Friday, 13 December 2013

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

I feel I can legitimately go all Christmassy now that's it's December! Although I don't mind Christmas festivities starting in November, it helps me get organised. I know a lot of people can be a little "bah humbug" about starting to early.
I am pretty much set although I still need to do my "wrapping". I try to recycle as much as possible and thought I would see gift bags this year. I do love wrapping though! I know quite a few people who don't like wrapping so I get to do it for them. I genuinely think I could do it full time if there was such a job as full time professional wrapper.
I've done a little decorating, that is I've decorated a little tree. I thread a mix of red, green and gold buttons onto some sheer white ribbon, wound it around the tree then added a few baubles and a glittery "Noel"!
I have made my Christmas cards and because I get to use my fountain pen with green ink I even like writing them.
I used the same method as seen in my blog from May about rubber stamping....
I made some with a robin on and other's with Rudolph, up close and far away, the classic holly and a Christmas Tree or two. As with everything, buttons were involved, as was sequins (a Christmas necessity) and a other bits and bobs.

I even folded and cut most of the card myself this year, recycled of course. It's a bit time consuming but I kept them all the same size- A5 folded to A6. I also used some square cards left over from year and some from a few years back when I folded A5 lengthways, just to mix it up a bit.

Festive fun! Craft in earnest, Craftin' Ernest x

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Wrist Warmers

Well, it's turned rather chilly now and hats, scarves, gloves with lots of layers are a must! I have inherited some driving gloves, which I have really taken to, but they stop right at the edge of the hand. A nice pair of wrist warmers are just the thing to stop the chill getting in when I'm out of the car.
I've been making these for a few years now and they make great presents as you can really vary them up and personalise them.
For this tutorial I have used the sleeves of a "fulled" jumper by shrinking it using the hottest wash on the washing machine. Alternatively you could knit/crochet the base and felt it or you could use felt material and sew the base by sewing a tube leaving a space for your thumbs.
In my opinion buttons for decoration are a must though.

After you're happy that the jumper has shrunk the desired amount and you've left it to dry completely, cut the ends of the sleeves off to the length you want. I like them to go from half way up my little finger to around 8 cm beyond my wrist or more. If the end of the sleeve has a ribbed cuff you may like this as a feature and leave it, alternative you may prefer to cut it off or if the end has shrunk a lot you might have to cut it off to fit your hand in!
Once you're happy with the length you need to cut a hole for your thumb in each. I find using a small, sharp scissors makes it easier, once I've done the first I use that as a guide for the second.
The easiest way to finish the edges is to sew around them, using embroidery floss for example. Simple whip stitch looks very effective as does good, old blanket stitch.
And as mentioned a few buttons finishes them off nicely!There you have it, lovely and toasty wrists to wear with or without gloves.
For a more fancy edge I like a bit of crochet. Using a fine hook, 1 mm usually works well (and the sharper the better), I attach the chosen wool/yarn by slip stitching all the way around, poking the sharp hook into the edge and pulling the yarn though. I space it by eye but you can use your little finger as a guide to help or if you like things very precise you could use a tape measure. It's good to keep things nice and loose at this stage. Once I have worked all the way around I slip stitch into the first stitch once reached. After this I switch to a larger hook perhaps a 3.5 mm to a 5mm depending on the yarn and then crochet a frill. For example, chaining three and dc into every other stitch or sc, dc, sc into every other stitch. Experimenting is always good!

Until next time stay cosy and craft in earnest, Craftin' Ernest x

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Chunkier The Better

How great are "chunky knits"? They're so cosy and grow so fast. I have some shop bought chunky knitting needles and crochet hooks but thought it must be extra satisfying to use homemade ones so I thought I'd have a go at making my own using a length of 18 mm pine dowel (though it actually measures 20 mm). I bought it from my local Homebase store and a 0.9 m piece costs a little over £3.

So far I have made a crochet hook, I used a hack saw to cut a section approximately 22 cm long (I also cut the remaining 68 cm in half to make knitting needles at a later date, but who knows when I'll get round to that).
I roughly marked the position for the notch using a marker pen about 2-3 cm from one end and cut it out roughly using the hack saw. I tidied it up using some wood cutting tools. A set of 9, all with various tips, cost £1.99 from "The Works"- I love that shop, you can pick up some real bargains.
Then using the sanding attachment of my electric multi-tool I worked the tip into a blunt point and tidied the notch up before using a fine sand paper to neaten everything up! It took a while to achieve a point I was happy with, perhaps 40 minutes, and I found that it was much quicker to press the "hook" into a hard surface whilst sanding the end with the multi-tool and use a good bit of pressure. A lot of dust is created so if you're working inside a dust mask is highly recommended, a pair safety specs is a good idea too.
All that's left is to crack on with some speedy crochet. I've used Cygnet "Seriously Chunky" which suggests 10-12 mm knitting needles but looks lovely and snug using my jumbo crochet hook- perfect for a cowl I would say . I included a packet of Parma Violets for scale (and then promptly ate them).
Its really is quite satisfying to crochet with and very quick!
Until next time craft in earnest, Craftin' Ernest x

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Darker Evenings Are On Their Way!

We're already the majority of the way through October. I feel every time I write I'm flabbergasted how quickly the time has flown by. The clocks go back this weekend too so the evenings will be darker- the prefect excuse to stay in wrapped up warm with some crafty project on the go. So much wool and so little time
Last Saturday I had a stall at an Autumn Craft Fair and my recently made clocks got their first outing and I'm delighted with the response. Such lovely feedback, people can be so generous. I've sold 5 and have orders for 2 more so will have to get busy making them, luckily buttons are not in short supply in my house ;-)  I made a few with applique features and I'm quite pleased with the end results and I have ideas for more buzzing round in my head.
From November the Christmas Craft Fairs start full swing with three booked already so, of course, I have to make, make, make in preparation.
I've been making bridal accessories too but can't show the end result until the bride herself sees and is happy with the result. Hopefully I'll be able to blog about it soon.
Also I have started on my first Chrimbo tutorial but I will share that closer to the festive period. Not long now!

Until next time craft in earnest, Craftin' Ernest xx

Sunday, 29 September 2013


Yesterday I attended a one day course in resin jewellery run by resin8.
I had seen them demonstrate at a craft show in Cardiff I had attended a couple of years ago. I bought a few things off them, including a button mould! However, I wasn't overly confident about using the stuff. So my yummy hubby bought me the course for my birthday as they're workshop is only an hour away from where we live in Winchcombe, North Gloucestershire, a really beautiful and unspoilt, quaint little town.
The course was run by Resin8's Clare John, what she doesn't know about resin isn't worth knowing. You can watch her do her magic on YouTube....
I really enjoyed the day and learnt so much. I had a lot of fun experimenting and made SIX different items. We were shown a number of different techniques to try, all were great learning experiences.
Due to the time constraints it was not possible to completely finish each piece with a doming layer on top. I think this really finishes a piece off so I bought some "doming resin" and, with the confidence I gained yesterday, I completed them at home today! You can buy everything you need from their website.
One item wasn't set enough to transport home so I have the excitement of it arrivng at some point in the post.
The course also included lunch, we had a truly delicious homemade soup and chunky wholemeal bread, it really fuelled our creativity and kept us going. I would highly recommend attending if you want to learn about resin
I'm really looking forward to making more and experimenting with the techniques and making buttons inset with buttons! There's so many different things to try....

Until next time, craft in earnest. Craftin' Ernest x

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Birthday Presents

Another reason I love September is that my birthday is in September and who doesn't love a birthday?
This year I was totally spoilt thanks to great family and friends! I received some gorgeous and thoughtful gifts and some lovely handmade items. Good old "Not On The High Street" came up trumps, I just love that site and the fact you're supporting talented people.
I got lots of chocolates as my friends know me so well and lots of my cards had owls or tortoises on- perfect.
As we are thrill-seekers my sister brought us to Thorpe Park with an overnight stay in a nearby hotel but she said she couldn't resist a couple of beautifully made items she thought I'd like, for me to unwrap in the morning. Well I didn't like them, I loved them! A stunning pair of wooden owl earrings from Ginger Pickles, how could I not adore them?? And the best tea towel ever by Dear Colleen....

My friends and family gave me lots of wonderful goodies including a tin for buttons, you can never have too much storage for buttons (if you have as many buttons as me), a fab notebook to sketch the items I plan to make next.
I received some wonderful homemade gifts, one of my friends got all creative with her Hama Beads and made my some magnets including this cutie.
Another friend made me the sweetest little Victoria Sponge as a token to go with a voucher for Afternoon Tea at the Celtic Manor Resort (home of the 2011 Ryder Cup, if you don't mind), I can't wait for us to put on our finery and have a wonderful afternoon together!
I was also delighted with a beautiful brooch a friend bought at a local craft fair- so pretty. She knows me so well as I certainly have a thing for brooches as you will see in a future post.
My wonderful hubby bought me something he knew I would love and I have wanted to do for ages... a one day course in making resin jewellery. I'm so excited and happily it's this Saturday coming!
I will of course let you know how I get on.

I'm so blessed to have such amazing family and friends!

Until next time, craft in earnest, Craftin' Ernest

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Love September!

Yay, it's September! I love September and Autumn in general really. It's when the crochet and knitting for Winter starts full swing. Don't get me wrong, I partake in both wonderful crafts all year round but come September the chunky yarns come out and I start on the really wooly wear- lovely, snugly, wooly wear.
I think the beautiful colours of nature are really inspiring too, as the weather cools and the trees and shrubs transform to rich hues of orange, reds, purples and browns- sumptuous, how can you not be inspired?
As the evenings grow darker is there anything better than cosying up with with a big ball of your favourite wool and making a pair of mittens, a cabled beanie or some leg warmers?
So far I've been concentrating on items to keep the cold off the neck- snoods, scarves, and neck warmers.
I bought some James C. Brett Marble Chunky in colour 36 a very autumnal blend of colours and using the "Tulip Stitch", crocheted a neck warmer completed with a lovely, big button. It's asymmetrical in style, inspired by the 1920s/30s and won't let any chill near the back of your neck, that's for sure!
At the same time I bought a scrummy ball of Marble DK colour 33, a vibrant mix of pinks, purples and oranges with a hint of turquoise, how could I resist?! I used the "Close Shell Stitch" and a couple of obligatory buttons to complete a different style of neck warmer/scarf.
Using a purple/grey, mixed fibre, Hobbyknit yarn I crocheted a snood using only good old trebles (UK). I worked in continuous rounds with a beautiful, handmade, wooden hook which is approx 11mm. This one is extremely cosy.
The colour looks different in the two pictures but it's the same yarn- honest!
Last but not least is a versatile, knitted number which can be worn three different ways- so practical. Its pure wool and bright orange with two pewter coloured, metal buttons. I used the "Little Crown Stitch" as I really adore the texture it gives. By fastening the buttons in different ways the look when worn round the neck completely changes and it can also be worn as a headband to keep the wind off your ears.
As the nights get chillier what better way to spend the evening curled up on the sofa, film on the TV and project in hand?
Ooh what to make next? Until next time craft in earnest, Craftin' Ernest x

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Teapot Magnet

I go to a weekly pottery club called "All Fired Up in Monmouthshire", Monmouthshire being my home county. It's great we meet every Thursday during the school term-time as it's held in a local secondary school.
Due to this we have no access to the kiln during the school holidays and to get my clay fix, I use air-drying clay. Obviously it's not quite the same as real clay but it has some great advantages- you don't need access to a kiln, the results can be achieved much quicker and it's great to use with children. Once it's completely dry, it can be painted with most types of paint, for example acrylic, enamel or emulsion- those little tester pots coming in very handy again.

If like me, you have a lot of friends who positively can not live without their daily cup of tea, here's a great little present you can make for them using air-drying clay.

You need air-drying clay of whichever brand you choose, there's quite a few available, here are two examples:

A cookie cutter in the shape of a teapot
A magnet
A sharp or pointy implement
Something to roll the clay out, e.g a rolling pin (not used for food) or a chunky knitting needle
Possibly sandpaper/emery board

Mini letter stamps are great but optional
A small oval shape cutter is also very handy but not strictly necessary
Varnish if you desire a shiny finish (nail varnish or watered down PVA both work well)

Roll out a section of clay so it's evenly approximately 5mm (3/16") thick.

Use the teapot cutter to cut out as many teapots as you require.
Using your sharp tool or the oval cutter cut out a shape to create a proper handle, make sure the top and bottom aren't too thin.

Using either the letter stamps or your pointy tool write a tea related slogan into the pot.
For example "Time for a Cuppa" or "Stick the Kettle On". Alternatively if you have a steady hand to can paint this on afterwards or leave it plain even.

Left teapot's slogan done by hand, right side using stamps
Now you just have to leave it somewhere safe to dry. As it's quite thin it shouldn't take too long depending on the conditions. I tend to leave it at least 24 hours and turn it over a couple of times during that time so it dries evenly on both sides.
Once you are happy it's nice and dry if the edges are a little rough, a gentle rub with sandpaper sorts smooths it out.
Left teapot, edges are unsanded. Right teapot sanded
Then it's time to get the paints out. The colour and design can be as simple or bold as you decide but I do like to highlight the lettering. Polka dots always look great and blue and white are a classic choice. Once the paint has dried coat in varnish if required.

All that's needed now is to glue a magnet on the back (making sure it's strong enough to hold the weight of the teapot) and you're done!

If you're giving it as a gift a little personalised tag attached to the handle with a ribbon is a lovely finishing touch in my opinion.
Keep crafting in earnest, Craftin' Ernest x

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Statement Kumihimo Necklace

Have you ever liked something so much you decided to make it in every colour? That's what's happened with this necklace.
I bought a jazzy, beaded belt from a charity shop for the beads as it was completely chocked full of them. As a belt it wasn't to my taste but I decided to take it apart and make something new and that led to the first necklace. Then it was a case of making one in each of the colours ;-)
As I have mentioned before, I really enjoy Kumihimo weaving, the basic method is quite simple to pick up and once you've got it it's very quick and a little bit addictive. That's before you even start to use beads, then it takes on a whole new dimension. I have a foam Kumihimo "loom" from Beadsmith and it's brilliant. They're quite cheap, less than £4 (UK) and can be used with everything from nylon thread to chunky wool! They come with instructions and you can also buy kits that include the materials to make your first project.
I have seen people make they're own using cardboard but I think the foam one helps as it holds the strands well.
Here's great link to a video direct from Beadsmith on YouTube which is fantastic if you're new to using beads with Kumihimo - 
It's how I learnt to add beads and explains the technique perfectly! I also have the Beadsmith bobbins as seen hanging down from each thread in the photo below but prior to owning them I just used cardboard bobbins such as used with cross-stitch cotton.

Make a length of beaded Kumihimo weaving approximately 12cm (5") in length.
Wrap your chosen coloured wire around something of a suitable diameter. For example I use knitting needles as I have a lot of them to hand and I can use whichever diameter I think best suits each particular necklace. The picture below is a 5mm needle which is my standard go-to size. You can wrap it as tightly as you like. Sometimes I do it pretty tight but a little loose as in this example looks good too.
Wrap it until you have a coil approximately 3cm (1") long
Thread 3 beads and your wire coil onto a length of wire and create a loop at the end. Hook this onto the end of your beaded Kumihimo. (From the second necklace onwards I actually put a jump ring on the end of the beaded section before I started and one after I finished weaving to make things easier. If you do this hook the length of wire to the jump ring.) Then create a loop at the opposite end, where the beads are, and cut the excess off. Secure the end of the loop inside the last bead.

Thread a length of chain through the loop to create a double layer of chain.
Attach a jump ring the both ends of the chain.
Attach an extension chain to one side and a lobster clasp to the other side.
That's it ready to wear!
As I said I have made it in lots of colours thanks to the belt and a few more with other slight alterations :
I hope you like them too!
Craft in earnest, Craftin' Ernest x