There’s nothing nicer than knowing that a handmade present was well-received, so I was delighted that this horse T-shirt was such a hit that the recipient’s Mum requested a bigger version for his recent third birthday…
I’m such a dab hand at the iron on transfer paper by now that I actually – regular readers, hold onto your hats – managed to have the new T-shirt ready in time for his birthday party! (Okay, the party was about three weeks after his actual birthday and I had seen him in between times as well, but let’s ignore that trifling piece of information.)
As the present wasn’t exactly unexpected, I also thought I’d try and make something else as a surprise. The whole family recently moved house, so I thought an equine-related something-or-other for his room might be a good call.
Since my love for Spoonflower is yet to wane, it seemed like a good idea (theoretically, rather than financially) to get some fabric printed with a horse picture and turn it into a nice wall hanging.
And this was the result:
He’s rather glorious isn’t he?
(Please excuse the floral wallpaper as the backdrop. As I mentioned recently, we have not a single bare painted wall in the house at the moment, but this horse does look especially incongruous against such a chintzy background…)
I made a couple of other Spoonflower designs at the same time, for yet another ridiculously late birthday present, so as soon as I get them seamed and made up, I’ll write up a little how to for making a present like this. It’s very straightforward to make, but a nice idea, I think. (She says, modestly…)
I’m in a frantic making mode at the moment, since we’re celebrating the sproglet’s first birthday on Saturday and a few of the guests are yet to receive presents from me for birthdays already been (oh dear, honestly, how can I be so utterly, utterly useless?!) so there’ll be a couple more makes up here over the next few days…
Someone really needs to make a calendar highlighting the good “World days” of the year, because I have only just this second, at 5.34pm, discovered that today is World Oceans Day.
So, happy World Oceans Day to you all!
I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned it, but I am a really keen diver. Before the arrival of the sproglet, I’d had a few excellent years spending large swathes of time out in Asia – a lot of it under the water. I even met my other half out in the Philippines while we were both taking part in a marine conservation programme. (AKA a good excuse to spend lots of time diving every day; looking at beautiful unspoilt coral, making friends with cuttlefish and checking out the progress of the cuttlefish eggs living in a bit of fire coral. Oh, and sunbathing on a beach surrounded by palm trees whenever you’re not diving. I know. It was tough…)
I’m not going to launch into a diatribe here about the importance of oceans or their degradation around the world, partly because this isn’t really the place for all that and partly because my brain is a little mushy and inarticulate after a day in the sun. (If you do want to read more about it, you can take a look at the main website: World Oceans Day.)
Had I actually found out about this in advance, and had a little preparation time, I would have definitely tried to make something in honour of the day. However, here we are, Saturday afternoon, it’s now 5.40pm, and I’ve got no Blue Peter here’s-one-I-prepared-earlier up my sleeve, so instead I’ll do what I always do when I want to celebrate something in a slightly half-arsed way: I’m going to share some nice vintage ocean pictures with you. Giving you a little view of some of my favourite under sea creatures along the way…
Firstly, the wonderful octopus. Is there anyone in the world ever who doesn’t like an octopus? I would always be seriously happy to spot one of these lovely creatures on a dive.
There are so many amazing octopus images it was hard to whittle them down. But whittle I did, to these two.
This octopus looks a little mean and scary. But I still love him.
One thing I love even more than an octopus is a squid. I did a dive once in Borneo when I looked up and an entire school of about 20 squid had materialised from nowhere right around my head. It was an odd, very eerie experience, almost like a sci-fi film (or Doctor Who episode), these squid suddenly shimmering into view.
On a sad note, though, since discovering how awesome squid are under the water, I’ve stopped eating them above the water and desperately miss the delights of calamari if I’m on holiday somewhere exotic. Mmmm, I’m thinking of it right now and salivating: that lovely crispy little ring, the lemon, the salt. Slurp.
Moving on, the only thing I love more than a squid is a cuttlefish. Boy, do I love cuttlefish. They are one of the absolute oddest creatures you’ve ever seen. Pleasingly, not that tasty either, in my opinion, so I don’t have to miss not eating them…
It’s surprisingly hard to find a good vintage picture of one though. Everything called “cuttlefish” tends to be a squid or an octopus. But I didn’t want to miss the wonderful cuttlefish out, so here is one from a cigarette pack.
Away from cephalopods, I think perhaps my favourite under sea creature is a puffer fish. I just want to pick them up and cuddle them. (Don’t worry, I don’t…)
It’s number five in this incredible set of illustrations, though, it has to be said, this isn’t amazingly accurate.
Are you getting bored yet? Okay, then, just one more creature for you. The amazing sea horse. So tiny! So cute! So free from gender stereotyping!
This little illustration was without doubt the most adorable I found:
Ah, such wonderful things under the sea. And I haven’t even included dugongs or whale sharks or christmas tree worms…
But until the next time I can zip on a wetsuit – and it will likely be a good few years – I’ve been making good use of all the aquariums I can get to. The sproglet will recognise a weedy sea dragon from a hundred yards before he knows what a cow is, I suspect.
Like a vintage image as much as I do? I’ve collected together some of wolves and some of gardening.
And having said that you might not know I’m a diver, I’ve realised that quite a lot of my projects have some nautical theme, so you probably weren’t that surprised at the revelation. A lot of my second batch of fabrics were sea-related. My octopus love snuck into some of my printed T-shirts. My screen printed F is for fish had, erm, a fish in it. And, of course, I thought it was a good idea to make a lobster necklace, so that was probably a pretty big clue to my under sea obsession.
Something feels wrong this Monday. Oh, wait, I know what it is… …it’s not a Bank holiday. Sob, sob.
Somehow the three-day weekend last week felt like a miniature holiday, whereas the weekend we’ve just had was more like a rushed work lunch break. Two whole days passed so quickly that I don’t really know what happened to them.
Still, enough moaning, I’m going to show you what I managed to produce with the few productive couple of hours I spent sewing on Friday night.
For today, these cute business card holders.
You remember I got my first ever Wolves in London business cards a few weeks ago? Okay, I’ve still only managed to hand out one. The rest are sitting in a rather beautiful pile on my mantelpiece, where I admire them at least 20 times a day.
They’re so gorgeous, I couldn’t bear to put any in my wallet in case they got dirty or – worse – crumpled! So, I really needed some means of transporting them around, otherwise I would never give any out to anyone ever.
I found a great tutorial for sewing a business card holder from the Crafty Cupboard, which I basically followed to the letter. I didn’t sew on the button and elastic because I forgot thought it wasn’t necessary…
The blue one is made from some beautiful Japanese fabric that I bought when I was living in Hong Kong. I wish I knew where to get some more because it’s running out now.
Incidentally, I didn’t originally set out to make two – I spent a while making the first dark blue one, carefully lining up all the flowers to the right places and so on, only to discover that it was too small for my business cards once I’d finished it. Ah well…
If you like the vintage animal fabrics I’ve used here, you might also like my teapot fabric
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most satisfying.
I always find it really hard to find nice wrapping paper – and when I do, I’m then completely shocked at the cost of it. You frequently pay a fiver just to buy some paper to put a present in that will immediately get thrown into the bin once it’s unwrapped. (Don’t even get me started on the cost of cards…)
I used to get round the problem by saving wrapping paper on presents given to me and then reusing it. Now, I still think this is a good idea in principle (just think of the trees, man) but I fear not many others agree with me, and I end up looking like a bit of a cheapskate when friends unwrap presents and find old bits of sellotape still stuck to the inside of the twice used wrapping paper.
But while I was printing out nice images on paper to make my homemade gift box, it suddenly occurred to me that it would also be eminently possible to simply use the paper to wrap presents in the normal way as well.
So ever since then, if I have a small present to give someone, I just find a nice image and print it off to use as wrapping paper.
If you like the ones I’ve used; my camel is from Clip Art etc, my leaves are from the Graphics Fairy and my hats are from Vintage Printable.
2. If the image you like is just a small one (like my camel) you can copy and paste a few onto one page. I use Powerpoint to do this (a deeply embarrassing confession, I know…) If the image is already as you want it, you can skip straight ahead to:
3. Print the image!
4. Wrap up present.
I couldn’t resist adding my little teapot gift tag again, which you might recognise from my experiments with shrink plastic. (Well, I say I “couldn’t resist” adding it, it would be slightly more accurate to say that it was still sewn onto the ribbon which I decided to use and it seemed a lot easier to re-use it than cut it off…)
I should say, unless you’ve got an industrial size printer (or utilise one in your office, a trick I used to do a lot until I found myself on maternity leave) you’re obviously only going to get an A4 sheet out of this, which is only big enough for quite small presents.
As the printer paper is a lot thicker than usual wrapping paper, this also works a lot better on square shaped presents, where you can fold in straight lines.
The environmentalist in me wants to print the wrapping paper onto the reverse side of all the various junk mail we get, with endless offers of estate agents wanting to sell our house. However, I suspect that adds a cheapskate element to any present that would be even greater than re-using some other wrapping paper.
So, there you have it. Simple, cheap and an infinite number of options to create absolutely any wrapping paper that you can think of… This really was one of those “why didn’t I think of that before?” moments.
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.
Sleep’s been on my mind a lot recently. I haven’t been getting any. I miss it.
It’s down to the baby.
I try not to witter on too much about baby things on this blog.
I know how tedious it is to listen to parents of babies tell you every last detail about their sleeping / eating / pooing routine as if this were a topic of conversation that you, too, would find just as enthralling. And you feign interest with an “oh really” and tilt of the head as they tell you how their baby’s pooing face differs from its thinking face, but secretly your brain has switched off long ago and is thinking of all that lovely vodka you can drink as a non-parent, and all those late nights you can enjoy, followed by long, luxurious lie-ins the next day.
So, I won’t bore you with all the baby sleeping details, except to say: he’s not.
But my lack of sleep has led me to think longingly about it and search out these rather gorgeous sleep related prints and products, which I’ll share with you instead of details as to how many times I’ve been up in the night.
Sleep. It’s beautiful, I tell you.
Go to Sleep!
I love this Go to Sleep! poster. It’s a Letterpress print, from the Etsy shop Type A Press. I’m all over anything Letterpressed or screen printed at the moment, especially if it uses nice typography. So, really, this couldn’t be more appealing.
(I don’t actually know the song it’s referencing, though. Instead, going round my head is “Go to sleep little baby” as sung in O Brother Where Art Thou? Love that song.)
The baby and the mother both look a bit cross to me, but the surrounding illustration is just beautiful.
Sleeping fox cushion
Far more relaxing is this sleeping fox cushion from Etsy shop Erinnies. Another delicious shop with loads of lovely screen printed products. If you like this sort of thing as much as I do, I recommend a browse.
I just had to include this vintage poster because I thought it was so hilarious. “Rock me to sleep, Mother.” No wonder the children aren’t sleeping when the mother sits around at the piano like this. I’m sure they’re all up until midnight eating sugar straight from the bag. What a brilliantly chaotic mother this woman appears to be.
When I was about eight years old an odd craze swept through my primary school. The jewellery-made-from-crisp-packets craze.
Do you remember it?
It must have been about the late 1980s and it was suddenly de rigeur to put a crisp packet into the oven, watch it shrink and then stick a safety pin on the back and wear it as a badge. I know, easily pleased hey?
I was vaguely aware at the time that there was a more sophisticated version of the crisp packet badge. A version that involved painting your own designs onto some special plastic and then shrinking it down to size.
I’m not sure that we ever reached these levels of sophistication in my family, content instead with pledging our allegiance to some deeply unhealthy salty snack.
But, 25 or so years later, I finally tried it out.
I’ve noticed some really amazing shrink plastic jewellery recently. I first saw this absolutely stunning Squirrel Nutkin necklace about a year ago, by the Savvy Crafter. I pinned it (of course) but never thought I’d ever be able to make something similar myself, due to my complete and utter lack of ability to draw anything.
Then, a few weeks ago, I spotted these bird earrings by Dream a Little Bigger. And, guess what, she’d made them out of a vintage picture, simply printed out of her computer! Bingo. This was more up my alley. No need to attempt to draw something and – even better – another excuse to get the vintage images out.
I read up on a few tutorials, which all made it sound super simple, so decided to make myself a lobster necklace and some teapot earrings, with some retro images I found on the Graphics Fairy. (This lobster and this teapot…)
The initial stages are, indeed, super simple.
All you need is a printer, an oven, some scissors, a nice image and some ink jet shrink plastic (I bought mine from eBay, of course). Shrink plastic comes in various different types, but if you want to use a printed image, make sure you get an ink jet one. Then you can choose clear, white or frosted, depending on what look takes your fancy.
Then you draw or print your image onto the plastic at about double the size you want it to end up.
Cut round the shape, add any holes you might want with a hole punch (for hanging earring clasps or whatever) and pop it into the oven.
And this was when I found it all started to get a bit more complicated than I expected…
All the instructions I read said that it would take two to three minutes (I read the lines “shrink in front of your eyes” a fair few times…)
Ready for this amazement, I put it into the oven and watched. And watched. And watched.
After 15 minutes nothing had happened, so I turned the oven up. And watched a bit longer.
In the end, I found that pieces of the size I was making took about 20 minutes to shrink completely down, when the oven was on at 200 degrees. Maybe my oven’s a bit crap. Who knows?
The instructions on my shrink plastic (and on the other blogs I read) all said that you’ll know it’s done when the plastic has curled up and then flattened back out again.
The thing is, it never completely flattens back out. Well, it didn’t for me. It curls up, like one of those fortune telling fish, then returns to a sort of flat position…
I tried to make them dry fully flat by putting them under something heavy while they cooled, but it didn’t make much difference.
Still, at the end of it all, I had some diddy little shrunk pieces of plastic!
Now, as I said, I was planning on making the teapots into earrings, but when I tried them out with an earring hoop on the top I thought they looked, well, pretty stupid and amateur.
It could be because I hadn’t cut them into a proper circle. (Why not? I don’t know.)
But even if they were perfectly circularly symmetrical, I’m still not sure that I would have produced something I wanted to wear in my ears.
(Before I started this, I was imagining producing some cutting edge jewellery to give Tatty Devine a run for their money. What I made, instead, would look a bit too rubbish to be stocked in Claire’s Accessories…)
I still thought they were kind of sweet though and was scratching my head, wondering what else I could turn them into, when it suddenly dawned on me: gift tags.
These would be just perfect tied onto a bit of ribbon, to wrap a present with.
And, take a look, I wasn’t wrong:
Not a complete waste of time, then, but not quite the work of genius I’d originally imagined.
And now for the lobster. This is he:
At first, I thought this was as much of a failure as the teapots, but I put it onto a necklace anyway, just to see.
And, well, I think I sort of love it!
What do you reckon? Is my judgment (along with my eyes) just blinded by the hours I put in, sitting in front of a hot oven, or is this something that I might actually wear when leaving the house?
You know how it is around these parts. You wait four months for any sort of fabric dream development, and then two pieces of news come along at once…
(Okay, to fit the bus analogy it really should be three things at once, but heeeeey, steady on there, let’s not get too carried away in a hive of activity, I don’t want to wear myself out before tea time.)
Hot on the heels of my sneak reveal of my first ever fabric design, I’ve now got a thrilling announcement of the expansion to my (as yet hypothetical) fabric business to include printed stationery as well.
My super talented sister recently bought a Letterpress to make her wedding invitations and we’re joining up together to plan a business of prints for both fabrics and cards.
You’ll be relieved to hear, her love of vintage pics is as strong as mine. These were her incredible wedding invitations:
We’re chomping at the bit to get started now and have business strategies and product plans and collection ideas bursting out of our every vein.
Not only is it excellent to broaden out from fabrics to stationery, but my sister is super-talented at design, so I’m really looking forward to working with her on all our new products. There’s going to be more than a thing or two she can teach this dunce…
More developments soon, I hope! We’re planning on getting our Etsy shop up and running asap…
You know the drill by now. I’m meant to be writing a blog about setting up my own fabric business. Except, I’ve been too busy writing my blog to do anything about setting up my fabric business…
Until now, that is.
For, this week, I took one giant step towards making the whole fabric designing thing a reality.
I went right ahead and designed some of my own fabric…
Yup, you read that correctly. This person who’s been bleating on for so long about designing fabric actually, gulp, did it. This is what I made:
It’s cute, isn’t it?
I’m sure you all already know about Spoonflower, the amazing (US-based) website where you can upload a picture, turn it into a pattern and they’ll print it out on fabric and send it to you.
It takes a little while for the fabric to arrive here in the UK, but boy oh boy, is it worth the wait.
I used a free vintage teapot image and arranged it in a pleasing repetition. I’m delighted with how it’s turned out. Here’s a shot with a bit more of the fabric in it:
I’ve got something special in mind to make from this, which I’ll be sharing here just as soon as I get on with it… (Watch this space, eh?)
It’s not a cheap way of making fabric, and if I really manage to go ahead and set up a business, of course I’ll need to find someone to print it for me here in the UK for a much cheaper price, but it’s brilliant to see some things I’ve envisaged in my head right there in front of me on the weave. Here’s a final pic with the detail:
Next step: total word domination…
What do you think? Do you like it?
Update: I’ve since made a few more fabric designs. I’m less pleased with them than these lovely teapots, but do take a look and tell me what you think: Beetles and fish and lobsters, oh my!
First an apology. I’ve somewhat lost my writing mojo over the last week.
I was reading through my last few posts this morning (mmm, I know, surely there are better things to do with my time) and thought they were somewhat lacking in a little je ne sais quoi (except I do sais quoi: it was sparkle, verve, wit, elan, not to mention, on occasion, some good grammatical construction).
So, to anyone checking in regularly, my apologies. I hope the mojo reappears soon, but I’m not sure today’s the day.
(Just for your interest, the missing literary mojo (and every other mojo in my life right now) is down to sleep deprivation. The little sproglet is having serious sleeping issues, which of course means we are too. But I don’t want to bore on about that here…)
This child, on the front of the brilliantly titled Water All Around, looks extremely happy for someone who appears to be in a swirling vortex of water, with at least one distinctly evil looking fish.
Another cheerful looking child on the front of the equally brilliantly named mud! mud! mud! and it seems to get even better once you’re inside the book:
(Found at the Etsy shop bibliocycle. That book has sold, but there are lots more to browse…)
And one last one, with a little lesson for us all:
(Found at Elwood and Eloise on Etsy. Again, that book has sold but there are loads more to look at…)
You can see many many, more appealing covers on my brand new Pinterest board Book covers.
NB: I’ve tried to only include images here that are okay to reproduce, but it’s not always easy to check. If you think I’ve posted something that I shouldn’t have, please do get in touch and I’ll remove it asap…
Okay, I’m something of a vintage illustration addict right now. I’m clearly having a little phase. But here are some other articles and projects that relate to vintage illustration one way or other…
A DIY gift box (template and tutorial included) using a vintage feather illustration