Thursday, 31 July 2014

Bear evolution?

In one of my crafting fits and starts (and perhaps because of a new class at the local craft show if I am honest with myself) I started to think about making a bear.

Lots of patchwork bears have been making an appearance on quilting groups on Facebook.  I have not tried to make a toy from scratch since school.  So I expect it may have stayed a passing thought except I came across some red fleece in my stash.  I have had it a goodly while, it was a "do you want some scraps of material" offer from a lady at work about eight or nine years ago.  Left overs from a summer play scheme her daughter had worked on.  No idea what I would do with the whatever it was, still it was free material, in such circumstances I'm just a girl who can't say no.  

Anyway materials origin aside I though it would make a nice bear, off to the library for a book with hopefully an easy pattern.  Back I came with this. 

You may be able to make out the blue bear clutched in the little boy's arms on the cover. Red, blue that should be an easy change over one for the other.

Here is a better picture (from the book) of the bear.

The starting point

Now the eagle eyed among you will have noticed that the seams on this blue bear are on the outside and blanket stitched. This is because the pattern is for a felt bear.  Not undaunted I decided it shouldn't be too much of a change to sew it up with the seams turned to the inside.  Ah? but what about the ears, a single piece of fabric on the original I would need to double up on mine.  Scraps of pink fabric from a quilting project and destined to be leaders for future sewing projects became the inner ear.  The same fabric was also sufficient to make the pads for the feet.   

Arms and legs (even with inserting the feet) went OK, well one leg did end up a bit longer than the other but a bit of uniqueness did not bother me so much.  Time for the body and the head gusset, at this point the evolution from the blue bear took rather a more drastic shift than colour or seam.  I decided to put the ears on at the same time, sewing them into the seams on the head.  I had not considered how much that would change the aspect of the ears which on the original sat across the seam not in line with it.

Seams sewn it was time to turn the main part of my bear so I could see the outside and get a feel for the character of my creation.  

Mouse ears!

It looked like  a mouse, pinching the ears into the seam had turned my bear ears into those of a mouse.

What to do, unpick them and re-think how to attach them?  Too logical and not very me, anyway those seams would be a pain to unpick with the red thread I used sinking into the fleece. 

Give up on the project altogether as a bad idea, no, I had come to far for that.  Well then that left only one other option.  Yes, make a tail, a mouse tail to go with the mouse ears.  Of course there was no pattern for a tail, after all the pattern was for a bear.  Back to the scraps, sew a tail and realise as it was impossible to get it turned more than halfway out  that I had made it too skinny.  Second try and I gave turning out some thought before I started.  I put a length of thread anchored at the skinny end of the tail down the middle as I sewed.  Between pushing with a knitting needle and tugging the thread, tail number two turned out OK.
Mouse tail
On to the stuffing, now my parsimonious nature comes to the fore and out with the bag of wadding trimmings.  Never a bit too small to save I have plenty to fill my mouse.  Oh and on the theme of waste not, that very stiff tube of half turned fleece that was meant to be a tail, well I put that into the neck to give it extra support as it is quite a long neck. Time to sort through my button tin for eyes and for shoulder and hip joints.  I found some bonny buttons for eyes but rethought them as they were slightly faceted and a mouse with insect eyes would be evolution gone mad.  Mind I had already been told my creation looked more like a kangaroo at this point!

Some simpler black buttons for the eyes and black embroidery thread and on went the nose and a small  if somewhat wry smile.

The jointed limbs had to be sewn through the buttons the limb, the body the other limb and the button on the other side. 

My needle was not as long as I would have liked for this job but I managed.  With the added satisfaction of getting some use out of  a needle I had not used before. (you know those sets of needles you get for the little ones and end up with huge , or curved or spear pointed needles you wonder what you will do with).

And hey it worked, a jointed mouse (not a kangaroo, a mouse I am going to be firm about that).

Now all he needed was a scarf, it needed to be a bright colour to go with the primary bright red.  Now as you will hear about in more detail (should you visit my blog again) I am not much of a knitter, but as with material I have accumulated some oddments of wool one way and another. 

Wool chosen, with eight stitches a row on size 11 needles I set off to make a scarf.  Happily with so few stitches, although a lot of rows, that went quite swiftly even for me.  I don't have a name for my mouse, suggestions will be considered.  Oh and as for the show, it is at this point in the future.  I will let you know how that goes.  But till then, here is the once but not future bear who became a mouse in all his glory.

Red Mouse, side view seated
Red mouse, side view, standing
Red mouse, front view, seated

Red mouse, front view standing
A small update, after Facebook suggestions, a quick check on meanings and associations and the Mouse who was to be a Bear has a name.  Mr Giles Gentlemouse.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

My first evenweave project (cross stitch)

This is the first pattern that I bought for myself.  The colours appealed to me and the relaxed feeling.  I started in the middle an worked my way up to the right at first.  That meant the full pink sleeves were under-way before the figures head.  I don't know how many of you will recall the sit com 'Allo 'Allo! or the story line with the indelicately named portrait ?

I have previously mentioned that something other than the planned design can be seen during sewing, in this case the large round pink sleeves were interpreted by more than one person as being the indelicate area of anatomy in that portrait.  I never saw it myself.

Nantucket Rose
I made some  intentional small changes to the original design to both make it mine and to suit my own preference.  The edge of the lace on the original where it went over the skirt and the background has missed stitches to let the material colour show through however, I added in the colour of the area they were crossing instead.  Oh and there was some back stitching on the cottage that I left off.

You will note I said I made some intentional deviations from the pattern.  Well I also made some unintentional ones as well, fortunately from me they were small and not so  noticeable so that I could live with them. 

This design contains lots of lessons learned, some indirectly. Whilst I was doing this my friends wife was also doing a design with a flowing draped skirt. She started at the top of a drape and followed the one colour all the way down to the bottom then went back to the top for the next section of the drape only to find part way down she had a miss count at the top of the first section and it all had to come back out. 

She shared her story of dismay with me before I was seduced by the one colour bug in the same way on the skirt here.  So I moved the skirt down four or five rows in any shade then brought the next section down so I could make sure they matched and the count was right.

Visiting a cross stitch shop with the same friend and her mother I spotted a finished Nantucket Rose on display.  I examined it closely, spotted a mistake or two (only because they were in an area I was working at that time and knew it very well), I was delighted to do so.  I am not sure that my companions understood my glee, perhaps they thought I was being a bit picky or mean.  That was not the reason, I was having an epiphany, the item on display looked great, not perfect but great, I did not have to follow the pattern perfectly to have something of worth.  Small deviations were not just OK they made it personal, they made it unique.

I originally framed it myself , in a very simple frame echoing the framing on the pattern.  Later my framing friend re-stapled the back as that kept popping off.

It takes turns on the wall with the first kit I finished (started before this and finished after and yet to make its appearance in the blog) and a much later finish made for my mother.  Rose tends to make her appearance in summer and comes down in the Autumn.  

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Update on current kit project (cross stitch)

It has been awhile since I did anything with the kit.  A pause after the cross stitch part was finished to think how best to progress with the "fancy" stitches.

I prefer to stitch cross stitch without a hoop, just holding the fabric in my hand.  However, the various specialist stitches don't look like they would react well to that.

For the first time I am trying a scroll frame.  I had to trim the edges so it would fit.  Made a start top left corner with the stem stitch, read the symbol wrong and had to take the whole lot back out, although I did consider labelling it as a design variation, but the discrepancy in the colour was too jarring to leave. Such a mishap would generally signal another  period of hibernation for the project.  Not this time, this time out came the wrong thread and in went the right one, quicker than the first time.

Scroll frame

You know that annoying trace of colour you get when taking out stitches?  Well in this instance it was a help as it acted as a guide for where to put back the stitches and no careful counting was required, so not only did I get back to the position I started before unpicking I actually got a bit more done.

Whilst I have made progress,  I am doubtful that I will have this finished in time to enter it in this years local craft show at the end of August.