31 March 2012

My Zen Charmer quilt - finished!

Well, my long time readers, you may recall I have blogged about this half-arsed quilt before, in June 2010. Back then, I had come to a standstill on my half finished quilt. 


And that's how it has stayed for nearly two years - in the cupboard, half finished, after a few badly planned attempts at binding and hand quilting it. 

I started to use satin blanket binding on the edges but that plan went downhill fast when the binding frayed under my needle. I gave hand stitching it a go and got into even more mess. Much unpicking later, I had a quilt top that was wonky but charming, which I'd spent hours on, hiding in a box in my office because I was 

a) let's face it - lazy, 
b) afraid of screwing it up, and 
c) too guilt-stricken to allow myself half a day of indulgent me-time and leave the kids with the husband so I could take a quilting class. 

Just last week though, serendipity smiled on me and I saw this article on how to bind a quilt for beginners on my twitter feed. It was a crafty Friday night, I had just enough fabric in my stash to make my binding, and I had a plentiful supply of tea and Reese's peanut butter cups. It seemed the planets were aligned in my favour.

I had originally bought a length of gold Japanese wave print cotton for the thick outer border around the squares but decided on a lovey ocean like batik print when I was in the process of making the quilt top. 

Using the formula in the tutorial, I calculated that I had enough fabric with plenty to spare for a 1 inch finished binding. Somehow, despite my awesome mathematical prowess, I just scraped it in with a few inches to to join and finish the binding. 

In my usual style (ie: skimming over the instructions) I realised once I'd sewn the binding to the front, turned it over and pinned it ready to machine sew to the back, I had put all the pins in the back of the quilt instead of the front. Moving all the pins from back to front so I could machine sew it easily was (in my brain anyway) more effort than hand finishing the binding, so a few nights in front of the telly later, and with a lovely new callous on my needle-poking finger, I had a hand finished quilt for Holly. Finally! And the dog hasn't even peed on it yet (neither has Holly for that matter).

The only problem is, I started making it with the now 2 year old Holly in mind, but my little guy Tyler seems to be quite fond of it. Do I have the patience to make another quilt? This one took aaaages and drove me banaaaaanas. I'm considering it but am still not convinced I have the staying power! Although I have seen some awesome boy fabrics that would be lovely together...

23 March 2012

Snail mail is awesome

Ah, it's not just me then - I stumbled across this article recently from UK newspaper The Independent. Have a read if you're interested in the resurgence of snail mail. And do check out Letter Lounge - what an awesome concept. Why don't we have anything like this here? Do we? Let me know. Maybe we do. Probably in Melbourne though. Everything seems to be in Melbourne.

"Email, text and Twitter were said to be the final nails in its coffin. But as with Mark Twain – a great exponent of the art – reports of the death of letter writing have been greatly exaggerated. Increasingly, people are forgoing the gratification of instant electronic communication for a slower, more personal approach – letter writing is experiencing a revival, and the art of saying thank you is central to its resurgence.

Retailers are reporting increased sales of "snail mail" stationery, including writing sets and fountain pens. They claim the trend for handwritten correspondence is a reaction against electronic communication and part of a wider resurgence in home-made crafts.

With sales of writing paper at the UK's John Lewis soaring 79 per cent year-on-year, Clare Northwood, the group's stationery buyer, said there was a "return to people handwriting letters and notecards, offering a more personalised touch". Increased entertaining at home because of the economic downturn could be behind a 20 per cent rise in sales of "thank you" notelets, she said. "It is easier to ping off an email but it is more meaningful to send a thank you card, particularly if someone cooked for you and has gone that extra mile."

Children's writing sets featuring well-known characters are also performing well: sales of Hello Kitty products have risen by 62 per cent in the past 12 months, she said.

Annette Sharp, managing director of the Bristol-based online retailer Papernation, said: "Parents see letter writing as a way of encouraging their children's writing skills without sitting them down to homework. It's a real-life way of encouraging writing skills in children.

"I think it is part of a wider hand-made and back-to-basics approach, appreciating the smaller things in life," she said. "People are a little bit fed up of being bombarded by technology. And it's actually quite nice to sit down and write a note or letter and take time over it. People see letter writing as a way of expressing their personality."

Decorative and embossed designs have become popular, with people buying rubber stamps and stickers to add their own creative touch. "It becomes a piece of art from one friend to another," she said.

Retailers have also reported increased sales of handwriting equipment, with sales of fountain pens up 70 per cent. This surge includes sales of expensive models such as the Mont Blanc Diamond Pen, as customers choose products that make handwriting more enjoyable.

London's City Lit, the largest adult education centre in Europe, has increased its calligraphy courses from six to nine for this coming September, due, it said, to "overwhelming demand".

The joy of getting letters prompted a copywriter, Claire Medcalf, 29, to set up Letter Lounge – a space for people to socialise and write letters. Its success over the past six months took her by surprise, leading her to increase the number of events to meet demand. Most of those attending are in their twenties.

"The only people I get handwritten letters from now are my grandparents," she said, "but I used to write letters to friends at school and things like that. Everyone likes getting letters but people don't really write them any more. I thought if I created an event where it was the main focus, people would take the time to do it."

17 March 2012

10 March 2012

From the bottom of the sea...

I've had a Graphic45 5x5 altered art box sitting on my desk looking at me for months now. As soon as I bought it I knew what I wanted to make with it - I'm not a big fan of lots of journalling so I wanted to use one of my poems as the starting point, both as inspiration for the box and to fill the concertina album insert.

I've been collecting bits and pieces for this project for ages and finally got a chance to put it all together this weekend. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out - I don't really 'do' OTP or altered art projects because if I can't finish something in an hour I lose interest. But, all the bits seemed to come together here and I figured I would try and do something properly instead of half-arsed for a change. Lots of photos follow - sorry if this page takes a while to load! You can click on the photos to supersize them.

I thought the vertical fold out insert would be perfect for my poem which is basically about drowning (how lovely). I thought I'd try and represent the depth of the ocean with the long panels, and encrust the box like a (very blinged up) sunken treasure that was all overgrown with barnacles and being reclaimed by the sea. 

Here's the poem if you're interested - it kind of sets the mood:

Ultramarine bubbling from the core of the earth
Breathing deep, fingers of furious foam rise
The blue desert bares her white teeth of wrath
Clutching my hair and stinging my eyes

Rain clouds eclipse the sun and the land
Ashen and sober where sky and sea meet
She threatens to take my by the hand
To the dark silentness under her feet

But instead thrusts me high above her head
Born anew, cold and gasping for air
Her serpentine skin to the wind is shed
Poison kisses on my cheeks wet and bare

Her salty venom on my lips is ready
Bruised skies darken and long shadows loom
I fall down her throat and into her belly
To sleep forever in her sapphire womb

Crash and roar and thunder and din
While curled like paper under her heart
Fades to a whisper that strokes my skin
Her foe defeated and torn apart

In this dark and ghostly soundless cave
She kisses me as a lover might
On lifeless lips no man can save
As I drift gently into night.

First I painted the box with navy blue Kaisercraft paint and added a bit of silver sugar glimmermist and glam ink in a lovely sea green colour called dirty martini. I've added so much stuff you can't see it much now but I also stuck a piece of a vintage map on the top with PVA glue and painted glue and more paint and glam over the top to seal it. 


I thought the satin rose looked like a turban shell, and the big silver leaves are from an old broken necklace. The shell and seaweed are from Scrapmatts and I have inked them a little with gold and navy blue ink.

The rhinestones are part of a broken earring, and there is a scrap of beautiful beaded fabric underneath from Pitt Trading.

Around the sides I've added more leaves from the old necklace, and every bit of bling I had in my stash.

I had a stamp that was part of the Kaisercraft 11th hour set - it was probably supposed to be a bird wire pattern but worked just as well as a fishing net.

I've coloured the tiny doilies with glam ink and added lots of Kaisercraft pearls and rhinestones and sparklets.

The keyhole is from Scrapmatts, as is the starfish. 

I had some silver porcelain paint so added a few tentacles to the inner window panel.

The pretty pearl cluster is yet another bit of broken jewellery.

 Open the box up and there is more bling, a fishy die cut and some lovely olive green lace. 

In the bottom of the box (or the 'bottom of the sea' I suppose) is a vintage book page and a black flower that looks a bit like an anemone, more sparklets, and more bling. I've coloured over the page with dirty martini glam, glimmermist, and PVA glue to seal it.

 I haven't stuck the antiqued shipping tag down; it comes out too and has an antique key and silver chain attached. Au fond la mer means from the bottom of the ocean, in case you hadn't guessed. :)

The fold out album is painted the same blue and embellished on the inside. If you look closely below you can see where I'm going with the drowning theme; the ship and the breaking waves at the top down past the fish to the dark sea bed at the bottom. I've used some vintage fabrics including a swirly white embroidered satin that looked just like cresting waves, and pale blue chiffon for the rest of the waves on the first panel.

On the next panels I've used more fish from Pink Paislee which are inked and misted, and I've gone a bit nuts with the paint and added some seaweed fronds.

And finally, lots of crusty barnacled bits at the bottom - some resin cabochons, a lobster card from the Kaisercraft Hunt and Gather collection, MORE bling and more of the Scrapmatts seaweed fronds. 

I think it turned out ok for my (2nd? 3rd I think?) OTP project! I would have liked to buy one of these antique German bisque porcelain doll arms to use instead of the pearl cluster on top of the album, to add to the whole drowning thing, but I was impatient and wanted it finished. :)

Hope you enjoyed all the pictures! What projects have you got on the go?

04 March 2012

New vintage page kits in store now!



...and more in store - all you need for a beautiful layout for ten bucks! Visit the RaineCloud shop on Etsy