Monday, 31 October 2016

Smashing Pumpkin Floral Display

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin

With Halloween upon us I thought I'd share with you a little tutorial on how to make a pumpkin floral arrangement. After all not everyone wants a Jack O Lantern with a gruesome face on it. This design could be used throughout Autumn and for Thanksgiving/Harvest Festival if you're so inclined to celebrate those. 

I've put this together in mind that the average person does not have florist equipment like Oasis to hand. I wanted to make something that anyone would do providing they had a pumpkin and some flowers.

I bought my pumpkin in Asda yesterday for £1.00 and two bunches of seasonally coloured flowers for less than £5.00. (I had enough flowers left over to do a small vase full!) Of course if you have flowers in your garden you can use those. In fact all the greenery was cut from my garden. You will also need an empty plastic drinks bottle or similar. Failing that a suitably sized jam jar. 

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin
Blood red Chrysanthemums and some autumn coloured 'Pinks'.

First up get a sharp kitchen knife and cut a square around the top of the pumpkin stalk. I deliberately didn't slice off the top of the pumpkin like you would to carve for a lantern as I wanted more control over the aperture cut into the pumpkin. I chose a square because I think it's easier to cut, rather than trying to be too precise with a round cut at this stage.

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin

Next you need to scrape out all the seeds and gunk inside. A pyscho style knife and all those pumpkin entrails and I was already in the halloween mood!

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin

When you've scooped out as much as possible and cleaned and dried it out. Place your drinks bottle on top of the hole you've cut and carefully carve away until you can push the drinks bottle inside the pumpkin all the way to the bottom. Don't carve out too much as you want the drinks bottle to sit snuggly inside the pumpkin to hold it in place.  You don't want it to wobble about too much. 

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin

Next use a black marker to drawer a line around the drinks bottle just above where it comes out of the pumpkin.  You're going to cut just below this line you've marked. Don't worry about getting it too level. The chances are your pumpkin isn't that level either. That's why I recommend drawing around the top of the bottle rather than trying to measure and calculate the exact height it needs to be. You won't be seeing the top of the pumpkin once you flowers are in place. Don't cut too low or you drinks bottle might tip over into the inside of the pumpkin. The drinks bottle bottom is going to be the water reservoir for the flowers. 

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin

I got a bit carried away at the next stage and forgot to take any pictures until it was finished. It's really easy though!   

Fill the drinks bottle bottom inside the pumpkin with water. Don't fill quite to the top. Leave about half and inch to avoid water spillage into the pumpkin. I added a sachet of plant food that came with some of my flowers. 

Next get some of focus flowers - in my case the blood red chrystanth's and cut them down so they stick up above the height of the pumpkin by about a third to a half of the height of the pumpkin I used two stems as they were quite bushy.  If it helps you can stand a stem next to the pumpkin and work out where you need to trim from there. Remember you can cut more off, but not stick it back on if you've cut off too much. Strip off any leaves that are going to sit in the water. (If you leave them on they'll go mouldy and taint the water, shortening the life of the flowers).  You'll notice when you first place the flowers they'll lean to one side. This is because you have nothing to support them yet. 

Next I had a wander around my garden (if you haven't got one maybe you forage locally for some suitable greenery) looking for foliage. I deliberately don't over trim my evergreens at this time of year so I can use them to bulk out flower arrangements. I chose a golden variegated Euonymus. (You can just see the corner of the shrub in question on the left hand side of the picture with the bottle sat on top of the pumpkin.) I cut about half a dozen stems of Euonymus longer than I'd needed, so I could cut them down to exactly the size I wanted and get a good supporting shape. It's good to choose something quite firm and bushy so they support the more delicate flowers. You may have to put stems in place and then remove and trim again until you get them just as you like. Again strip off any leaves that will sit in the water. 

Remember when you're placing anything that if you're using this as a table display it will be seen from all sides so you want to keep turning the pumpkin and making sure everything looks balanced. Step back and see where you need to add in more bits or take bits away. 

I took the Pinks next and cut them down so I could infill them among the greenery to add some interest and break up the 'hedge' it was creating around the top of the pumpkin. You'll notice the more you add the more support everything gets. 

I still felt it needed something else so had a walk around my garden and spotted some trails of winter flowering jasmine that were starting to turn slightly autumnal colours. I snipped off about four of these and because the arrangement was quite dense now it was easy to support them among what was already in place. They are quite curvy and whispy and I thought they'd give a different texture and stop everything looking like a dome at the top of the pumpkin.  I popped a couple of stray mini stems of the chrystanthemums that had fell off when I was cutting down the larger stems around the greenery too. 

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin

I had a woodpecker watching my making. I think it approved of the final display.  Any questions please ask! And if you do make one I'd love to see your versions.

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin

Friday, 23 September 2016

Don't faint I sewed!

Just last week some digital scales and some postal bags arrived from Amazon. I decided I needed some scales to weigh wool when I'm working out how much I have left etc. I was also motivated because I decided when the weather turned I was going to have a fabric/materials destash. Maybe starting with scraps and odd cuts I'd never use.

I had been reading the How To Grow Your Creativity posts over on Collettes Blog and it had made me think about this last loss of sewjo. Since I re-started quilting in earnest - largely motivated by Flickr and then the online community of modern quilters and bag makers that grew out of it, I have had little periods when my sewjo was lacking. Most of the time it was because I was simply overwhelmed with ideas and could never make everything I wanted to. I'd have needed 48 hour days and it would totally demotivate me until I could see the wood for the trees again.

This more recent lack of sewjo is more entrenched. Firstly, after years of travel anxiety I finally managed to go abroad again last year. It left me wanting to travel more and I did it again this year - this time flying. (In fact over two trips I've managed six countries!) My head has been full of travel and potential for travel photography and some how sewing and quilting has taken a back seat.

Secondly - life just has a way of getting in the way. 

Also, one of the quickest ways to stop me in my tracks creatively is to lose my purpose for the craft. I have made so many quilts in the last few years that I think goodness do I really need any more? Where will I put them, who can I make one for and gift it, knowing it will be appreciated? The same with bags. I suppose each time I've added to my fabric stash I have kidded myself it will only take up valuable space in the short term because it will be made into something (eventually). But all those somethings need homes and it has got to the stage when I've felt I'm making for the sake of it and that has sapped my enjoyment.

I was never someone who wanted to make a living from my craft. Or at least (unless I was teaching something) never felt that I could compete with the world and his wife already out there doing it and perhaps a lot better than I ever could. Kidding myself amassing a decent sized stash, so I could whip up stuff to eventually sell, was quite frankly, delusional.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what might kick start my creativity and rationalising what I have is definitely the way to go. Hence my thinking I really needed to destash.

And then something unexpected happened. Someone (I can't say who until it's gifted.) I know had a baby and the moment I saw pictures I thought: Oh! I could make a baby quilt as a gift. I have longed for the excuse to make a baby quilt. A simple one can be whipped up in next to no time and ahead of the destash, making something from stash was going to help get shot of some fabric!

I kicked myself for not doing the sewing over the last 6 months I've known the baby was coming. Being out of the sewing groove, it just didn't cross my mind!

I grabbed two packs of Oh Deer! by MoMo that I'd saved thinking they'd be great should I ever need to make a baby quilt.  I wanted to do something different to my 'go to' baby quilt pattern which has been the charm squares baby quilt that Elizabeth Hartman offered up some years ago. But I hadn't got oodles of time (unless the baby was graduating kindergarten before she got the quilt!) and as I had two charm packs I decided to alternate half squares between whole squares much like the original design, but leave out the sashing. I used an off cut of left over wadding and some of that Ikea number print to back it.

Binding was going to be tricky as using fabric from all one line (and a distinctive one at that) there was nothing in my stash that obviously complimented it - until I came across some green solid fabric. Probably left over from another long forgotten project.

Oh Deer Baby quilt

Oh Deer Baby quilt

I'll confess until it was finished I did wonder if it wasn't too 'boyish' in colours and I do think this quilt could be for a boy or a girl. Hopefully the parents will like the bright modern colours and not take one look and wish I'd have created something more pastel and girlie. 

Sewing this I was reminded just how much I like sewing. Also, how I can be really motivated and excited to shop my stash for a project. There is nothing so satisfying as when you can justify that fabric you bought three years ago by turning it into the perfect project. 

I don't want to lose momentum -  I think I may make some more x&+ blocks for that long term quilt project.  I'm also thinking I might make another baby quilt or two. I've got ideas, I've got fabric and as I've got no other babies looming on the horizon, I'm thinking maybe a charity donation, as there has to be some little babies out there in need of a quilty hug? 

So my top tip for anyone who's lost their sewing mojo is: look at your stash with fresh eyes and aim to make something just using what you've got. It doesn't have to be a big quilt. Raid your stash for fabrics for mug rugs or table runners, pouches and cushions. After all Christmas is just around the corner and if you're stash is holding you back get some of it used... can always buy more fabric if you use too much up!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Big Stitch Swap Round 2

I had (pretty much intentionally) dropped off the face of the blogiverse of late. The simple fact is I've completely lost my joy for sewing. I signed up for a swap so I had to sew and whilst I enjoyed coming up with a design for my partner and even doing the whole sewing bit. It's made me want to do little more than think about sewing.

I haven't bought fabric in ages. I was convinced I would be the one bulk buying Mendocino (when my all time fave fabric became available again this spring.) However, I've not felt the urge to buy any. And yes maybe one day I'll regret that. Who knows.

Not sewing has been a major factor in not blogging. Whilst my blog has never been wholly sewing motivated, I have always felt that the bulk of my readership was here to see what I'd made or was making.   Sometimes I miss blogging. I know so many people that were blogging when I started that no longer blog or blog infrequently now. The loss of that sense of community and camaraderie has in some ways helped me not feel too bad about not blogging.

So what have I been doing instead. I am still a prolific photographer. It's the creative 'thing' that over the years has consistently brought me the most happiness. I can't imagine ever getting bored of taking pictures of things. I feel I'm constantly learning and (hopefully) improving. I absolutely love making my blurb year books. And since last years foreign trip (which I never did blog about.) I've started making travel blurb books too. I suffer quite seriously from a travel related anxiety. I am forever trying to get to grips with it. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not so. What usually motivates me greater than anything else is knowing I can take photos of every trip. Next month I'm off on my adventures again. When the trip was booked, I'll confess the excitement vanished into a complete irrational melt down. But as I'm working through all that, the thought I can fill a zillion memory cards to document the trip and then come home and make a photo book and on miserable dark winter nights I can look back and remember, is what's motivating me through all the rubbish stuff that goes on in my head.

But what of the sewing I have done!? My partner made a lovely inspiration mosaic over on instagram and whilst her sign up form indicated a love of bright colours I picked up a sort of vintage love from the mosaic and once I'd run with that idea I found I'd probably gone a bit more muted than I'd intended or she would have liked. But I'm hoping she likes it just the same.

Mini for my partner

I made yo-yo's/Suffolk punches - first time since I was at infant school and most of the square shaped fabric you see is raw edged and sewing down with mini kantha style mini stitches in rows along and across each piece. 

The rabbit is made from a scrap of Heather Ross double gauze I'd been hoarding for just the right project. The lace circle has been in my stash forever. I'm not sure I've used one before. I think they were another item I was saving just because! It is so liberating to no longer feel so precious about my fabric/stash. The binding was left over from another quilt and I had just enough to bind this little mini. The background fabric is a piece of Essex linen. Apart from sewing down the binding on my machine, ready to hand sew down at the back - everything else has been hand sewn. 

I'm sure if I was more motivated I'd have destashed a lot of my fabric by now. I may start off by sorting out some scraps and putting them on instagram. Just don't hold your breath I'll be back to regularly blogging any time soon. 

Monday, 15 February 2016

I made a quilt!

I appeared to have dropped of the face of the blogiverse. That's what a chest infection followed by a cold than hung on and on before and all over Christmas will do for me blogging. Chief gets the blame for the cold. He decided to come and nurse me with my chest infection...he had a stinker of a cold at the time and all that happened was we swapped germs and that put paid to seeing each other between Christmas and New Year! Not spending Christmas with Chief is becoming a tradition now.

Something else that feeling poorly and getting caught up with other Christmas plans put paid to, was finishing the quilt I wanted to give to a family member. I'm fairly sure she won't be stopping by my blog any time soon.  I think I'll get away with revealing it on here before it's been gifted for her birthday.


Country Garden Snowball Quilt

I am calling it Country Garden Snowball Quilt because all the fabric I chose for this, I chose because it reminded me of flowers in a country garden herbaceous border. I was lucky enough to win a give away Jo had and I'm sure she'll recognise a lot of the fabric I won, in this quilt - it fitted the bill perfectly. The rest is from stash. I haven't bought any fabric since before Christmas. Apart from there being a strong chance I'll get myself some Mendocino when it hits the shops I have no interest in buying more fabric. I actually am more determined than ever to get rid of fabric not acquire it. I think part of the reason I've stopped enjoying quilting is: I can't see the wood for the trees any more. The logical thing would be to have a destash. I'm not ruling that out. It just feels like an impossible task at the moment. So I'm hoping to have a real purge on the making front. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed making a quilt. There are stages I don't much like. (Quilting will never be my thing.) But I love sewing the binding on and knowing I'm about to have a finished quilt. 

The white fabric in this quilt is, I believe, Kona Snow - some I bought from Jude's etsy shop because I never have enough white/solid fabrics to use like this in quilts. The binding was made from two fat quarters of  green Denyse Schmidt fabric from the Flea Market Fancy Reprint. The backing (which I didn't get a picture of is a white and green vintage sheet I found in a charity shop.) 

Country Garden Snowball Quilt
Taking pics on a windy day is never easy but you can just
glimpse the backing here!

I forgot to measure the final quilt. I think it's around 45" x 58"

Believe it or not I have already decided to make a quilt for another friends birthday - yes, it'll be another quick simple design where the fabric does the talking and I intend making it all from stash. Also, cutting the wadding for this I have a piece left over that would be about the right size for a baby quilt and I've been wanting to make some baby quilts for a while - and as I have no babies to make for, I'm thinking charity quilt time...If I can get all this done I really can bust my stash. More on what I'd like to do creatively (non quilting wise) another time. 
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