Looking for things to do during isolation? Here’s a quick and easy idea for a fat quarter — or any textiles measuring at least 50cm x 50cm you have available to use — to make a drawstring bag to use for all manner of things. Here are just a few suggestions — a shoe bag, a grocery bag, a craft bag, maybe to hold your latest sewing or knitting project. The box corners are optional. Download the instructions here.
Just to put this post into context, we are in the middle of a pandemic, caused by the coronavirus, or more officially, COVID19. Without going into all the details of ‘how come’ — you will find plenty of that sort of information here, there and everywhere — I just want to say a few words about what the restrictions are doing to us socially.
First and foremost, one at a time, countries around the world are locking down with severe regulations about the movement of their population — and with the almost total block of air traffic in and out of the country. The situation at the present time is absolutely horrendous — yet again you’ll find details elsewhere covering this point — but what essentially it means for just regular folks, is that we are obliged to stay indoors at all times apart from essential outings to buy food or medicines.
This situation has inevitably had a global effect on people’s habits. With few exceptions, people are unable to work and are confined to their homes in search of something to fill their time usefully and/or creatively. There has been a surge of generosity on the part of many creatives/teachers and the like, who are offering free courses in all manner of creative activities both for kids and adults.
My thoughts are with all those who find themselves stopped in the tracks of life, having to deal with something that very few of us, even in our wildest dreams (or nightmares in this case) could have imagined happening in our life time. Here in Venice the sun is shining which makes it even harder to stay indoors — but it must be done and we will do it.
As they say here ‘Andrà tutto bene’, which basically means, ‘Everything will be alright’…
Now I would like to say that this idea came straight out of my head, but in fact it didn’t. What is embarrassing is that I can’t remember where I saw this in the first place, so if anyone does know, I will be more than happy to give full credit to the blogger in question.
In fairness, it’s not as if the wheel was reinvented with this idea as I’m certain most knitters/crocheters use something to keep a tag on the pattern line as they work – for instance I always used a ruler – but this little instrument doesn’t slip and slide around so cuts out the frustration factor from the equation.
Just pick up a piece of cardboard or stiff card – about 10 cms wider than your pattern and about 10 cms deep – and laying the pattern vertically on top of the card, measure off about 1/4″ either side of it and then cut a line between your markings. You can now just neatly slide your pattern through the slit you created and slide the pattern upwards as you work, keeping the working line just visible above the cut in the card.
Recycled textile industry tubes for improvised storage
For those of you who, like me, are often in a tizwoz about how and where to store all your crafting stuff, how about this storage idea for your knitting needles or paint brushes – or even rulers.
Purchase one of these rigid plastic (or carton) tubes – they are usually sold for storing and/or mailing documents and drawings. In my experience they are cheaper than many of the dedicated items sold for storing needles, and what’s more, they are long enough to store even the longest knitting needles.
Recycled textile industry tubes for improvised storage
If you are really into being eco-friendly, you will seek out discarded textile industry tubes for the same purpose. I have one about 130 cms long which I will be cutting into 2 or 3 sections to hold my long rulers. It has a wider diameter than the plastic tubes I mentioned previously – about 8 cms across. You don’t need to, but can of course decorate these tubes if you like.
It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to know that every now and again you find a box – for instance – your hand cream was packaged in a pretty box – and you wish you could find an alternative use for it, even if only to put a small gift inside for someone’s birthday or seasonal gift. But more often than not the thought of attempting to cover it with pretty paper to hide the graphics for the original content puts you off right from the start.
What I do when I come across these boxes is, I carefully peel them apart and use them as templates. If the original carton is a little flimsy, just copy the outline onto some stiffer card, and draw dotted lines where the folds should go – and make notes to remind you how to put the box together and where the glued bits should be. Then when the need arises, I can use cardstock to create a personalised box, maybe adding my own graphics or stamped images or patterns in keeping with the item I want to put inside. For larger templates, it might be necessary to cut the original box into several pieces unless you have access to large cardstock where the whole template will fit comfortably. If you remember in time, it’s useful to take note of the dimensions of the finished box, and even to take a quick snap to remind you of what it looks like. Makes it easier if you are looking for the right size box for a gift at a future date.
A lot of my templates have been transferred onto bits of cardboard boxes and are all ‘filed’ in a ring binder with clear plastic ‘envelope’ pages. The box in the picture originally contained a set of 4 ceramic mugs.
If you are into card making or die-cutting of any sort, use these canister seals to sharpen up the cutting edges of your die-cutting tools. They are usually found on all sorts of food packaging –- those in the image came from a canister of dried milk, gravy granules and similar. With few exceptions, when you buy die-cutters or punches, hidden away in the instructions somewhere there will be a note telling you to sharpen up the blades by cutting aluminium. Not everyone has aluminium sheets to hand, so these aluminium canister seals are the perfect solution. Just keep them well out of reach of small children of course as they are very sharp, and even more so after they have been passed through punches and die-cutting machines.
This is one of my ‘go-to’ recipes if I’m looking to cook up a quick breakfast or dessert. What makes this truly, ‘fast & furious’ is that — using a silicone cake form I can put this in my microwave oven at approx.750°C and within 7 to 8 minutes, have a good looking cake to serve up! But I must also add that the microwave version will dry out very quickly, and so it’s best with the addition of some jam in the middle, or even with a scoop of ice-cream or a drizzle of cream, custard or sweet sauce if you are serving it as a dessert.
Yield: About 12 slices
Simple, fast & furious cake
Simple cake recipe to whizz up all in one go in your kitchen robot
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
200g Flour (can be self-raising, plain or wholemeal)
200g butter or margarine
200g sugar (demerara is ok too)
1 x 16g packet of raising agent
4 medium eggs
Flavouring if desired
Chocolate chips or chopped nuts
Icing sugar to dust top of finished cake
Fruit jam of choice to spread in the middle of the cake
Turn on your oven to 160°C
Prepare the baking tin (27cm diam.) by rubbing all over with small knob of butter and then dusting lightly with flour.
Prepare the robot with a non-cutting blade
Sift together flour & baking agent -- if using wholemeal flour, first sift & then add the chaff which remains behind in the sieve.
Spoon into your robot along with any flavouring eg. cinnamon, vanilla etc.
Add the sugar
Cut the butter into small pieces, then add to robot.
Turn the robot on at half-speed until the butter is mixed with the flour, then increase the speed for about 30 seconds.
Break the eggs, one by one, into a cup so that you can check for pieces of shell, before adding each into the flour mixture
Turn on the robot full speed until the mixture becomes smooth & slightly shiny. That should take a couple of minutes.
At this stage, if you want to add some chocolate chips, throw them into the mixture & turn on the robot for just a few seconds so they mix in evenly.
Carefully transfer the mixture to the cake tin, & if the oven has reached temperature, slide on to the top shelf.
Cook for about 35 minutes, checking a few minutes before the end of cooking time with a wooden skewer in the cake to see if it comes out dry or moist. If too moist, you may have to extend cooking time a few extra minutes.
When cooking time is up, take the cake from the oven and leave it to stand for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cake rack to cool
When the cake is cool you can add a little extra interest by slicing it in half horizontally & adding a jam spread in the middle -- or more simply, by just adding a dusting of icing sugar on the top
Difficult times for most of us right now. The Coronavirus has turned our lives upside-down and being closed indoors can be trying, particularly where there are young children to keep occupied and feeling safe in such an uncertain world. So this pattern is offered to those who need to keep their hands and minds busy in order to relax and calm down.
You will find a colour chart attached to the pattern — the DMC threads chart has been used, but of course you can use any brand of threads you like, and even substitute colours where it would be more economical to do so. You might even have a stash of threads that you can use. No rules here — just take it easy and remember that every little coloured square on the chart represents a stitch.
Using an 11 squares per inch canvas, your finished work will measure approximately 30 cm x 40 cm — but there are no rules to say you can’t do this pattern on a scrap of fabric — or even as a knitting pattern. I’m no expert there, but if you are, you will know how to transfer the chart to knitting I’m sure.
One of my most interesting discoveries in recent months has been kumihimo braiding, a Japanese craft which has been around for centuries. The beautiful braids have been used for all sorts of situations that go from swords to cushion trimmings to traditional clothing. At its best, and probably most refined level, the braiding is combined with beading decoration, and certainly in this part of the world, is frequently used to enhance jewellery. In my research I have also come across some amazing articles of clothing which have been ‘constructed’ using yard after yard of flat kumihimo braiding in an incredible array of colour combinations.
In my own experimentation with the craft, I have been creating mono and multi-colour braids using techniques for 7, 8 and 10 warps for both rounded and flat braids. I have combined the braids with pendants of varying types, and with large round wooden beads which I have painted by hand, and also with semi-rounded wooden beads which I have covered in fabric. Some of the pendants are previously loved pieces of Indian jewellery which I presented in here some time ago.
The results of my endeavours are available on Etsy if you are interested in purchasing any of these ‘one-of-a-kind’ articles.
Black & grey with hand braided kumihumo cord
OUT OF STOCK
Clowning around — fabric covered pendant on kumihimo hand braided cord
Fused glass pendant on hand braided kumihimo cord
Recycled Indian pendant on hand braided kumihimo cord
Recycled Indian pendant on hand braided kumihimo cord
A fun, single-day event. See your wall hanging develop as you add ribbons, beads and scraps of textiles to your woven base. You will learn how to prepare a simple wooden frame adding the warp threads which will then be the base for your weft — the threads which are used to weave the background support for your piece of fibre art. According to your personal preference you will be able to attach various decorative details such as coloured ribbons and unusual yarns made available to you during the creative session.
Creare una decorazione per casa tua — un arazzo fatto con la tecnica di tessitura semplice, con l’aggiunto di perline, lana, tessuto e quant’altro. Tutti i dettagli e costi sono disponibili sul sito, Creative Retreats in Italy.
When you buy something from an artist, you are buying more than an object. You are buying hundreds of hours of failures and experiments. You are buying days, weeks and months of frustration and moments of pure joy. You are not only buying a thing, but a piece of heart, a part of the soul, a moment in the life of someone.
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Enjoy a 10% discount in all categories of my Etsy store!
Just use the code BRIGHTNEWYEAR2021 at checkout. If you follow the link, the discount will be applied automatically to any purchase you make.Check it out