Tales of a secret stitcher…

Things have been a little quiet on the blog front recently as I have been busy crafting away in secret making a special gift for my lovely husband to surprise him with on our anniversary this weekend.

As we were celebrating our second year of marriage I decided to put my stitching skills to good use and create some framed textile pieces, as the tradition for the second anniversary is to give cotton gifts. I have been mulling the designs over for these makes since I first learnt to use my sewing machine for freehand machine embroidery earlier in the year and decided I had to create something for this special occasion. I knew that I wanted them to represent special memories from our wedding day and honeymoon and spent a good while happily scanning through our wedding album and honeymoon pictures sketching a few ideas. I finally settled on three images as the basis for my makes – our wedding cake (which was actually made from cheese), an elephant (from our visit to a sanctuary whilst on our honeymoon) and finally a special place from our beautiful venue ‘The Barns Hotel’ in Bedford.

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Over the last couple of weeks I have beavered away creating these makes in secret whilst Mr B was at work, snatching a few hours here and there. Delving into my now bulging fabric stash, with its lovely variety of textures and colours, made me so happy. I was able to find the right selection of pieces to use which reflected the autumnal tones we had for our wedding theme as well as the tropical colours of Bali, our honeymoon destination. Selecting these took almost as much time as creating the final pieces themselves as I had a very clear idea of what I was looking for and wanted all three pieces to complement each other as well.

autumnal colours

wedding cake make

elephant

I was really pleased with how all three pieces turned out but my favourite has to be the riverside gate. This is a special place from our wedding day as it brings back memories of the precious time after we got married when Mr B and I had a moment to ourselves and were able to enjoy each other’s company and take in the beauty of our location by river, it really was blissful.

Gate & photo

We celebrated our anniversary last Sunday and Mr B really loved his gifts, so much so that they were mounted on the wall almost as soon as they were out of the wrapping. They have found their home on the wall by our stairs which is perfect as we can enjoy them daily and it has certainly been putting a smile on my face to see them and remember the memories from these special moments in our life.

mounting pictures

It is probably not surprising that these are not my first wedding related makes, some of my first sewing machine projects were made in preparation for our special day. I created a set of superhero masks and capes for Mr B’s stag do  as well as making our wedding ring pillow which included using some of the beautiful lace from my wedding dress. I also decorated some pumps for our surprise lindy hop/charleston first dance and created a special knitted version of Mr B and I which I gave him on the morning of our wedding day. As with the anniversary makes, these all hold special memories and are now treasured keepsakes.

wedding makes collage

Luckily, it’s not the end of my wedding related makes either, as my little sister is getting married next spring and I have already offered my stitching services to her. I also cannot wait to share with you our wedding scrapbook which me and my super talented artistic sister have been working on together over the last two years on the few days when we have both had days off  and neither of us has plans (much harder than you’d imagine!) but I’ll save all that for another time.

As you can probably tell talking about weddings is just about my favourite thing to do and I’d love to hear about any special wedding mementoes you have, especially if they were handmade by yourself or gifted to you by a crafty friend or relative.

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London Calling…

London Calling title

With the kids back at school and the end of the holidays seemingly a distant memory (even though it was only a few short days ago) this week has had a strange feeling about it. Social media has been full of smiley faces in new school uniforms and shiny shoes as opposed to the busyness of holiday time where the smiles reflect the adventures being had at home and away.

The nervousness of a new term is something I am fully aware of as a primary school teacher. At some level all involved are nervous; the teacher who worries about settling their little charges in and making them feel secure and happy so that the exciting learning journey can being with gusto; the children whose natural sponge capacity and inquisitive nature can disappear into the background a little while they get used to their new surroundings, new routines and the new expectations put on them as they grow older; and last but by no means least the parents, nervous as they let their little ones hands go and send them into school to be someone else’s daily companion.

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Smiles on the first day back from my gorgeous niece and nephew x

The end of the summer for my sister in law and her two little ones has brought more nervousness than usual with worries about the new term being overshadowed by the impending surgery their mummy is about to undergo the following week.   After suffering for all of her adult life with the debilitating disease endometriosis she has made the difficult decision to undergo surgery to remove her womb and enjoy a future where she can be happy and pain free everyday with her ‘miracle’ children, who she never expected to be able to have.

For my gorgeous niece and nephew who have had a wonderful holiday with their mummy this nervousness is no surprise. Parents like teachers are in their eyes invincible, people who don’t get ill or need looking after by others.  I can relate to this feeling, as a child I remember feeling scared and worried every time my Mum had a migraine and had to lie down in a dark room without any disturbances, until it passed.  It was with the knowledge that these feeling would arise that my sister in law approached me during the summer break and commissioned me to create a free motion textile piece for her to share with her little ones before she goes in for her surgery.

Summerfuncollage

Seven weeks of smiles and adventures…

The theme of this piece was to be London and reflect some of their favourite places to visit particularly along Embankment. After a few quick sketches, a basic design was decided upon with the key features being the iconic and familiar London landmarks of the Eye, the Gherkin and the Houses of Parliament.  I was excited to begin this project, not only because the reason for its commission has so much meaning but also because the subject also reflects a part of London that is close to my heart and always at the top of the list when we head into the big smoke.

The real work for this piece began with turning my scrappy little sketch into a more defined and detailed drawing. As with my seaside inspired pieces from earlier in the summer, the finished piece would be a cushion and so this determined the size it.   It is at this stage that I really got a feeling for the design as I created a to-scale image from which I then made templates for the final textile piece.

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From scrappy initial sketch to detailed design

My excitement grew as I surrounded myself with my many fat quarter bundles and ever growing collection of fabric scraps from various projects. I am very much of the mind set of waste not, want not, keeping almost every last piece of fabric however small with the determination that one day they will be needed for a project.   Whilst happily sitting in this sewing squalor (thank goodness Mr B was at work and didn’t witness the creative chaos) I set about choosing fabrics for the individual features of the design. I had been trusted with choosing this aspect of the design without any further consultation and I had decided upon a mainly funky modern feel for the iconic buildings with a more muted tones for the river itself.  After a thorough rummage through my fabric collection I had found a good selection of materials which fitted this bill and was ready to begin the best part.

Sitting at my sewing machine ready to begin is probably the post nerve wracking part of the whole process as it is the moment when you are committing to the design and your fabric choices and there is no turning back. For me, as well, with only a few projects under my belt and with my skills still developing, the nerves are ever present as I hope that it will turn out how my imagination intended it to. The process of free motion embroidery also means that unpicking any mistakes is costly and time consuming which it is best to avoid.

As the piece progressed it organically took its own path, even as a self-confessed perfectionist and planner, I enjoy the fact that sometimes ideas develop whilst working on a project and this was certainly the case with this one.  After completing the Eye and Gherkin I began work on the Houses of Parliament. Apart from the grey fabric, I had not decided anything else about this part, but once the other two landmarks had been completed finishing Big Ben and detailing the buildings with blue and pink thread and fabric seemed like the obvious and only choice.

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Finally it was time to complete the river aspect of the design and although to an idle passer-by these features are just incidental in comparison to the main attractions already completed, these are some of the parts I am the proudest of.  I wanted even these features to be recognisable and had studied images of the railings and walls along the river and tried to include these in my design.  I probably spent almost as long completing the railings at the bottom as I did on both the Gherkin and the Eye put together. Each railing was completed individually, cutting the thread after each one!! Whilst being consumed in this repetitive process my reel of thread ran empty, thankfully I had some to replace it (a small miracle as I do not have many thread colours at present!).  The lamps on either bank followed and last but by no means least it was time to create the stick people.  Although stick people are probably one of the easiest things to draw, using a sewing machine to draw one is not quite so easy so it was with trepidation that I approached this task.  I initially only intended to have a family group on the top pathway but after practising on some scrap material and to my surprise finding that I was able to reproduce my little people I decided to create a busy riverside scene more reminiscent of the real thing, with wooden benches, a bicyclist and a mother pushing a pram along the bottom pathway. To be honest this is probably the part I am most proud of as it really brought it to life and added that little something I didn’t know it needed until I reached the end.

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Probably my favourite part of the piece x

Having reached the end of the free motion embroidery work, creating the cushion cover itself happened in a flash and the piece was complete, with a complementary London themed fabric from My Fabric House used as the back cover, a lucky find which really finished it off nicely.  Completing this piece has probably been some of the most satisfying sewing I have done to date, I love the process of designing a one of a kind piece and am learning to allow a piece to grow as it is being created. I have to admit I am sad to see it go but am happy to think that its recipients will get as much joy from it being theirs as I have from creating it. The fact that it will help to ease a difficult time in their lives and be a lasting reminder of their one of their favourite places, I couldn’t be happier to send it to its forever home.

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Finished and ready for its forever home xx

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Sun, Sand and Seaside Inspiration

I have recently returned from a wonderful week in Cornwall, staying at Trevornick Holiday Park. Whilst Mr B and I were away we enjoyed celebrating my Dad’s birthday with him. I was particularly looking forward to this day in our holiday as I couldn’t wait to give him my gift.

My Dad has recently bought a shiny new caravan and has been enjoying his retirement exploring the beautiful countryside of Great Britain having some very relaxed weekends away and short breaks. I therefore decided that a holiday/caravan themed present would be perfect for his birthday this year and after my wonderful time learning to free motion embroider with the lovely Cathy of Dear Emma Designs (read about it here), I have been itching to create more pieces of textile art and this seemed like the perfect reason.

Something I found I really enjoy with free motion embroidery is spending time designing and developing an idea before creating a piece. With my Dad’s presents I decided I was going to make two envelope cushion covers with free motion embroidery fronts, one with a seaside theme and the second with a caravan theme.

Seaside/Holiday themed cushions

Dad’s holiday themed birthday presents

For the first cushion I initially sketched a few ideas of seaside themed scenes before settling on a seagull based image. I then spent a lazy Saturday morning looking at pictures of seagulls on Google to get to know them better and used these initial sketches to create more stylised seagulls with a bit more character for my final design.

Although quite time consuming, it is so satisfying to build up the picture – taking time to choose the materials from my ever growing collection of scrap fabric, create templates to cut out the individual shapes and then finally layer and sew them with a variety of coloured threads.

Seagull cushion collage

The time consuming but so satisfying steps to creating the final piece

I am really pleased with the finished results and was so chuffed when I saw my Dad’s reaction when he received them. I know they have found a happy home in his caravan.

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                                 Dad’s reaction to my handmade presents made me so happy x

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The cushions in their new home

Our break away offered lots of inspiration for more creative pieces with a seaside theme. We enjoyed some beautiful sunny days exploring the wonders of Cornwall, visiting the stunning beaches and fishing villages and of course indulging in the obligatory cream teas and fish and chips.

Seaside inspiration collage

Sunny seaside inspiration from beautiful Cornwall 

Scones

Cornish or Devon style?

Fish and Chips

Nothing more delicious than freshly caught fish accompanied by chips – yummy!

When the sun was shining it truly felt like we could have been abroad, especially when we visited the amazing beach at Holywell Bay which was literally walking distance from the holiday park we were staying at.

Holywell Bay, Cornwall

Could be abroad with that sky and sea 

Unfortunately all good things have to come to an end and so after a lovely relaxing week we returned to the slightly less sunny Bedford. The only recompense for the post-holiday blues that will inevitably descend upon us is that my sewing machine is now close at hand ready for me to create some more seaside inspired pieces – I can’t wait!

Have your summer time jaunts given you crafty inspiration?

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Make new friends but keep the old…

It has been an exciting week for me at sarahkatemakes headquarters, as well as joining the friendly ‘bloggersphere’, I have also become a tweeter, something which I am not sure I am ready for but which I am optimistic about having a go at. I am hoping my new blogging buddy Lucy, at mrsbishopsbakesandbanters, might be able to offer some useful advice as she seems to be a social media queen and is definitely a very friendly blogger with an amazing page.

As you might expect I have been mentioning my new blog to all who will sit still enough to listen or at least read a Facebook message sent by yours truly.   This included my quite untechnological Mum; knowing she wouldn’t have seen it via any social media I made sure when I popped round to her house to take my tablet and share it with her that way.

Once she had finished reading it and given her feedback (thankfully positive). She offered to return the Polly Dolly to me who has sadly been living in a drawer for the last decade or so.

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As you can see she is a strange looking individual and things just get a bit stranger when you lift her up and see the stuffing falling out or take down her hat and see her balding head (sadly or perhaps thankfully, I took no pictures of these features).

She was definitely an interesting choice for my first proper knitting project. She allowed me to practise a number of handy techniques including increasing, decreasing, colour changes and making miniature items (as seen in her peddler’s basket), all of which I have applied many times since.

POlly Dolly basket Polly Dolly features

I’ve always had good tension with my knitting and this certainly suited this make. Adding to this my tendency to be a crafting perfectionist meaning that whatever the purpose of the final item I won’t say it is finished until I think I’ve done it to the highest standard I can achieve. Despite her unique features I have to say I am quite proud of how she turned out.

Polly was the beginning of my love affair with wool and it was lovely to be reacquainted with her, however she has become quite comfy in her new home so she has been returned to her drawer at Mum’s house.  Perhaps one day she’ll find a nice comfy spot in my dream craft room and I’ll finally give her top and bottom the finishing touches she deserves so she can have pride of place.

It’d be great to hear where it all started for you, what was your first crafting make and did it have a specific purpose or was it a flight of fancy like Polly Dolly?

The wonders of Knitting Nancy and beyond…

I have always enjoyed making things, tinkering and creating loveliness with my hands has always seemed like the perfect way to spend my spare time.

My crafty life started with Knitting Nancy. This was, upon reflection, a rather strangely named item as I don’t think that William and Kate ever had Nancy as an option for their newest addition to the royal family but for some reason it was deemed appropriate for this rather royal (and grumpy) looking crafting gadget for budding child knitters. Much to my parents delight, it would keep me entertained for a least enough time for a cup of tea to be made or perhaps even dinner, as I sat winding wool round ‘Nancy’s’ royal crown to create a long knitted tail which magically emerged from between her feet. Keeping me entertained and quiet was perhaps it’s sole purpose as I don’t think I ever found a use for this neatly produced cord.

Knitting nancy

The rather stern Knitting Nancy

Although Nancy may have piqued my interest I was ultimately inspired to take up knitting whilst watching my Great Auntie Vi’s needles moving at the speed of light creating ‘Vi-digans’ for the whole family, a snuggly cabled Aaron cardigan (or occasional jumper) which kept us all warm throughout every winter of the 1980’s.  It was, at about the age of 10, under the instruction of our family’s knitting matriarch I first learnt how to knit however I then didn’t pick up the needles again properly until I was about 20 when my real passion for needlecrafts really began.  My first ever project, for reasons I can’t even explain, was to make what we soon christened ‘Polly Dolly’, a peddler woman doll carrying a basket full of items to sell. Since then I have dabbled in creating a variety of items but always seem to come back to small makes like toys and accessories which I enjoy as they are not only quick to make but I also find more interesting patterns to follow.

A collection of 'Sarah Kate Makes'

A collection of Sarah Kate makes

Since learning to knit, in recent years I have explored and developed my skills in a number of other crafts including crochet, needle-felting and sewing. I love the simplicity of needlecrafts, taking a few simple materials and creating something beautiful out of them.  I have to admit however to being quite a perfectionist (probably an understatement if I am honest) and whenever I take up a new craft I am not happy until I feel I have mastered it, a path which often starts with frustration and sore fingers but ultimately usually ends in happiness, satisfaction and hopefully beauty.

There will be many more Sarah Kate makes to come in the future and I look forward to sharing my crafty journey with you and hope you enjoy coming along for the ride xx