Thursday, 28 October 2010

Way out west #1: CD covers

Yes yes, falling golden leaves, starting the wood fire,  knitting a snood: these are all well and good. For some, the real signifier of colder weather is to curl up in the warmth and make compilation CDs. Not a playlist, an actual CD.

When it comes to compilations, I am more of a receiver than a giver. But, twice in the coming weeks we head west to dear friends and there will be music - both the listening to, and the talking about -  in abundance. Friend no.1 writes a music blog and you can read his words here. Friend no.2 is so industrious in his output that he has his own section on my shelves.

I had this idea to make some nice covers for compilation CDs. Not just a print out and a nasty bit of plastic that will end up stuck to your foot. But something tangible and beautiful, an object in this digital age. A small thank you for all the ones thrown my way over the years.

I made a template from an existing cover. I got down my box of paper ephemera and the fun began.

Can there be a better way to spend an hour than cutting and sticking?
I think these really worked. As with my favourite projects they are useful, quick, and full of visual potential. Hope they like them.

I am going to add the template (and the freezer paper tutorial) as a downloadable pdf in the next few weeks. 

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A restoration

This mirror hung in my grandmother's hallway for many years. Not my grandmother who made the beautiful dresses, the other one. 

 Most of the things in her house were from the '60s as by then she had been in Britain long enough to be able to buy a house and furnish it. So everything was the mid-century look that is so desirable now. But, more about her and her elegant taste another time. As you can see, it needed some love and care. 

I sought advice from my old friend Brian at A&B Glass in Stoke Newington, London N16 (no website, they are Luddite and proud). I used to go there all the time when I made mosaics like this and this. He prised off the old mirror, cut around it and smoothed off the edges to make a nice new piece. He also advised me on how to do it.

The main body of the mirror was made of glass. Step one was to strip off the black sticky backing, a sort of fuzzy fablon. This mostly came off with ease and was seriously enjoyable.

I then painted the newly-stripped back with black gloss paint. Also fun as it was so shiny and smooth. I then fixed the new mirror to the front with mirror adhesive. And here it is:

No more checking my hair in parked car windows. 

Here it will hang, in my hallway now. 

Friday, 22 October 2010

Swedish sewing

I saw this Almedahls fabric in Skandium and it was love at first sight. Only one metre mind, beautiful Swedish design does not come cheap. I wanted it on the sofa in our kitchen, but I have wasted enough of my life straightening crumpled sofa throws. So I made it into a sort of quilt-throw. A thick one so it would hold its shape and not need any attention. 

This was going to be a world speed record project. I did not even measure up, I just chose the other pieces from my stash and cut to size by pinning them right sides together with the Almedahls piece. I then sewed the backing pieces together, added the 'filling' layer of the batting, and did a couple of lines of quilting to keep the whole together.

The large black patterned piece was brought back from India by my mother years ago. It is hand block printed and still smells of sandalwood.

I spotted this elegant linen round the neck of a dapper friend who kindly sent me an identical piece. To finish off I bound the edges with chocolate brown linen. And this is what it looked like yesterday:

Oh dear. I recently discovered the joys of the bias binding maker. A little gadget that helps you make your own trim, giving you nice neat and strong edges. 

I used the one on the left  to bind this quilt-throw with chocolate brown linen. It was too thin, and I am not a skilled and patient enough seamstress so it did not bind properly. So I found the larger, 50 mm one (the site I got it from does not seem to be around anymore but you can find one here) and it worked brilliantly.

Lovely mitred corners.
Here it is in action:

So yesterday I made the above pile of bias strips and re-bound it. And here it is:

There are a few tutorials out there to do this properly, which all seem to involve a lot of hand sewing. I bet that is a lovely job to do whilst watching a film. But as I said, I tend to make things in a hurry so I just pinned around and sewed it and that was that. Very smart, comfy and low maintenance.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

My Granny's Dresses

The most wonderful unexpected package arrived above the shop a few days ago. Inside were eight small girls dresses handmade by my late grandmother, some for me and some for my mother and aunt when they were children. My aunt Sarah found them in her attic in Sheffield whilst looking for something else.

I was, needless to say, over the moon. What a beautiful surprise.

There is so much I could say about the extraordinary life and times of my beloved granny, Elena Zadik. For now I will just let her skill speak for itself:

I wore this dress and matching bloomers - made from Liberty tana lawn - to my aunt's wedding aged eighteen months.

This one also has matching bloomers. What I love about it is that it is pretty without being sugary. All these girls dresses and no pink, my current read Natasha Walter would approve.

The dress below, one of the older ones, is made from parachute silk. After the second world war it was plentiful.

Look at the detail on the back. Sigh.

This one below is my favourite. The buttons with looped buttonholes, the print, the way the navy, turquoise and chocolate brown work together, it is exquisite and so very much of its time (the late seventies). You put a little girl in prints like this and what chance has she got? Years later she will collect such fabrics and have no more room for her vintage crockery collection. 

My daughter Eva has been wearing it as a blouse with jeans. Although it makes me nervous I think they should be worn and not just packed away.  

The simplicity of the white really makes the tomato red stitching pop out, like redwork. Gorgeous.

She was a good doctor. Thinking about the meticulous hand that smocked these dresses, it is easy to believe.

Of course, strictly speaking these are not things I made - I doubt I will ever make clothes as skilled as these - but they will inspire me beyond measure.

PS For all the people who have kindly asked how they can subscribe to this blog, you should now be able to click on 'subscribe' at the top right. Thanks! 

Friday, 15 October 2010

Pom pom fringing is everywhere

Since I used it to edge my quilt I am seeing it everywhere, like a visual earworm. 
At a recent trip to the Tate Modern I saw it on the walls:

and in the shop:

Gauguin cushions. Yes, Gauguin cushions.

At the 12 Gallery on Saturday night for the opening of a new show by my friend and collaborator Lucy Steggals and Annabelle Dalby:

Beautiful carousel slide projectors at the opening of 'Origins and Approaches'

And here above the shop where I went through a lampshade phase recently:

the studio assistant

What is the word for this phenomenon?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

An Indian summer quilt

Finally finished: 

This quilt has had a very syncopated rhythm. Fits of activity followed by several weeks of being ignored. In the days and weeks after the birth of the baby I would rush to it whenever I could. Just to sew for twenty minutes made those hectic days easier.

I had been planning it in my mind for a long time. I knew I wanted strong simple geometric shapes so that the fabrics could speak for themselves. Baby's blocks fitted the bill perfectly. 

I also knew that it had to be done as quickly as is possible with a technique that is by definition slow. I did not want to still be making it in two years time (I have form). Deciding to make it a runner was part of that decision. A trip to the wonderful V&A quilts exhibition in the spring inspired me to get on with it. 

When it came to the 'how' of making it, I looked at lots of pictures on Flickr, got inspired by a few blogs, most notably Alicia Paulson's, read a few books, and just muddled through my own way using raw edges, zig zag stitch and fusible interlining.

As befits a patchwork, the fabrics are from many different places. Above you can see the selvedge of a limited edition Liberty print done for the V&A show. There are also some Liberty offcuts, some from my stash, a vintage fair, a couple of Japanese on-line treats and a few from my local haberdashery. I also added some trimmings into the mix.

It has turned out just how I hoped: a simple, not too fussy or pretty summer quilt. So pleased I actually finished it!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Cereal box marble run

This has been a great addition to the kitchen:

I love marble runs. An early childhood memory is the one belonging to my cousin Eliane, a great wooden skyscraper of a thing. So it was with great excitement that I read this post at Made by Joel, and had to have a go.

I added another slope to our marble run and folded the card up on one side to create a lip to stop the marbles falling off. We also did a quick decoupage/papier mache-style decoration on the sides by brushing diluted PVA glue over torn up bits of paper from the saved special bits of paper drawer. Embrace the inner magpie I say. The tearing-up and gluing bit was fun for Eva to help with.

I have dreams of adding a fully-functioning Alpine ski scene and a steam train with working station. But this will do for now.

a year above the shop

a year above the shop