Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Goodbye 2013...hello 2014!

It's the traditional Hogmanay post, where I look back on the year passed and reflect on the coming new year.  This time last year I was still blogging under Second Fiddle and wrote a new year's resolution post over here.  Lets see how I fared, shall we?


Oaked hat in action!  May in Scotland = wellies, bodywarmer, hat.

1.  Craft more for me!  I was definitely better at that this year, completing the Oaked hat, Still Light jumper dress frankensweater, Brick sweater, upcycling teacups to plantpots, converting a t-shirt to a vest, upcycling old sweaters to cushion covers, making myself a scrub top from vintage sheets and making myself a mobile sock.  I also redesigned a tote bag and made my first Sorbetto top for me.  Much better than the 4 projects for me from 2012!

To help with this resolution, I entered the Did You Make That? Sewlutions challenge.  I foolishly stated the following:

Ooo, count me in! I’d like to pledge to make 6 items of clothing for me over the course of the year. I think one every other month is manageable!  

Now, the key word here is 'make'.  At the time I meant 'sew', since it's sewing that I struggle to find time to practice.  Knitting is easy and portable and you can do it for 20 minutes no problem.  Sewing is difficult and requires concentration and space to cut out and lots of moving around and up-and-down from the machine to the iron to the table  = MAJORLY NOT RELAXING.  This year I have only sewn myself 3 items, only achieving 50% of my sewlution.  Cringe, I hate failing.  If by 'make' we include knitted projects, then I count 6 items so yay, success!  No, don't be silly, you failed.  Hang your head and try again in 2014 missy.


My one and only Sorbetto this year.  It's had a lot of wear so far though!

But!  I'm all for learning from your mistakes.  My issues with sewing are as follows:

- I don't know what I'm doing so I guess and bodge and end up with something sub-par.  This makes me disheartened and reluctant to try again next time.

- I'm quite time limited for my crafting, so I prefer to prioritise projects I know I can succeed with i.e. knitting.  Sewing involves lots of setting up and tidying away, which eats into my actual crafting time.  

- Sewing is more expensive in terms of patterns and notions.  I have a lot of stash fabric but to make a specific pattern you need to buy said pattern and the appropriate notions, which is often more than I can afford to spend, especially when a lot of the lovely indie patterns out there that I'd love to try are £7-15 a piece, before notions.  Since I can't guarantee a good, wearable outcome, I'm worried about spending the money, ruining the pattern and having nothing to show for it.


Sewaholic's Hollyburn skirt

I've decided for 2014 that I need to start again from scratch with a nice, easy beginner pattern.  Something that will guide me through but leave me with something I will actually wear and use.  Something ideally in digital format, so if it goes wrong, I can print it again!  Or I need to learn to trace patterns.  To this end I intend to make more Sorbettos, try Sencha (also by Colette patterns) and try Sewaholic's Hollyburn skirt.  These are all patterns that would fill gaps in my wardrobe, but allow me to practice my skills and start again from scratch. In the meantime, my sewing machine and I are taking a break from each other.  There's no point continuing to force it when it just ain't happenin'.  I've got plenty of knitting to be getting on with in the meantime.


2.  Start giving regularly to charity.  This is something I can proudly say I've managed.  I set aside a small amount of money every month to give away and have given to several different charities over the course of the year.  I couldn't settle on just one as there are so many different good causes so I decided to give to a different one each month as caught my eye.  I've given to friends doing sponsered runs or growing body hair, I've given to bucket collectors in the street for national charity days and small, local charities collecting outside Boots.  I saved the last 5 months of the year and gave a lump sum to the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home as it's the local charity rehoming centre from which we got Badger and I work with them through the vet school neutering programme.

- Next year I'd like to continue this resolution, it's given me a good feeling to be able to start giving back to the world in a small way.  Hopefully when this internship is over and I'm back on a normal wage I'll be able to increase my contributions as well.

3.  Start doing exercise.  I did really well with this for the first 3 months of the year, training 2-3 times a week for the half marathon.  Then job hunting took over and I got disheartened and ended up giving up training.

I'm not going to keep this one next year, it's not a priority for me at the moment and I'm OK with that, I've made my peace with my health and body for the moment.  Plus, talking about exercise is BORING.  Hand me the wine bottle.

So!  Instead I'm substituting the following:

By the end of 2014, I want to have a better work-life balance.  This internship will be over in 7 months (and counting) and I want my next job to allow me more time to indulge my extra-curricular activities and spend more time with friends and family.  I love being a vet, don't get me wrong, but I love other things too!  How am I going to learn how to sew my own wardrobe when I work 12 days on, 2 days off??

I'm excited about 2014 - it's the year I get married, hopefully get a new job and possibly move house.  Plus, with all the exciting craft projects I've got on the brew, what's not to look forward to?  Have a lovely time with your friends and family and I'll see you all on the other side!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Homemade teacup candles from thrifted teacups

Like all normal 27 year olds, I have a large collection of teacups.  In my head, I live in a large, rambling farmhouse with an oak sideboard.  The type with little brass hooks from which my teacups would daintily hang, all colourful and inviting.  In reality I live in an an old Edinburgh tenement (the picture on the Wikipedia page of the back of an Edinburgh tenement building could be a picture of my building, it's identical), which, although more than large enough for 2 people and a dog, is not quite big enough for an antique oak sideboard.  Plus, lugging that thing up 3 flights of stairs?  No thank you.


So, although over the years I've amassed this collection, I decided recently to start living the life I ACTUALLY live, rather than the fantasy life I've built up in my head (*ahem* cupboard full of gardening equipment for the non-existent-but-future-garden-space).  Off to charity and friends has gone a lot of the stuff I accumulated but some of it was too pretty to let go without crafting first.


You've already seen the first of my teacup makes, the teacup pincushion.  Incidentally, my Mum loved this when she got it as part of her Christmas present!  Just got to make myself one now, since I've mastered the art of using hot glue to secure the cushion, without gluing myself to the table or the inside of the cup.  Hot glue on your thumb nail is surprisingly sore.


Followers on Instagram may have seen some of these already.  Feel free to join me in the Instagram fun!

I bought eco soy wax, scents, wicks, wick holders and dye from Whickedwax1 on Ebay, recommended by Frances of Lapin Gris Crafts.  Postage was fast and the supplies were good quality, I would definitely go back.  Making the candles themselves was surprisingly simple, once I'd mastered how to attach the wick to the wick stand.  I slopped a fair amount of wax on the counter, since I don't have a pyrex bowl with a pouring spout (and was half-cut at the time) but soy wax is super easy to clean up, who knew?!



I used 'baked apple pie' and 'cinnamon' scents, since I thought they'd be nice and festive.  On Frances' recommendation I used half a pot of scent for each candle, though I would probably go with a quarter per candle next time.  The scent is reasonably strong and making them did stink out the kitchen slightly!  The amount probably depends on the size of your container though.



I had enough wax left over to make 2 for me!  I would definitely do these again, I have 2 old Yankee candle jars I'm planning on refilling and would love to make a massive candle with 3 or 4 wicks out of vintage glassware you see all the time in charity shops.


Overall, a definite success!  I see many more candle making/wine drinking/radio 6 listening sessions in 2014!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas from Craft & Thrift!

Merry Christmas to all my lovely readers!  Craft & Thrift has been going 6 months now and I have lots of exciting craft plans for 2014 so watch this space...


In the meantime, enjoy the festive season and spend lots of quality time with friends and family.  I'm at work today (boo) but am enjoying giving all the animals Christmas cuddles!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Wooly sweater from British Herdwick aran

Last year, instead of going on my graduating class holiday, I went to Woolfest with my Gran.  WOOLFEST...ROCK ON!!  It was amazing, a festival of all things yarn and wool, complete with adorable breeds of all kinds of sheep, goats and alpaca to admire.  My Gran bought me 13 balls of Herdwick aran wool from Ruth Strong, who raises her own sheep and spins their wool.  I wanted to knit myself a nice, basic pullover, something that would go with everything and could be worn with jeans and a t-shirt in the winter for an easy, stylish and warm outfit.

The yarn itself was easy to knit and is definitely super warm.  It's pretty scratchy but that doesn't bother me, though if you had delicate skin it might be an issue.  I wore it every day for about 10 days after I blocked it, until I really had to take it off and wash it before it walked into the sink by itself!  That's how you know a project is a success, when you can't bear to part with it while it's washed.

The keen-eyed Instagram followers amongst you will probably have seen the pictures of this sweater in progress, here and here.  It was a quick knit, though I struggled with the instructions for the neckline, I could not for the life of me get the right number of stitches so after the third time of trying, I just ripped it out and went my own way.  I'm happy with how it's turned out slightly V neck, it makes it more obvious which is the front and back when I put it on!


Not sure why this one is smaller than the others, thanks for randomly resizing my stuff Flickr.  Also, what's with the sudden change to this iframe malarkey?  Not cool.

I went for my favourite length of sleeves - three quarters.  I don't know why I like it so much, for a warm snuggly jumper having long sleeves would be more practical but I think the 3/4 length suits me better. 

The pattern is Brick by Clare Lee and you can see my Ravelry notes over here (not much more to read than here really, I'm not one for all the technical details, sorry!  Feel free to follow me on Ravelry though if you like to see pretty pictures of knitted stuff!).

Overall, 100% success!  Now onto my next jumper project, an Owls by Kate Davies jumper for me!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Homemade terrarium or succulent porn...

...or how there are dinosaurs living on my kitchen windowsill.  A few years back, my Gran gave me this amazing terrarium that had been languishing in her garden unloved.  It was full of decaying leaves and soil but a quick wash in warm water and fairy liquid later and it came up good as new.  Around the same time, I inherited a load of houseplants from a friend who was emigrating and put two and two together to make a terrarium.  You can see it when it was first planted up over on my Instagram, look how far it's come!


I love terrariums, I love the minature world feel of them, like you've got the Lost World on your windowsill, complete with dinosaurs and tiny, little men.  It's like a whole ecosystem contained in one small glass jar.



I also love succulents, they're so easy to keep and green all year round.  I love their chubby, little leaves and the different shades of green.  They grow fast enough to keep your interest (unlike cacti who never do anything - boring) but not so fast that you're constantly having to find new, larger pots for them.  The perfect houseplant in my opinion.


So, when I stumbled upon a second unloved terrarium in my Gran's garden, I knew I had to snatch it from under her nose and pot it up for her birthday.  I've had so many compliments for my terrarium, it's probably my favourite houseplant (coming from a person with at least 17 houseplants) so it made sense to share the terrarium love around.  My Gran is the kind of person who doesn't NEED anything, she's a hairsbreadth away from a spot on a channel 4 hoarding documentary, so taking something unloved that she already owned and making it into something new and lovely made perfect sense.




I haven't given it to her yet but I'm sure she's going to love it, how could you not love these little guys?  For only 99p per plant and compost and gravel I already owned, it was an awesome thrifty present.  Especially awesome just before Christmas!


On a vague indoor gardening note - check out our Christmas tree!  It's the most beautiful tree we've ever owned I think, Andrew spent over an hour getting it to stand straight but now it looks amazing!  We got it from Dobbies garden centre, would definitely go there again, the trees are lovely and really nice quality.  They've got loads of Christmas shopping as well, lots of different outdoors brands, along with kitchenwares and pet stuff.  There's also a massive cafe though we didn't stay for coffee as it was a Saturday and it was hoaching.  I'd go back next year but probably go during the week so it was quieter.  Our tree was grown in Inverness, which is especially cool because that's where Andrew's folks are from!


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Take 2 sweaters, combine to form 2 cushion covers

This is another project from the Guilt Pile (which magically never seems to get smaller, despite finishing or discarding several projects recently that have been festering in there for months).  Years ago, when I first started sewing, I made several cushion covers (a beginner sewist's staple) that have been used in various flats and on various sofas and chairs until their final resting place in our current flat in the kitchen.  They were a combination of jeans-to-cushion covers, with natty red ribbon and lightening bolts and blue cotton tie-dye and flower appliqué.  I took a photo to show you all but they're honestly so faded and holey that it was too embarrassing to post them on the internet.


So instead, you can see the new, upcycled sweater cushion covers that have replaced them!  I combined the cushion pads from the old cushions to make 2 new cushion inners from 4 old pads, they were too flat and uncomfortable to make 4 new cushions but combining them into pairs makes for very fluffy, comfortable cushions.


The cable sweater is one my Mum knitted me years ago and I wore until it started dropping to pieces.  I couldn't bear to part with it but it was looking very 'heroin-chic' as one friend put it i.e. holey and stained with lots of loose bits of yarn and bobbles.


The blue sweater was my favourite 100% wool sweater for seeing practice when I was a vet student, it was smart and went with all my shirt.  Unfortunately when both elbows and the cuffs disintegrated, I knew it was time to move on.  It was originally £3 from a charity shop though so it didn't owe me anything.


This was a down-and-dirty project, a whip-up-in-one-evening type affair.  As a result, the corners especially are quite wonky but sometimes you just want a quick fix without worrying too much about matching seams and professional finish, y'know?  Especially with my job at the moment, I get so little time for sewing that it's nice to just cut out and finish a project in one sitting, otherwise it might be weeks until I get another chance to finish it off.  Plus, 4 crappy old cushion covers out of my Guilt Pile and 2 new comfy cushions for my darling behind to rest upon.  Win!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

...and the winners are...

*drumroll please*

It's time to announce the winners of my Handknit gloves and hats giveaway!  (probably should have come up with a catchier title on reflection).  I've had lots of fun with Random.org chosing the winners!

  • The most popular item was the purple cable gloves, who will be winging their way to Jaclyn Reynolds.  I'm glad they're going to a good home, I do love them but I never wear them and they deserve more love than I can give them.
  • Else won the Penis Gloves.  I'm sad to see you guys go, I only wore you twice before I realised that they were basically falling off my hands.  Mental note - must knit more gloves.

  • Lorraine - you'll be getting the headband!

  • Sarah T - the wool bobble hat is yours.

  • Keith has been bequeathed the cream hat.  It'll keep yo'head snuggly warm!

No one wanted the poor, sad fingerless gloves.  But, since they're the only item not made by me and no one wanted them, I'm going to take that as a sign that you all wanted a piece of the Amy-made love.  You're welcome.

Thanks so much for entering everybuddy and sharing my little corner of the blogosphere with the world.  Welcome to my new readers!  I hope to not disappoint.


On that note, onto the crafts!  Just a little one this evening as I'm got a date with a bath, a glass of wine and Neil Gaiman.  I've been ill most of the week so I'm indulging now I feel back to normal.  I made this little guy a few weeks back for my mobile, after an unfortunate incident that led to a broken screen and a claim on my phone insurance.


How cute is this fabric?!  And I'm a vet, so how appropriate?!  The only non-appropriate part is that it's white, so it already looks a bit grubby.  Since it's lined with some stash-satin, I'm not sure it wouldn't shrink horribly in the wash so it's a handwash jobbie for definite.  Also, since I've started to use it, 2 buttons are a bit impractical, its a bit of a fumble to get the mobile in and out.


Overall though, a success and I use it all the time now.  And all from stashed fabric and buttons, how thrifty am I?!  Now to go spend all my monies on Christmas presents instead.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Countdown to Christmas!


It's only 20 days until Christmas everybuddy!  We bought and put up our Christmas tree this weekend and I'm going to use the leftover branches to make a wreath next weekend.  I also dug out our advent calendar, one of the first of my 'proper' craft projects (i.e. more than just an oddly shaped rectangle I called a 'scarf') made about 7 years ago.  Despite how amateur and wonky it looks now, I still love it, it's so bright and Christmassy.  Every year I buy a tin of Roses and put 2 sweets in each pocket.



Sometime soon I'm going to replace the horrid wire coat hanger with something more smart, but every time I go to replace it, I get all nostalgic for my early crafting days and leave it as it is.  The backing white fabric was originally a table cloth and all the beads and fabric were from my early stash.  I still have some of these squares left over!


I love holiday traditions.  I'm working over Christmas this year so I'm determined to enjoy the festive season these first 2 weeks to make up for missing out on Christmas week itself!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Teacup pincushion

If you follow me on Pinterest, you'll see I've been pinning teacup pincushions recently.  It's all part of my grand Christmas plan to bring a handmade touch to some of my presents, without going overboard and crafting huge amounts of items and stressing myself out.  Last year I made a skirt, a jumper, a scarf, a snood and several baby toys, with the end result being hours of frantic knitting and sewing, sweating over my needles and giving myself hand cramp.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love making things for other people.  But the problem with Christmas is you need to make so many things ALL AT ONCE.  Rather than birthdays, where it's individual items spread throughout the year.


This year I decided to keep the handmade-by-me to a minimum and instead try and buy presents from other craftspeople.  What little crafting I intend to do will be small pieces to compliment bought gifts, rather than the main present itself.


So, enter the teacup pincushion!  I'm making my Mum a sewing basket, once it's done and finished it'll be the subject of a future post but in the meantime, I was excited to share my pincushion just now!


I went through a phase of collecting blue and white china, a hobby I intend to revisit once I live in a rambling farmhouse in the country 20 years from now, but for the moment I live in a 2 bedroom tenement and so don't really have space for slightly impractical sets of teaware.  Not that I haven't used my china, over the years I've thrown several tea parties for the Royal Wedding or the Diamond Jubilee but if I'm being honest with myself, it's a big box taking up room in the cupboard that could be put to better use for the time being.  So I've decided to upcycle as much of the china as I can.


Most of it was acquired from auctions or charity shops and none of it was expensive, I have in mind this little guy cost me around £1.49. The beads, material and stuffing were from my stash so this is a proper thrifty project.  I googled several tutorials for teacup pincushions before starting and took the basic concepts on board to make my own.  This was attempt 2, attempt 1 ended up in the bin after trying unsuccessfully to glue the pearls around the edge.  The glue went everywhere, including my table and fingers and just looked awful.  The second attempt I glued in the cushion but sewed on the pearls, which looks much nicer.  I'm debating whether or not to glue the cup to the saucer or whether it will be more flexible to be able to separate them as needed.  I could see Mum using the saucer for thimbles and chalk so I might just leave them unattached.  I want to make one for myself now!