I had a very busy time on Saturday afternoon showing the Eastern fringe of Bath how to make little lavender hearts from what began as an old blanket. This was one of the larks of the Larkhall Festival.
Preparing on the Friday was fun; I was able to watch the royal wedding from behind a pair of scissors, cutting out 150 little individual hearts. Can you see how it influenced me as I compiled my groups of ten? No, neither can I.
And I didn’t shed any tears. That was just blanket fluff in my eye, honest.
Then I grabbed a load of lavender.
And a few embroidery threads and balls of mohair (which I like to use for the blanket-stitching, though the latter’s not so very good for beginners as it tends not to behave). I took my trusty bunting (made twenty whole years ago for my very own wedding and loaned out since to a gazillion garden parties & fetes), and Mimi’s fish, just for the company and inspiration (“One day, small child, you could upcycle something like THIS!”)
Thanks to the very capable Polly for helping me out. And to everyone for being so patient while I made my way round to you to help thread needles, tie knots and finish off loose ends. Teaching sewing is fun. It’s such an eye-opener, for one thing. Polly asked one very small boy if he knew how to thread a needle. Yes, he replied. A couple of minutes later she looked back at his needle to find he’d meticulously wrapped his thread ever so neatly around the full length of it. Hmmm. I guess that would be one way to legitimately ‘thread a needle’, just not the one we were looking for. She could hardly bear to disappoint him by unfurling it again. That brought me up short as I realised that sewing terms, like any other technical jargon, are fraught with confusion for the complete novice. We quickly forget the strangeness of language, once we’ve digested and understood it.
I was aiming for this type of thing, but the results were more vibrant and various. Blanket stitch wasn’t always the stitch of choice for participants (even if they started out doing it, they frequently ended up producing something else, even if not intentionally) but there was plenty of personality, and I was delighted to see lots of personalising and initialising going on. The lavender seemed to be loved by all, and children were witnessed ‘losing their needles’ in the lavender box just so they could scrunch their fingers through it again and again. And why not? We were chilling. The needles were reassuringly blunt, by the way.
Though tolerant of irregularities and differences of approach (there’s usually more than one legitimate way of doing something) I find myself driven to correct one thing: tying a knot in the thread behind the needle. This one makes me twitch. I don’t know but assume (can anyone confirm?) that this is how sewing is taught in primary schools when kids work with Binca and yarn. I feel that this makes the yarn and needle behave a little oddly and try to encourage simply leaving a longer thread-tail. Am I alone in having this aversion?
I’ve decided I should get off my derriere and offer sewing upcycling classes. Venue tba, but somewhere in Bath. Do leave a comment or get in touch with me via my email (eirlysATscrapianaDOTcom) if you’d like information about these. Be sure to mention if you’d be interested in children’s or adults’ classes, and if daytimes, evenings or weekends suit you best. And don’t forget to leave a means of contacting you.
Just a few more pictures of those scrap blanket-wool hearts, red-edged with green twine this time, as befits the season.
It’s the final countdown to Little Scraplet’s school Christmas fair this weekend, and I’m making as many blanket hearts as I can. The blanket in question was an old family one which was too far gone to be mended, so I decided its time was up: it was curtains for the blanket.
I gave it a good boil-wash before starting, then steam-pressed it. My template is a cookie cutter: no point reinventing the wheel.
I’ve been experimenting with different threads (embroidery floss, mohair, crochet cotton) with pleasing results; I really like the way pink mohair looks – it lifts the rather spartan blanket-weave – but haven’t taken shots of those hearts yet. The ones pictured use half a length of 6-strand embroidery cotton (so three strands) just out of habit; that’s how I was shown to used embroidery floss as a girl. The needle I used is a tapestry one, partly because it’s blunt (I may be showing kids how to make these), partly because it has a large eye to accommodate thick yarn. It gets through the rather loose weave of the blanket pretty well, though I think I’d prefer a chenille needle, with a large eye (like a tapestry) and with a pointed end.
The loop is old linen upholstery string I had lying around. I knot the length of string and sandwich it between the two blanket hearts, cinching it in place with my first blanket stitch. Once I’ve blanket-stitched most of the way round, I teaspoon in the lavender stuffing before finishing off. There’s probably an easier and more efficient way, but this is mine.
A little rough and ready, though not without charm. They can decorate the Christmas tree, or go over a hanger to keep clothes fresh and moth-free. I hope the kids (and their parents) like them.
Before I go, I must tip my hat to the hugely talented Lisa who creates the most beautiful upcycled woollen hearts and who inspired me to have a go too, even if mine are a far cry from the perfection she manages to achieve.
All this talk of first sewing-machine experiences reminded me that jeans renovation featured prominently in mine. A previous incarnation of the skinny jean, c.1980, required them to look as though they had been sprayed on. I couldn’t afford to buy them (or maybe they weren’t even available to buy) so had to adapt what I had (straights? I think we’d already abandoned flares). As far as denim was concerned, this was the pre-Lycra era, making skin-tight pretty difficult to achieve. But with plenty of pinning, trimming, sewing and endless trying on (and peeling off), the more grimly determined teens among us got there. How sad that I can find no photographic evidence!
Well, I’m more likely to deconstruct jeans completely nowadays, and turn them into something else. Or sew on the odd knee-patch for Little Scraplet, who can hole a trouser in just one wearing. Little Scraplet’s friend’s 11th birthday party (actually back in September, but forgive me for being slow to post about it) sent me to my scrap bag looking for a suitable gift idea.
I leafed through Pip Lincolne‘s charmingly fun retro-styled Meet Me At Mike’s book and found a sweet kitty pattern. Looked good to me, and Little Scraplet approved. This is a really appealing project book, but I think there may have been a problem with the pattern-drafting (seam allowances omitted?) as I thought my kitty emerged looking like the one in the book after a celebrity crash-diet. And the instructions didn’t tell me to cut out the correct number of pieces (forgetting you need two for each arm and leg). Getting caught in an instruction-/pattern- failure ambush tends to puncture the ‘can-do’ approach just a little. I’m sufficiently experienced to read around the instructions and figure out how to fix it without the book’s help, but I thought it would be a pity for someone attempting a first project (the book’s real audience, I would guess) to be derailed so soon. End of rant. Well, it all came out OK in the end, though my kitty was a bit skinnier than she might have been.
The rest of her is scrap or thrifted. Her face is cut from a felted 2nd-hand sweater. She’s stuffed with a 2nd-hand bag of unused toy stuffing (the stuff I find in cupboards!) plus some lavender. She can’t be washed but smells s-o-o-o relaxing.
I was slightly disappointed by her final mouth, realising that I liked the effect of the pin that had been holding her nose on during construction (vertical line and dot) and I should’ve tried to emulate that. Nevermind. Maybe another time.
Feedback on kitty was good. Sort of. Recipient’s older sister had purloined it as her mascot (she was taking exams), and was refusing to relinquish it. The mother cooed and said I should be making and selling them. Well, obviously I can’t ‘cos it’s not my pattern, but it’s a nice thought.
I bought this turmeric-golden canvas remnant in a charity shop a while back. Somebody had marked it into quite small patchwork pieces and even cut a few out. It must have made for some heavy-weather patchwork-piecing, I’d have thought. No wonder it was dumped. But I liked the weave and knew the right project would come along. Can you see what I singled it out for?
Having lined it with iron-on interfacing (it was just a tad unstable), I cut 6 symmetrical, magnolia petal-shaped pieces, sewed them together and…
…found a piece of scrap grosgrain ribbon for the top (more texture) and…
…stuffed it with lavender and grain. The result is heavy and yet sweetly scented enough to hold open the best of doors, allowing any fortunate guests crossing the threshold ample opportunity to utter: “What a lovely pear!”