I am also trying out new heads in cotton, so I can draw on them and not waste good linen and also because the shapes change so much once stuffed.  I think the cat is the winner but I am worried about making my lovely full size Linen Cats redundant if there is a cheaper smaller more ‘young child’ friendly version.  As always any opinions greatly appreciated.

Hummm, plenty to think on, in the meantime I am waiting for fabric ordered for the project and I need to pre-wash and dye some existing linen.  Little mouse has gone to live on the shelf with some of my other samples…she may get buttons on her dress, just for fun, at a later date.

Whether the weather…

It can’t make it’s mind up today, we keep getting downpours and then moments of sun.  I admit to loving the rain, the garden is parched as unlike everyone else we haven’t had much rain at all recently plus it puts me into work mode.  I have been struggling with this over the past week, I feel anxious and I’m not sure why, I think it’s that F starts Primary School on Monday and although this in itself doesn’t stress me I know there will be lots of tears once he realises he has to go every day.  It’s dawning on me that this has been his last summer of freedom, after Monday he will spend the next few years in the education system, until he leaves home (I’m booting them out at 18 – ha!) and I am kind of sad about that.  The up side is Mr C starts pre-school in January I will have my first regular time off in over 4 years, I am quite excited, I have secret ideas of sleeping and reading a lot but I know I wont be able to do this, there is always too much to do.

Another possible cause of the feeling of anxiety is that the builders start tomorrow, I am both excited and stressed about this.  I have been rushing to do all the laundry as access to the washing machine will involve walking out of the house to the ‘building site’ that is our old extension, we are blocking off the door to cut down on dust and keep the kids safe.  We have emptied everything out and the house it rather full, boxes stacked everywhere and a little too much furniture in all the rooms but it will be soooo worth it.  There will be a large hole in the house shortly so I’m glad we are getting it done before the weather turns too cold and who knows, we may even get the underfloor heating and new wooden floors down in our living room in time for Winter!

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Right, bit too much chatter and not enough photos so here is my work bench earlier this morning.  I should be sewing another roman blind for my sister, but I couldn’t face it and so decided to treat myself to starting some new dresses for Linen Cats/Bunnies.  These are in more Autumn colours, I have been collecting the fabric for a while with this in mind, I only buy small amounts to keep the styles limited as it makes it more fun (I always did like dressing up my dolls as a child and used to hand sew dresses for Cindy), it also keeps in line with each Linen Cat/Bunny being individual.

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They take a lot of work, each is fully lined in white cotton and there are no raw seams visible but they are one of may favourite things to make, I love choosing the buttons and beads.  I’m waiting on some linen samples for the bodies, the old linen I use is beautiful but has now reached £19.45 per meter without postage, which is far too expensive.  Once done and with some new colour Tweed Owls and Hanging Birds I can change the Shop stock over to a more Autumn feel.

Might have to root out the knitted socks soon!

Something old, something new…

I mentioned in a past post about owning a lot of lovely sewing things that I inherited from my Gran, in fact, most of my ‘things’ came from my Gran, she was a hoarder and provided my early collections of vintage clothing etc.  The photo I use in my About Me page is at her house dressing up in some of this vintage stash,  below is the full shot including my sister (on the right), the length of skirts always amazes me I virtually have my knickers on show!

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Anyhow, I digress.  So I finally made a start on updating and copying some of these lovely objects starting with the silks roll.  The original serves it’s purpose well but is full of old silks and I prefer to leave them as they are

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so here is the updated version

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I love cow parsley, I grow the florists version (Ammi Major) in my cutting patch and wake every morning to blinds printed in ‘Putkinotko’, which is a 1957 design by Maija Isola for Marimekko.

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so I have been planning to use the outline for a while, I was thinking cushions but decided to downscale and use beads for the flowers.

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As you can see, there are still improvements to be made, the linen, although a great weight is the wrong colour for the bead embroidery which you can barely see, but it’s a start.  The long term plan is to add a section to the shop selling sewing accessories, mostly replicas of my Gran’s things, but I am in no hurry I have plenty to be getting on with at the moment and I know that Christmas will come crashing in no matter how far ahead I plan.  The C word again, and in August!  hush up lady 😉

New supplies and a bit of organisation…

Whilst still in ‘get ready for the builders to trash the house’ mode and also whilst F is on Summer hols I have been pottering about, tidying through the studio/spare room and trying to finish half done projects.  I placed some orders for new supplies and went maybe a bit over the top with cataloging where everything comes from.  I get really annoyed when I need to order more of something and I can’t remember where I got it from, or which colour number it is so I did as below:

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do I need help?  Probably.

I ordered some new bias binding by 33 m reels from BG Payne.  I have never bought from them before but they charge £2.29 for 16mm, 35m reels and they had quite a few colours I was after that other people didn’t stock so it worked for me.  They don’t have a colour chart but you can see the this at the manufacturers website.

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I also went on a hunt for UK suppliers of Echino linen/cotton fabric for Kokka.  Ever since I made new cushions which ended up in our living room (and are standing up very well to the boys slightly boisterous playing and food spills) I have been a bit in love with this fabric.  I had already bought the purple, as below, from Celtic Fushion, but found the others in the photo at the eternal maker, yet another new online shop for me who sell it for £7 per half meter (oh I love that they sell in meters!).  If anyone knows anywhere that I can buy this cheeper, do let me know as I fancy some Roman blinds for the new/old extension but would need quite a lot.

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Although I am twitching to sew with my new supplies, the sun is trying to come out so I am off to play with the boys in the garden.

And yet MORE lovely things…

A new Orla Kiely bag arrived in the post today.  For those who have been reading my blog for a while, you may remember that not long ago I got a lovely new Orla K bag for my Birthday and may wonder why I need another (apart from a girl never having too many bags of course).  Do I have shares in Orla K?  Am I getting commission?  No, this

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happened to my last new bag, a slight accident involving a hob (which I thought was an induction hob) a smallish kitchen and a 2 yr old whilst we were on holiday in Germany a while ago.  I nearly cried but I was happy we hadn’t burnt the flat down.  So, hubby, who spotted the burning rubber smell broke the news to me with ‘you will be upset but don’t worry you can have a new one ‘ and I have been waiting in the hope they would re-stock the original bag I chose.  They haven’t so I have bought:

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instead and as it was in the SALE I snook in a new purse as well.  I know I bang on about Orla K and her things are quite pricey but I do highly recommend her Big Zip wallets, my old one was the first thing I ever bought, many years ago and has lasted me well, in fact most of the ladies in my family use them now so they must be good.  Also, I think I have never mentioned it before but Tinsmith sell Orla Kiely fabric, mainly oilcloth but great for covering tables and if you fancy making your own bag.

The stack of fabric in the photo is for a project I started today which I hope to complete by the end of the week, so far it looks like this:

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Right, off to cook tuna steak for tea.

Linen, Silk and Sweet Peas…

I have had a week of sewing and have got right back into swing.  It feels good, I was missing that great feeling when you make something new, choosing the fabrics, cutting the patterns and then seeing the finished piece.

So, of the many new things in the pipeline, here are Sweet Pea Linen Cushions, finally finished (well the first few anyhow).  I will be putting the purple and dark pink into The Linen Cat online shop and Folksy, the pale pink was a special request order for my Aunt.  

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The new cushions are a good example of my design process.  Some things are spontaneous and evolve from new fabrics and a bit of a ‘play’ but others are more traditional in their conception.  I had already made linen cushions based on Winter Berries and Magnolias (the Winter Berries cushion is available on Folksy in orange and is also being made in tweed.  Both will soon appear on The Linen Cat Online).  I knew I wanted to expand the range so I had been thinking about new designs.  My inspiration comes from the things around me, in this case my own garden where I grow sweet pea Matucana over the arches on my vegetable patch, it has lovely bi-colour flowers and for most of June and July I permanently have a bunch in the kitchen.  I had also recently ordered some lovely silk for making Christmas products that just happened to be in similar colours to the sweet peas.

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First I took photos and did some very quick sketches to get an idea of the shape.  The sketches are to tone down the detail and create bold simple shapes, I would happily get over excited and make a very complicated appliqued version of sweet peas, but this would be more like a piece of textile artwork and not something I could reproduce for re-sale.  It’s just not my style for the shop pieces, I like simple bold shapes that suggest their original source but have a slightly abstract feel.  I then work up a pattern on brown paper (my pattern paper of choice.  I was taught to use brown paper as a student and I have used it ever since).  Quite often I have an image in my head of how I see the finished piece so I work towards this, if I am unsure I will make up one sample or even a toile in calico with the details drawn on in pencil, but in this case I was happy with my pattern so went straight into making them up.

I am really like the new cushions, I love the mix of linen with small splashes of bright silk and it’s a lovely way to remember the sweet peas which are sadly coming to an end in the garden.