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Full Moon, Full Brain

Full Moon. Allegedly.

I happened to be awake at around two o’clock this morning, and was amazed by the brightness of the full moon. It was absolutely beautiful, and if we still lived right next door to the lake I’d have been very tempted to go for a little walk. I’m not sure why I thought this photo would express the magnificence of last night’s lunar spectacle, but it’s the best one I managed to take! Sad, really.

(It was two o’clock in the morning, don’t forget!)

As always, I’m at least two ideas ahead of myself, and I was lying awake thinking of all the things I’d like to be doing if I had either time or the money – preferably both!

Thing Number One is a cosmetics project that’s been lurking around the back of my brain for a very long time. I’m thinking that some kind of little Kickstarter-type of enterprise might work for this one though, as the thing that’s currently preventing me from doing it is having enough cash up front for certification assessments and a bulk-buy of ingredients. The idea is a (probably quarterly) Cosmetics Club, where you could pay a subscription to receive a lovely box of goodies four times a year. I was originally considering monthly, but several people have pointed out that a month isn’t very long to use up a box full of bath and body products, and also it doesn’t give me much time to experiment with recipes and make sure I’m sending out the loveliest things!

The whole thing would be branded as part of Mr & Mrs Magpie’s Inexplicable Emporium, complete with faux-Victorian packaging and a story to go with each item. I’m looking forward to that part just as much as I am to developing the products themselves! The main question really is where to start. There are three certification packages available:

  1. Lip Balms
  2. Body Balms, Butters & Oils
  3. Bath Bombs, Melts, Milks & Salts

The second two are probably the most versatile in terms of what I’d be able to make following a single assessment cost, so it’s really a matter of which to choose first – and then encouraging enough people to support the project in advance, so I can actually go ahead and pay for it.

Thing Number Two is MORE HATS!
I’ve been having some quality issues with the felt hoods I’ve been using to make the hats. I don’t think it’s a problem with my current supplier, I think it’s just a problem with machine-made felt in general. I have a number of experiments I want to try out in terms of making my own felt:

  • Will the merino tops I’m using to make all these flowers be too soft to make a good hat?
  • Will it look too “home made”, as opposed to fabulously and uniquely hand-made?
  • Can I get an entire cloche hat out of one carded batt of more hardwearing fibres?
  • Do more hardwearing fibres only come in “sheep colours”?
  • If so, can I dye enough wool myself, using natural dyes? Or will they be too muted for my liking?

You can see I have a lot to think about! This one’s a bit easier than the cosmetics project in that the materials are a lot cheaper, and I have enough fibres already to answer at least two of these questions without having to buy anything new. I just need to find the time to do the experiments, and risk ending up with a little pile of horrible hats if it doesn’t work out!

Thing Number Three (did I even mention three things?) is also hat-related, and it’s MORE HAT BLOCKS! Today I received an email from Guy Morse-Brown with the preview details for their newest hat blocks.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I’d been pondering how to make some different cloche shapes by re-shaping the hats as they came off my existing blocks… but now I find I can buy not only two new sets of brim blocks which are already exactly the shapes I wanted (and which will fit together with the blocks I have already), but there’s also a single-piece cloche block which is simply STUNNING. The down side, of course, is that I’m going to need to find the best part of a thousand pounds in order to buy ALL THE THINGS, which obviously I don’t have. (Or less, obviously, if I don’t try and buy it all at once.) But I’ve been mentally designing hats for exactly these blocks for a while now, so it’s very exciting to discover that they’re actually available!

The plan for right now though, is to concentrate on getting as many hats as possible ready for my Indoor Market on Sunday. Anybody local to Reading, it would be lovely to see you at the Corn Stores! I’m bringing along a nice big mirror so you can try on all the hats, and I’ll be taking orders too.

I will be closing the Etsy store for the day, just to make sure I don’t accidentally sell anything twice, so don’t panic if you try to visit and find me gone! I’ll be back on Monday, once I’ve updated the listings for anything that’s sold.

Felted Flower Experiments

Cut-and-sew felt flower

Whilst the feedback on all of my hats so far has been very positive (thank you!!), there’s one enquiry that’s come up several times now: “will we be able to buy the felt flowers without a hat?” The answer, of course, is yes! But I do need to work out the best way of doing that – both for me in terms of making the flowers, and for you in terms of offering lots of choice.

Cut-and-sew felt flower

So, to that end, I’ve been doing lots of felt flower experiments. The two pictures above are of my attempts to cut out petals from a wet-felted sheet, and then sew them together again to make a flower. This did not go well. It turns out that if I’m making felt, I’d actually prefer to wet felt the flower itself, in one go.

Wet felted flowers

So that’s what I did next! It turns out I have a bit of a problem with size though… these are all smaller than the monster flower that I made for Nicola’s orange hat, but the smallest one is still almost the size of my hand. They just seem to naturally want to come out big!

This is fine by me, as I think a huge great flower on a brooch or a clip or a hair comb would make a fantastic statement! But of course not everybody wants to show off as much as I do, so I thought I’d better try and make some smaller ones as well.

Needle felted hair flower

So, here’s a little needle-felted flower, attached to a large bobby pin. Much better! It fits in the palm of my hand, and the flower is light enough that it’s not going to pull the clip out of place.

Needle felted hair flower

This is the second one, playing with adding a bit more colour to go with the felted ball in the centre. I have a few of those that I made during a session with the children at work, so now I’m choosing colours and designing flowers to go around them. This one’s already sneaking up in size though, so I need to make sure that these stay dainty and don’t get too big! I also need to practice my needle felting technique, as I’m not quite convinced about the texture of this one. Maybe a finer needle would do the trick.

So, watch this space, as I suspect there will be lots more flowers to come!

Fleecy Things

Fleece bolero

I had another mad day in the Etsy shop yesterday, this time listing three versions of this fleece bolero jacket, and three versions of the new top below. This afternoon I went out and bought some patterned fleece, so I can actually make and then take photos of the patterned versions that I’ve listed.

This is my own jacket, and it lives very firmly in my wardrobe. I love it, and it looks just as good with jeans and a t-shirt as it does with a smart dress. My friend Karen (whose wedding I made this outfit for) has the prototype, which is the same style but plain black. She says it “Makes me feel like some kind of thief/archer elf in a fantasy film!”, which is perfect because that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do!

The one change I’ve made to the design is to replace the hidden hooks and eyes with decorative frog fasteners – though I don’t have any pictures of those yet. The one problem with this jacket is the hooks and eyes slipping open as you move around, and the frogs won’t allow that to happen. Much better.

It’s now available to order in plain fleece, patterned fleece, and organic cotton sweatshirting.

Fleece drape top

This is a new top I made to wear to work, last week or the week before. It’s always cold on the reception desk, so I wanted it to have a high neck at the back to keep me warm. I also wanted to be able to wear layers underneath it without feeling constricted, so it’s longish, loose fitting, and has a draped cowl-style neckline at the front. The edges, like the jacket, are finished with bias binding which is hand-stitched into place on the inside. This top is so comfortable I’m going to have to prize it out of my own cold dead hands to put it in the washing machine… or of course I could always make another one! I’m quite a fan of having duplicates of clothing that you love.

Fleece drape top

This one’s available in the Etsy shop too, in the same incarnations as the jacket – plain fleece, patterned fleece, and organic cotton sweatshirting. I’ve got a piece of bright pink fleece with white spots to make another one of these, so if you’re a size UK 14-16 ish (size M), look out for that popping up on Etsy soon!

I’ve had a couple of requests for custom dressmaking projects lately, to which the answer I’m afraid is still no. I’m trying very hard to concentrate on sewing projects like these, from patterns that I’ve drafted myself, and also on the hats and felting. Because I’m also working part time, I simply can’t fit in anything else. I’m contemplating putting together printable PDF patterns for these items, so that you can go ahead and make your own, but I don’t even have the time to devote to that right now.

In fact, I shouldn’t really have spent two afternoons filling the Etsy shop with haberdashery and fleecy tops instead of working on the hats, but there’s only so much felting my poor arms can take. I’m at work-work for the next couple of days though, then it will be back to felting and hats at the weekend. I have so little free time before the craft fair I’m taking the hats to on Easter Sunday that I really don’t know when I’m going to get anything done!

Vintage Haberdashery

button sample card

Today I came to the startling realisation that my mountain of vintage haberdashery isn’t going to sell itself whilst sitting in a box in my sewing room, so I thought it was about time I listed at least some of it on Etsy!

Above you can see a lovely button sample card, and there’s also another sample card with metal buttons, hooks and buckles.

stockings darning kit

This is the one thing that I was really tempted to keep – a gorgeous little leather pouch with five cards of thread especially for mending stockings! The front of the pouch is embossed with gold writing which says “troubles are ended when they are mended”. I did keep one card which has multiple shades of stocking-thread on it in actual stocking colours (like the ones above), and one which has the most gorgeous pastel colours for mending your silk lingerie. Some things are just too lovely to part with!

Also on the “I can’t believe I’m letting this go” list are an enormous folding needle case, and two pretty little card ones.

embroidery transfers

My enormous stash of embroidery transfers are also looking for a good home – this time as a job lot of around 100 sheets. The oldest one in the collection is the lovely Crinoline Lady above, who is conveniently marked May 1939. The rest are a mixture of 40s, 50s and 60s, mostly pulled out of an assortment of needlework magazines. I’ve been taking them out to craft stalls in an enormous great folder, to very little interest, and to be honest I just couldn’t face the thought of listing every single transfer individually. So a job lot it is! I have kept an envelope full of transfers for myself – mostly the ones that had been torn or cut out in places, or written on, or traced. I also kept a few of the smaller designs, as well as the drunken chickens, of course. I’m never going to part with those!

embroidery transfer booklet

Also on the embroidery front, there are two little books of transfers, and a catalogue for already-printed linens. The booklet above features designs for children, so there are Nursery Rhyme characters and little cartoon animals. There’s another which was free with “People’s Friend” magazine, which is also tiny designs but mostly florals.

embroidered coronation brooches

This one, if I’d been organised, probably would have been snatched up in seconds flat if I’d managed to get around to selling it last year in time for the Jubilee! It’s a really gorgeous 1953 transfer set for making Coronation Brooches, never even been unfolded. I couldn’t get a proper photo of the actual transfer sheet, because it seemed a shame to take it out of the original staple for the sake of a picture! Hopefully it’ll be appreciated in its pristine state.

If you’re not terribly interested in royalty, but happen to like dogs, birds, flowers or yachts, there’s another set containing exactly those designs.

And of course, there’s just one Mystery Haberdashery Box left, just waiting for somebody to be brave enough to snap it up! Mind you, if the thing you really wanted from the box was the slightly frightening plastic doll face, you can now buy the last remaining few all in one go.

I’ve got a couple of stalls coming up over the next couple of months, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the INEXPLICABLE EMPORIUM and what I do and don’t want to include in it. Just for once I haven’t been doing that thinking out loud (hence my somewhat sporadic appearances here), but I can tell you that I’m hoping to be around a bit more often from now on.

Vogue 8975

This is some organic cotton jersey, bought from the Organic Textile Company, oooh, ages ago. It was sold as seconds because it had been dried in a malfunctioning drier, and smelled terribly of exhaust fumes. Thankfully a quick trip through my own washer and dryer sorted that out, no problem at all. But it wasn’t until I came to iron the fabric before cutting into it that I spotted this perfect hand print! Fortunately it’s on the inside, but it did make me laugh to see it. Genuine evidence of the handmade nature of the fabric!

Vogue 8975

The jersey has now been transformed into Vogue 8975, another Marcy Tilton pattern. That woman must be some kind of pattern drafting genius, because I’ve finished making this dress, and worn it a couple of times, and I still have absolutely no idea how all of the pattern pieces came together to make this shape.

Vogue 8975

I used masking tape on all of the cut pieces, partly to identify the right and wrong sides of the fabric, and partly to make sure that I was sewing everything together the right way up. My diagonal seam across the back has ended up going in the opposite direction from the illustration on the pattern envelope, but other than that it all seems to have come together rather well!

Vogue 8975

I did annotate the pattern as I was going along. I found it very important to just throw out all of the things I thought I knew about dressmaking, and just follow the instructions. Where it says “stop stitching at small circle”, you stop stitching at the small circle, even if you have a weird triangle-y piece of fabric sticking out in an inexplicable manner, even if you think you know better, or want to try and take a shortcut. Just don’t. Trust the instructions, and it will all come out fine in the end!

Vogue 8975

Ta-Daa! My only deviation from the instructions was in the binding of the armhole edges, and I wish I’d just followed the pattern. Instead of a smooth armscye, I now have slightly flanged minuscule cap sleeves, which I didn’t really want. This is what happens when you’re trying to finish sewing a dress at eleven o’clock at night because you really want to wear it to work the next day, and you decide that trimming away the seam allowances and binding them properly will “take too long”. (Note to self: It would have taken exactly the same amount of time, and looked much nicer. Next time: Do It Properly.)

Vogue 8975

As with my previous Marcy Tilton patterns, I went down from my usual Vogue size and cut out a medium. This has given me a perfect fit across the top (where I’m smallest), and the shape of the pattern means that there’s plenty of room at the waist and hips. I think my only disappointment with this design (and it’s ever such a tiny one) is that the pockets aren’t actually as big as all that draping makes them look. They don’t need to be huge, but I think I will alter the pattern slightly to make them just an inch or so longer.

I’ve worn this dress a couple of times now, and I’m extremely tempted to make another identical one. It’s so comfortable to wear, and I’m so pleased with how it looks, I’m definitely going to need more than one of these in my wardrobe!

More flower than hat…

Nicola's ORANGE hat!

So, this is what happens when you order a hat in BRIGHT ORANGE, and then give me free reign to decorate it however I like. I blame Nicola, for agreeing that a massive “alien flower” would be a good thing to wander around wearing on her head.

Nicola's ORANGE hat!

I have to say that I have absolutely LOVED making this. The opportunity to use a nice bright base colour, and the freedom to make something that I thought Nicola would like, has been really enjoyable. As has the process of making the felt itself. I’m learning something new every time I work with wool in this way, and I’m so excited about the possibilities. It’s good for me too - it keeps away my perfectionist streak, as there’s no such thing as “perfect felt”, and it changes all the time as you’re working with it.

Nicola's ORANGE hat!

The centre of the flower is circled with bright orange bullion knots, to draw the colour back into the hat. The process of stitching through handmade felt is incredibly satisfying – almost therapeutic, somehow.

I had to take a bit of a break from felting today, as my shoulders and neck were complaining about all the rubbing and rolling, but I can’t wait to get back to it. My next day not-at-work is Tuesday, and that’s most definitely going to be another felting day!

Pale grey cloche hat with blue beaded felt flower

It wasn’t until I came to upload this hat to the Etsy shop that I realised it’s a whole month since I added the previous one. How on earth did that happen?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the hats (too much thinking and not enough doing, clearly!), and I think in April (when I formally register Eternal Magpie as a business again) I’m going to move these hats out of the Inexplicable Emporium and over to an Eternal Magpie branded Etsy store. I think that will allow me to have a bit more creativity without having to shoehorn them into the faux-Victorian theme… and if I make anything properly crazy or very obviously Steampunk-inspired, then it can go into the Emporium if that’s where it fits best.

Felted leaves and tendrils

I’ve been having a bit of a play with felt again, with a view to the hats having a lot more handmade embellishments, rather than only ribbons and buttons. I think that lends them a certain uniqueness – anyone can go to a shop and choose a pretty ribbon and a striking button, but only I can make these exact flowers. Sure, there are a million and one felted flower tutorials out there, so I can’t claim any uniqueness in that. But these flowers will have come out of my hands and my imagination, and that will hopefully make these hats stand out a little from the many other cloches out there. Typing “felt cloche hat” into Etsy currently returns 1,869 results, so I need to make mind stand out somehow! They’re currently on pages 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 (out of 47) of that search, so not bad, but anything I can do to make them that little bit more interesting will definitely help.

I also want to make a few smaller things, such as hair clips, to offset the fact that yes, these hats are going to be expensive when the prices go up in April, and yes, they’re going to be outside of many people’s budgets. I’m hoping that people might start by buying a hair clip with some pretty felted flowers on it, and like it so much that they save up to buy a hat. Well, a woman can dream!

 

Blackthorn (sloe) blossom

A couple of days ago we looked out of the kitchen window to be greeted by this – the blackthorn (sloe) tree suddenly in full blossom at the far end of the garden!

Blackthorn (sloe) blossom

I love the delicate little flowers – such a contrast to the vehement spikiness of the tree itself.

Pear bud

The pear tree’s waking up as well – as is the apple, although it was apparently too shy to be photographed this morning. The apple buds are tiny, but I’m hopeful for some nice braeburns. We didn’t see any pears at all last year, though they might have come and gone before we moved in.

Oxalis?

I’m not sure what this is, but we’ve got a border full of it, and it’s beautiful! My Mum thinks it’s the “weed” variety of Oxalis, and she’s very keen for us to dig a bit up and save it in a pot for her. It might be technically a weed, but it was flowering in November when my parents first came to visit the new house, which as far as we’re concerned makes it a very valuable plant!

Oxalis?

I just love the way it collects the water, in the centres and around the edges of the leaves. I really want to see whether I can create something that looks like this – maybe with felt and glass beads.

Rainbow

As I was walking home this afternoon, thinking about posting these photos, it started to rain, just the tiniest bit. I came around the corner by the church and was greeted by this absolutely glorious rainbow – I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one so strong!

I case you’re wondering, I have been making things, but I’ve been stuck in the busy corner of my work rota again, so I haven’t had much time to do both the making and the blogging. Hopefully this will result in quite a few making-things posts for you next week.

Signs of Spring

13/03/2014

We’ve had a few nice spring-like days lately (I even took my woolly gloves off this afternoon!) and tiny signs are starting to show in the garden. Because we have absolutely no idea what’s planted here, it’s fascinating to see what turns up. Like this miniature daffodil, all by itself! I’ve counted three altogether, all very separate from one another, along with a solitary snowdrop, and one purple crocus in the middle of the lawn.

13/03/2014

I have absolutely no idea what this pretty yellow flower is. Does anybody know? I must remember to go and have a look when it’s actually open, so I can try and get a better idea of what it might be. (Some kind of ranunculus, maybe? I need to go and have a proper look at the leaves.)

13/03/2014

This one, albeit another bad picture, I think is Speedwell. Not sure which variety, perhaps ivy-leaved? Again, more research needed.

13/03/2014

The ground below the pear tree is absolutely carpeted with violets!

13/03/2014

Teeny little wild ones, and the colours are so vibrant!

13/03/2014

Less vibrant but just as beautiful are these holly leaves, hiding underneath the violets. They must have come from branches trimmed away in the front garden, as we haven’t got a holly tree in the back. I just love the texture of all the veins, and the delicate outer layer peeling away.

13/03/2014

Underneath the lilac tree is a little forest of grape hyacinths just waiting to pop!

All of these flowers are in a small area, about a metre and a half square, that I’d been thinking of digging over to plant soft fruits like blackcurrants and raspberries. Now I’m thinking that the flowers can stay, and the fruit can quite easily go somewhere else.

13/03/2014

And last but not least, on the other side of the garden in the vegetable patch – rhubarb! We’ve already divided this crown into three to share with friends, and I can’t believe how many shoots are still coming up! I love the alien brain-like qualities of the leaves as they start to unfurl.

The rest of the garden is still looking pretty bare, although all of the fruit trees (apple, pear, blackthorn and cherry) have buds on them, so I’m hoping for plenty of flowers soon, followed of course by plenty of fruit!

While stocks last…

I should probably mention my other special offer that’s up and running on Etsy, before it up and runs out!

All of the remaining scented candles in glass jars are being discontinued,  so there’s currently a voucher code to receive £5 off any candle in my shop. Simply enter the code “CANDLE5″ at checkout, and it should do the maths for you. Unfortunately it only works once per order, not once per candle, so if you’d like to order more than one just contact me and I’ll make a custom listing for you.

When I made these candles they were greeted with great enthusiasm, but while the tea light packs sold out almost immediately, the large candles have mostly been sitting in a box. Realistically, I think they’re just too expensive for buyers to take a risk on without being able to smell them first. Hence the discount, which I hope will encourage a few people to go for it!

Airship Fresheners - tealight sample pack

Unfortunately four out of the five fragrances we chose for the Airship Fresheners have now been discontinued altogether, which means that they can’t now be repeated. Any large candles that are left over at the end of the month will be melted down and turned into tea lights, to try and prolong their availability just a little bit, but after that it’ll be all new smells!

I also want to try some new things as far as candles are concerned. Keeping in the theme of the pseudo-Victorian Emporium, I’m thinking along the lines of candles for banishing monsters, or lighting up a seance, or attracting (and repelling) all manner of fictional creatures of the night. A little bit more research will be required, but that will mean delving into my pile of of gothic horror novels, so I’m rather looking forward to it!

There’s also the long-standing project that’s been in the back of my mind for years, about making candles scented with essential oils. There are quite a lot of safety considerations involved with using essential oils at wax-melting temperatures, so again more research is needed before I can go ahead.

Whatever I make in future though, in the way of candles, will definitely be tea light sized! That way people can buy them individually if they want to, or I can offer small packs. Either way, they’ll be cheaper and easier to send through the post than big glass jars!

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