The sproglet turned two at the weekend and I couldn’t resist making him a birthday T-shirt.
(Is this an addiction? Quite possibly. But one I just can’t seem to beat…)
We had a brilliant party in the local park, with a gazebo bedecked with bunting. I felt I was fulfilling my SE London parental duties correctly. (If you walk through Peckham Rye Park on any weekend day in the summer, all you see are children’s parties, the park festooned with bunting, gazebos and balloons. I once even saw someone erecting a bell tent in the arboretum for the afternoon.
I did, actually, forget about balloons, so we walked to our chosen party spot with the sprog pointing at all the other birthday children’s balloons on the way going, “Oh! Balloon! Balloon!”
I made a mental note for next year.)
The sprog wore his T-shirt all day long, spilling not one little drop of drink or cake on it all day.
I thought he might recognise the number 2 on the front, but he didn’t really. But all the grown-ups complimented him on the lovely Quentin Blake drawings.
I thought about writing “2 today” but decided that rather limited the usage (or at least gave the wrong impression for any other day) so I just stuck with a simple 2.
In case anyone else fancies making one, you can use my template here and just insert the appropriate number in place of the 2. This is, ahem *hides face with shame*, a Powerpoint file so it’s super easy to edit…
Copyright of the Quentin Blake picture is obviously Quentin Blake’s, and these can’t be used for commercial purposes. See more on his copyright on his original colouring-in sheet.
I think I’m going to make this an annual tradition; a new t-shirt every year.
Just nine months to go til the baby has his first birthday — I might start planning the outfit now…
I’ve made a fair few different t-shirts now. (I even have plans to start up my own little shop selling things like this…)
Take a look at the following (all include links to the images I’ve used):
In past day jobs, I’ve run blogs for big online companies. Blogs that are listed in Google News; blogs that attract tens of thousands of visitors a day; blogs that get commended in newspapers.
I knew about search engine optimisation. I knew the rules of web writing. I knew all about sticky content. I knew the importance of social media for promoting your blog…
And then I started writing this blog and none of it really seemed to apply.
What was the point of going all out on optimising every single post, when it might be something I was only writing about once and was hardly central to my overall blog?
I didn’t like the look of my web accessible boring factual, descriptive titles – they weren’t inspirational, they wouldn’t make me want to read the articles (even if they were clear and easy to understand).
I felt a bit exposed starting on a really personal project, when I first began, and I didn’t want to promote it on Facebook or Twitter where all my friends could see it and judge. And, worst of all, I simply did not want to write short articles in short sentences and short paragraphs, with lots of white space on the page.
When it came to writing a blog of my own, I just couldn’t see the point in doing it if I wasn’t writing what I wanted to. I’m a waffler. An inveterate burbler. A serious fan of parentheses (perhaps an addict even…) Trying to write my own thoughts in a way that wasn’t natural to me just wasn’t that fun.
What’s more, when I started to pay closer attention to the blogs that I enjoyed reading myself, I saw that many of these broke all the blog rules too.
So I decided that since this was my own time, I might as well do what I want to do, not what know I should do.
I wouldn’t say I have a million readers now (because I don’t), where I used to when I wrote the travel blog for my old website, but I have seen my readership slowly and steadily increase.
But most importantly, while it’s obviously nice to have people reading your blog posts, I enjoy writing them.
So, the main thing I’ve learnt about blogging: don’t worry about any of the rules. Sure, it helps to have nice photos and clear headlines and good social media promotion and all that. But it’s most important to just write what you want to write, the way you want to write it. Somewhere, out there across the ether, there’ll be someone who wants to read exactly that.
Things I’ve learnt is an occasional series, where I talk about stuff I’ve picked up while trying to set up a new business of printed fabrics. I’m hoping that the information in these posts might be informative / interesting / amusing to anyone else setting up their own business.
Oh dear me, no photo for the day yesterday. I was absolutely determined that I was going to manage to post a picture every single day this month, but yesterday passed by in a blear of exhaustion as I’d got up at 3.30am to go to the New Covent Garden flower market for a trial of wedding flowers…
But more on that tomorrow.
Today, a little more wedmin. I spent the sproglet’s lunchtime nap today hand stamping these bags (above) to use as favours. They’ll be filled with either homemade fudge or homemade peppermint hearts, depending on how the sweet making trials pan out at the weekend.
They’re lying out on the dining room table drying off, surrounded by four buckets full of flowers. It’s all very jolly in there — or would be if I didn’t have the curtains closed and the door shut, in order to keep the flowers as healthy as possible.
Take a look at the rest of my August break photos. (Sob, though there are only 20 others, not 21 as there should be…)
Last week I became an Aunt for the very first time.*
One of my sisters had a baby boy and I can report, completely objectively of course, that he is one of the cutest little babies ever to be born.
I’d been knitting a blanket for the new arrival for a ridiculously long time, but of course it still wasn’t finished when he arrived, so I did a bit of frantic knitting while we were staying in Shropshire and managed to finish the second half in approximately one hundredth of the time I did the first half.
Together with the blanket, I put together a whole little new baby present pack. Here’s a photo of the whole thing.
I made three little babygrow tops, in the same style as the baby carrot set I made for my own sproglet, and using my tried and tested method of iron-on transfer paper. (I’ve got a step by step tutorial for doing this, if you’re interested: how to transfer images to fabric.)
I used a vintage bicycle image (which you can find at the Graphics Fairy: vintage bike) because the baby’s Dad loves to cycle. I love the caption underneath: “the dandy horse.”
For the second babygrow, I found this lovely balloon image, with the word “TOYS” emblazoned across it (also from the Graphics Fairy: toys balloon). Perfect for any child, really…
And the third babygrow reads, “D is for the dirigible, a motor driven balloon.” The baby’s name starts with D, as I’m sure you guessed, and this was far more appealing to me than “D is for dog”…
Then I made another pair of the baby trousers in the same elephant fabric I used recently for Laura’s baby. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, I can’t stand the persistent blue-for-boys and pink-for-girls, so I always like to use any other colour that I possibly can.
And, in an amazing instance of learning from my own mistakes, I lined the elephants all up in a straight line this time, so none of them were diving off a cliff. Look, look!
Finally, the blanket. It’s called the baby chalice blanket and is a free pattern by Karen S. Lauger. You can see full details on my Ravelry page: baby chalice blanket.
The pattern is really beautiful, when finished. Intricate, but yet quite bold too. I found it less pleasing to knit than my previous shale baby blanket which was exceedingly simple to remember, but the overall result is really lovely.
I used a Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino yarn, which is just lovely to knit with (though not cheap…) I think I could have used a slightly smaller pair of needles, actually, but it’s never worth worrying about that sort of thing at the end of the knitting.
She was pretty happy with the box, I think. Lots of things to dress my tiny nephew in, when he gets a little bigger…
*If that wasn’t exciting enough, I’ll also become a double Aunt in a few weeks. When I get married, my partner’s niece will officially become my niece too. (I already call her my niece, in fact, but if I do so in his earshot, he always says to me, “She’s not your niece, she’s my niece…”)
It’s been a little while since I’ve joined up with any link parties, but I’ve just seen a new one that’s started on one of my favourite blogs, Dream a Little Bigger, so I’m joining up there this week. Also back to my old favourite, Brag Monday at the Graphics Fairy. And finally remembering to link up with Handmade Monday, A UK-based link party (hooray! they are few and far between) on Handmade Harbour run by the very lovely Wendy Massey who I met earlier this year at the Pinterest party.
If you’re looking for something to make a new baby, I’ve got a free tutorial and pattern for a baby bib
Or take a look at my tutorials page for more projects that use lovely vintage images
Well, in an attempt to make them less nebulous and more concrete, I’ve given myself a deadline to have my Etsy shop up and running and actually stocked with things that I’ve made.
(Note the careful way I’m not sharing the actual date of this deadline with you, just in case I don’t make it…)
The first product I want to have ready to sell is a teapot cosy made with my teapot fabric. (I know! These unexpected yet brilliant connections I make! Clearly the mind of a genius at work.)
Great plans, so far, aren’t they? But then, after a while of thinking what a great product I was going to make, it dawned on me that I haven’t got a clue how to make a teapot cosy.
I examined my Cath Kidston teapot cosy carefully and could see that it was quilted, which immediately struck me as frightening. It also had binding on it. Doubly terrifying. I didn’t really know how to attempt either of those things.
But then, while having a little ramble around Twitter, I came across Saturday Sewing Session (www.saturdaysewingsession.co.uk). They have London-based sewing classes and, oh, what’s that I see? A whole entire afternoon class on sewing teapot cosies, including learning to quilt and applique.
[Random interjection here: I don’t quite feel like I’ve got the point of Twitter, yet. Am I the only one? I signed up a while ago, but haven’t yet shaken off the feeling that I’m just shouting into a void whenever I post anything. Does anyone really care about my picture of some ferrets about to have a race at a county fair, or should I save such chat for Facebook? Answers on a postcard, please. Or a 140 character tweet…]
So last Saturday, I hit the well-heeled neighbourhood of Chelsea and sewed myself this little beauty.
Speaking with absolutely no modesty at all, I say isn’t it quite the prettiest tea cosy you’ve ever seen?
First, we learnt how to quilt the outside covers. As is the way with most things in life, something I thought was going to be really complicated was extremely simple. In this case, it was just as straightforward as sewing a straight line.
The clever bit was in the use of a little sewing machine quilting bar, that meant you spaced all of your lines perfectly…
Then, we put the pieces together and I was slightly amused to realise that the construction was exactly the same as the method I’d used for my egg cosies at Easter. And there I was thinking I’d invented that all by myself! Okay, the red lining isn’t the perfect match for the gorgeous outside fabric, but it was the closest there.
We were meant to be appliqueing something onto the front of the cosy as well, but by the time I’d done my quilting, I knew that I didn’t want anything else going onto such an elegant fabric (does anyone recognise it, by the way? I absolutely adored it, but the person teaching my class wasn’t sure where they’d got it from…). So, I just tried out a bit of applique on a piece of calico instead.
Clearly, I was having a good sewing day, because this came out wonderfully as well:
Actually, maybe it was something in the air of that studio, because I can never sew this neatly at home…
So, a very first teapot cosy. This won’t be sold, but used by me for all my teapot cosying needs. Actually, I think the shape of this one is a bit too tall and not wide enough, so I’ll make a new pattern when I make the ones for my shop.
So, what do you think? Would you part with your hard-earned cash for something like this?!
Screen printing was the very first thing I wrote on my Things to Learn list, that lengthy tome of everything I need to do to get this fabric business started.
I want to print onto T-shirts, babygrows, bags, cushions… …you know, the usual old things. But I didn’t really have a clue how to go about it.
So, I was pretty excited as I went off to my first screen printing class a few weeks back. Excited and a little trepidatious too. I had a horrible feeling I was going to be the least “arty” person there. That everyone would turn up with amazing intricate images they’d drawn themselves and poke fun at me (or at the very least sneer behind my back) for my envelope stuffed full with vintage images that I had not lovingly drawn by hand, but downloaded from the internet.
Of course, I needn’t have worried. I was, most definitely, without a shadow of a doubt the least arty person there. In fact, I was the only person there who wasn’t a fine art student. (Okay, okay, it was only a class of two, but the tutor was also a fine art student as was the, erm, fine art student who was there using the studio…)
But, not a single one of them laughed at me. I know! It’s almost as if I’m not still at school anymore, but a functioning adult in the real world, isn’t it?
The screen printing process was actually a little more complicated than I was expecting. And used a lot of really big, impressive swanky machines, that I couldn’t possibly hope to get into my spare bedroom. (Yeah, that had been the plan before I set off…)
I’m certainly not about to give you a step-by-step of how to screen print, but this is what I did on the day…
First we drew out our designs on acetate.
This is mine:
I traced out a fish image I got from Old Book Illustrations and the F is from a free downloadable font called Coffee Tin. (I’d printed them out beforehand onto normal A4, but actually if I’d had some tracing paper that I could load into a printer, that would have been the easiest way of doing it…)
Screen printing works by building up layers of different colours on top of each other. The prints I made just had two colours.
For my base layer, I used red. So when it came to printing this layer, I just needed the block outlines of my design.
For the top layer, I used black ink. This was where the detail of the images were really going to show and this was more the more intricate design.
We then needed to get these designs onto the silk screen.
I’ve got no photos of this part, but a very brief overview is that we put emulsion on a screen, which, when exposed to light, sets hard. Our designs, put onto the top of the screens, prevent that part of the emulsion reaching the light, so you can wash off that area and the ink goes through later.
Clear as mud? Thought so.
Anyhoo, the end result is a screen through which you can push paint in certain parts.
It was amazingly good fun doing the actual printing and I got a bit carried away and made ten copies of my design. I’m not actually planning on using this on paper (otherwise I would have given it a background colour too) but I thought about doing an alphabet like this on the front of babygrows…
So this was the finished result:
I’m really pleased with the way the F turned out. The way the paint’s come through the design looks pleasingly aged…
The fish was less successful, however. The middle fins have turned out really well. The tail is pretty good too:
But the face hasn’t taken as much detail as I would have hoped, nor has the cross hatching on the main part of his body.
See, this is how the face looked on my transfer paper:
Compared to the end result:
This is because I didn’t go over the black lines on the tracing paper enough times, so they’ve let a bit of light get through when we were exposing the screens. I’ve still got the design though, so I plan on going over a little more and trying again.
Still, imperfections aside, it’s not a bad first attempt is it?
My main disappointment was that the open access studio is going to cost a lot more than I had hoped.
However, and hold onto your hats people, because here is the first really useful bit of info I’m sharing in this post… …I have found an absolutely brilliant tutorial on screen printing at home from the ever-amusing blog The Art of Doing Stuff.
I need to look into buying the supplies, but it might be, it just might be, that I could set it all up in my spare bedroom after all.
If screen printing sounds like a bit too much (and I certainly haven’t made it sound simple, have I?!) then have a go at ironing printed images onto fabric. It’s really, really simple. See my step by step tutorial and take a look at a few more tips and hints for getting a really great result. (The last one was another Things I’ve Learnt post!)
There are various other projects and ideas I’ve made with vintage images in the vintage images category, if you feel like a browse…
And this lovely fish (a smelt, apparently) shows up again in the fabric designs I made on Spoonflower.
You can head over to my tutorials page for more projects to make.
My only other article sharing things I’ve learnt was about photography. But I warn you in advance, the main point is that I’ve not learnt enough… Ah well. One day.
Small print disclaimer:
The title of this post is a little misleading. The premise for my things I’ve learnt series, is that I discuss things I have genuinely learnt as I embark on this whole fabric business project. Learnt to the point – dare I say it – of being good at them.
It was a great idea when I first thought of it, right back at the very beginning of this blog. I would share information and tips that would hopefully be useful to others, all about setting up a craft business.
But, of the 62 blog posts I’ve written since then, only two of them have been for this series. Why? Because I haven’t yet learnt that much, ha ha.
So I realised that if I’m going to wait until I’m properly really, really good at things, this series is never going to get going.
That, then, is the disclaimer: I have only “learnt” screen printing to the point that I technically know how it works and I have made one, just one, print. I am certainly not an expert. Not even an amateur yet, really. Definitely not “good”… Just someone who has tried it out.
Just dropping in very quickly this morning to show you a few pictures of these little beauties:
What is that heavenly thing of wonder? I hear you ask. Is it the latest exhibit at the Tate? Is it the winner of the Turner prize? Is it a new work by Hockney?
Prepare to be amazed, dear readers. It’s none other than my brand new business card. (Oh. You already saw that from the post title, did you?)
As I was going to the Pinterest party last night, I thought it might be a good idea to have some cards I could hand out to other bloggers.
I’d love to claim any sort of contribution to the beauty of this end result, but sadly (or, perhaps, fortunately) I had no hand in it.
The wonderfully talented Paola Zakimi, who made the amazing wolf girl on my banner, also created this great logo for me. (If you haven’t already, do take a look at Paola’s Etsy shop Holli, she has some gorgeous illustrations for sale.)
And my sister (the same one whose wedding invitations I showed you before) had a Letterpress plate made up with the design and printed them out for me. (She also takes commissions, so if you want some nice cards yourself, just get in touch and I’ll put you in contact.)
You can just see the indentations of the press if you look closely…
Since they didn’t have contact details on, I bought myself a little Dormy printing kit, which had great reviews on Amazon. I thought I could easily print all my contact info onto the back of the cards.
I set up two different options for printing; one with just the website, one with more contact info.
Then I tried and tried over and over to get a good result with the stamp. Hmmmm. Not so much.
The larger plate with all the info was a complete disaster. But I managed to get a (just about) acceptable result with the website address alone.
After all that practicing, the ink didn’t dry in time for me to take them with me, so I ended up only taking the plain cards. (In fact, it’s still not dry this morning…)
But, if it ever sets, the idea is I’ll have a card with a gorgeous front and an informative back. Like this:
And how many of these beauteous items did I give out all night?
Still, a business card is a step closer to a fully fledged business, isn’t it?
When I was down in Brighton over the weekend, it seemed as if everywhere I went I saw amazing patterns, embedded into the everyday fabric of the city.
I don’t know whether it was just that I was on holiday, so was looking around me with a little more interest and leisure than I normally do, or whether Brighton really has a lot more glorious patterns than London. (Okay, so I do know the answer to that, it’s clearly the first one, but it’s much nicer to think about an amazing city of patterns…)
I’m really fascinated by pattern at the moment. What with this whole fabric designing malarkey, I’m spending more time than usual noticing the way things are laid out, the geometric repeats of patterns and how you can take inspiration from all sorts of unlikely everyday objects to create really beautiful images.
Here, then, are some favourites that I spotted while we were away.
We only made a brief visit to the Art Museum, but I had time to admire (and photograph) its mosaic floors (above) and tiled walls (below).
It wasn’t just in the museums and galleries I spotted nice patterns though. Oh no! Even Brighton’s car parks are beautiful. On the way to use the loo in Debenhams, I was temporarily stopped in my tracks to admire this pattern of sunlight coming through the grid on the side of the car park:
But, let’s face it, you don’t go to Brighton to admire the car parks. Out on the beach, there was plenty of opportunity to photograph the floor as well.
The pebble beach was edged with pathways made of wood. Some new, as above, some older, as below.
The paths going through the middle of the beach were equally appealing:
As was this series of steps leading to the beach:
And finally, out on the pier, a little more weathered wood…
…and is there, anywhere, a more glorious sight than white railings and a turquoise sea?
On a completely unrelated note, I’m off to the Pinterest UK party this evening up in King’s Cross. I was contacted by Pinterest a few weeks ago to ask if I wanted to come along, in a move that felt a little akin to your favourite band when you were younger noticing how much time you’d spend staring at their poster on the ceiling and deciding to ask you to come to tea.
(I have an idea that Pinterest has set up an algorithm that looked at the accounts of bloggers and correlated how much time they were wasting usefully pinning projects they are really going to make one day on Pinterest and then invited the most hopelessly addicted to come and meet them.)
I think somewhere in my subconscious the word “party” has struck terror though. Not having been out a huge amount since having the little sproglet, it’s a while since I’ve been to a party. Let alone one where I won’t actually know a single person. My body, in response, has behaved as that of an 18-year-old going on a date. I have a spot on my top lip. I got really sunburnt yesterday. I cut my ankle just now while shaving my legs.
So, if you’re going along too, and you see someone with a tomato red face, limping along unaccustomed to their heels, a smear of unnoticed baby sick down their back, blood dripping down one ankle and a huge throbbing spot on their upper lip, come over and say hi. That’ll be me.
In which I feel some disappointment that my design skills aren’t quite as faultless as I thought…
You know the saying: the work of a budding fabric designer is never done.
Buoyed by the success of my teapot fabric, I went straight back to Spoonflower to experiment with some different designs.
With the teapots, I loved the simplicity of the repeat combined with the more ornate vintage illustration. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I thought to myself. So, I dug out some more of my favourite vintage images and tried them out with a similar layout.
Satisfied with my efforts, I ordered swatches of the 15 new designs I’d tried, all printed out on one giant piece of fabric.
The Spoonflower parcel arrived through through the post last week. I could hardly contain my excitement as I ripped into the (ever beautiful) packaging. And this is how it looks:
Firstly, please excuse the lack of ironing before photographing it.
But, I was a bit disappointed with this batch. I’d been really pleased with them looking at them on the computer screen, but once I saw them printed out onto the actual fabric, so many of them didn’t seem to work.
The scales are off in quite a few designs: the images too large or not enough white space between them.
Some of the colours didn’t work as well as I hoped.
Some of the images didn’t look great in fabric form.
And some of them I just couldn’t imagine ever having anything to sew with a fabric with those designs.
Overall, I was just not feeling enough love for this batch to bother heading for the iron…
Now, don’t examine that photo too closely, please, as I will show you some close-ups of the ones that worked a bit better, or which only need minor alterations to look more appealing.
My favourite, over all, is this octopus fabric:
I did it in two different options, blue on white and reversed with white on blue:
I think these would be amazingly cute as a little pair of baby boy trousers. Or perhaps a sun hat. Or, gender stereotyping aside, a nice summer skirt for a girl…
The octopus image was from the NYPL digital archive from a plate in an 1809 French book about zoology: octopus image.
Next up, these glorious bright red fish managed to cheer me up from my slight doldrums:
They’re seriously jolly, aren’t they? The fish is a smelt, apparently, and I got the image from the brilliant website Old Book Illustrations: smelt.
Continuing the nautical theme, you might recognise the lobster in this fabric:
He’s the same one I used to make my lobster necklace. I adore him (he’s from the Graphics Fairy: lobster image here). But, I don’t think this layout has done him many favours. I think I’ll try again, with alternate rows facing in different directions. And maybe a little more white space around him.
He looked awful in yellow, as you can see on the left of the picture, but the simple black image is quite appealing to me. But what could anyone possibly make with a fabric covered in crabs? Any ideas?
Finally, a non-nautical fabric, but in a similar theme to the crabs, these little beetles:
This is, apparently, a squash bug, which I also found from Old Book Illustrations. I tried him in turquoise as well, but I’m not sure how well that worked.
So a definite mixed bag. If I was marking myself, I think it’d be a C+. Plenty of room for improvement. Back to the drawing board with these.
At school when I was younger (ahem, much younger) my favourite class was English. And my favourite ever English class was when we had to write a story. And my very favourite story-writing English class was when the teacher gave us the first line of the story and asked us to finish it.
I used to relish the opportunity to write something with a starting prompt, and then be free to go wherever my imagination took me.
It was always fascinating to me (yeah, I was a bit of a spod at school, I have to confess) in the next lesson when a few people read their stories out. From an identical initial starting point, everyone would have done such very different things, ending in places that I, personally, could have never imagined.
So my inner eight-year-old was really excited to come across a similar idea, but for crafting, on the LucyLovesYa blog last month.
Every month, Lucy gives her readers a challenge to make something – anything – inspired by a specific theme. At the end of the month, she posts photos of all the projects that have been made.
I joined in eagerly last month, for Matryoshka March; the challenge to make something inspired by a photo of some old school Russian dolls.
You can guess what I did already, can’t you? Yup, I made a babygrow with a nice Russian doll image printed onto the front…
There was something that tickled me in the idea of an item of clothing for a baby, emblazoned with a picture of all those little baby dolls.
I love the photo as well; those bright reds, with the blue flowers on the front and the bright yellow hair epitomise for me everything inherent in a Russian doll.
Though, have you noticed that the second size doll, on the left of the photo, has a slightly evil glint in her eye?
Today, all of the projects have been rounded up, so head over to LucyLovesYa to see the rest of them. I think the cushion made with the bright 1960s fabrics is probably my favourite, but they’re all pretty stunning. Just as with those stories at school, it’s fascinating to see the different ideas that different people have had…
She’s on the lookout for someone else to take over hosting from next month as well, so drop by if you’re interested.