Calm down and get crafting

 

 

Do you spend most of your time having ideas but not following through?

Is there a dark corner of your home that has a mountain of unfinished projects?

Do you find you are so full of ideas that you cannot focus or sleep?

You aren’t alone

To be honest most of the time I find my creativity overwhelming; last week for example, I visited the library to return one book, I came home with several books; subjects were varied from hat making, dog training and gardening. I spent most of this week researching hats and gardening websites, leaving projects unfinished because the excitement for them has waned.

The biggest problem I face is maintaining enthusiasm for a project until its completed without being de-railled by the next idea.

Ideas and inspiration are everywhere, for example I was walking my dog and I came across some variegated ivy, by the time we made it home the idea developed and I taught a Christmas Wreath workshop out of it. I had to go through a process of trial and error (or playing as I prefer to call it) before I could take that idea forward into a course.

I thought I would share simple steps to ride that wave of enthusiasm, enjoy the making process right through to success! 

1 KEEP A NOTEBOOK

Writing down an idea means that I don’t lose it;

instead I can keep it on record until I have the time to pursue it.

Some of my best ideas come usually when I am in the middle of doing something else or on a long car journey. I take a notebook with me wherever I go.

Some projects never get beyond this stage, but others develop in time – I might change the method or the materials or  from a cushion to a wall hanging. Keeping a log of ideas also reduces the fear that one day my creativity cease at the moment I will need to come up with something.

The important thing is that my ‘new’ idea doesn’t derail my project.

2 LIMIT RESEARCH-2

Trying to create my idea while surfing the net – is like trying to be heard at a loud party! 

Learn to search with a purpose and tune out distractions

The process starts with a Pinterest board or  Flickr for inspiration but I narrow my search just on the object I am making. It doesn’t mean that I can’t ever spend time browsing and meandering around the internet, just not while I am trying to do a project.

A while ago I decided to make a vintage apron after a little research I decided on the design I liked most and I had incorporated elements of other aprons I had seen. I did not stray from aprons, even though my Pinterest feed was full of lovely things – I knew if I wandered off the path I would end up wanting to make a host of other things but essentially be too scattered to do anything.

I look at youtube tutorials, see how others have made them and incorporate their methods and ideas. I revise techniques I haven’t used for a while; there is no right or wrong way to make something, but there are a host of tips and tricks there.

Know when to STOP

Its important to decide when I have researched enough – I usually draw or sketch out what I am making, so that I have a fixed idea and then I stop looking. It is essential: otherwise I will find my ideas get muddled or I can get stuck  looking for the ‘next’ apron that might be better and my creative time slot has gone.

From that point on It is vital to stay away from the web until I have finished my project – it calms down the chatter in my head I find I am more focussed on my project idea. It is a relaxing place to be: allowing my mind to focus on just one thing for a while.

“Ignore the helpful voice suggesting I might miss something ..”

I have discovered that there will still be lots on the web waiting for me when my project is complete. It has always surprised me that after a few weeks away from FB it takes me only ten minutes to catch up!

MAKE NOTES-2

Taking a break helps you to be productive.

There is a theory that your creative mind is often drowned out by your problem solving logical mind, repetitive tasks such as walking or housework occupy the logical mind enough to allow the creative mind to come forward. That is why some the most creative ideas come while you are mopping the floor or in a supermarket queue. 

Walking the dog is good for creativity, I need time for my imagination to process my research, sift through the ideas and come up with a practical way to bring my idea into being. Walking is meditative and the physical movement oxygenates the blood helping the brain to function – I let my imagination take flight.

If you feel blocked or over stimulated it is really one of the best cures – right now its a real delight to see a snowdrop with its head bent in the frost, or the daffodil buds forcing their way through.

The internet works at a frenetic pace, connecting with nature and the slow rhythms of the seasons helps to slow down over stimulated minds. 

develop your idea-2

At this point you may want to simply jump in, but you are missing the fun of developing your originality – take time to explore your project.

Let’s assume I am making a strawberry pincushion, I can find 100 strawberry pincushions on the web – if I jump in now my pincushion will be like a photo copy of a photo copy or 101st strawberry pincushion –I need to make my own original version. I print out some of my research, (but I don’t go back to the web), play with the templates, mix them up – take the elements I like, piece them together to come up with my own design – original designs are what gets published .

I might look at strawberries, the shape, the colour, study them. Draw them. Get a feel for the strawberry, make it my own. I need to be off grid for this – its about my strawberry not the 100 net versions.

Crayons can be tremendous fun, or cut up magazine pictures, collages. I am not doing a work of art I am exploring the object. Even great artists do this, it should be sketchy, scratchy – definitely not a finished article – more about observation – or grown up play.

I might gather materials I might use, is it red velvet? Felt? Am I going to use embroidery? What shades of green do I have for the leaves?  I rustle through my stash – with a sense of purpose. A bead might be just the right thing for strawberry seeds, or I might find just the right shade of red fabric.

buy only what you need

Its so easy to get lost in buying: fabric stores are full of inspiration -in the past I have gone in for a fat quarter and ended up buying fabric for a dress.

Space is finite: filling a studio up with stuff not only reduces space to be creative the stuff saps energy. 

My first studio became a jumble; at first it was a great space but as time went on it became harder to find things, I had to move things around each time until eventually I would waste hours simply sorting through my stash. I would walk away not feeling uplifted as I did when I first had the studio but stepping away guilty at my lack productivity.

accumulating things was not making me creative it was making me feel guilty.

So now I make a list, stick to it and promise myself I will go back for the dress fabric I spotted that is temptingly more exciting than making strawberries. (I can jot it down in my notebook or take away a sample and tape it on a page) but I don’t buy it.

 I remain focussed but open minded -if I were looking for red velvet and I found some beautiful red wool that sings to me; then I am still creating a strawberry pincushion.

After a trip to a shop if I am wavering, it helps me to look at the collages and sketches once more – my enthusiasm emerges and I usually find the tempting other project fades.

 

Making is a journey not a destination

Collage, drawings and sketching will have helped to remain focussed, its time to  gather everything together to create don’t be surprised if you have a sudden desire to clean the windows, or re-order your stash because..

Making is scary! 

I find my ‘helpful perfection critic’ usually pipes up, listing all the things that could go wrong and why this particular project needs to be ‘PERFECT’.

Its helpful to see the making stage as experimentation

This is the journey – be prepared to have fun its not about getting to the outcome as quickly as possible.

Try different versions, see what works and what doesn’t.

If you are making clothes, do a toile first, if its a painting, use a ‘test’ canvass.

Expect failures, disasters or for things not to do what you expected

Sometimes the most wonderful ‘accidents’ turn into some of the best projects.

Be prepared to problem solve try to enjoy the challenge

If you get stuck then ask a friend or a forum or Facebook group.

You might need to look at youtube tutorials again, but stay on track.

Creating is a process – give yourself lots of time and allow for experimentation

It is easy to lose heart if it isn’t working – it is tempting to put it away…don’t give in!

If you have really hit a block,  take some time out usually a walk is the best exercise

Most artists imaginations are far richer than the reality – I may feel that my project has not come up to my expectations, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good.

Accept that you may never be entirely satisfied with what you have made – it is ok. 

Show a trusted friend – one that is encouraging, they may love it

If they suggest changes try not to take it personally but use it to direct you, see everything you make as learning

Try not to point out mistakes and accept the imperfections; it is hand made not machine bought.

The Japanese believe that imperfections are uniquely beautiful – imperfections make stamps and coins more valuable.

If its a dress,  no-one will notice the wonky seam line until you point it out! 

I like this quote:

Art is a process not an object

if you would like to find out more about avoiding procrastination, Bekki at the Creativity Cauldron has some fantastic advice, books and tips to help you tackle your unfinished objects.

I would be interested to read your tips, strategies or struggles please add them in the comments box.

most of all have fun

ttfn x

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Fabric Portraits

DSC01658

Its wet and cold outside, so there is nothing more delightful than having a little time sewing and being able to kick back and play a little. I am teaching a couple of workshops and one of those explores free motion embroidery but I thought I would also try a hand at appliqué portraits as an option.

It is a great way to use up scraps as you only need small amounts of fabric. It can be quite interesting to play around with the fabric direction to enhance the shape. I really liked the way this brown flower piece seemed to create an interesting top detail.

Free motion embroidery is addictive! its just a case of dropping the feed dogs, (the metal teeth that move the fabric past the needle), most machines have a little button, most likely your manual will tell you where to find yours. Use a embroidery needle, its not just sharp but also has a strong shank.

Self portrait

I used this picture as a template – I wear a lot of hats and so it is a recognisable feature.

You need to print your picture out roughly the size you want to stitch.

While this photo looks a good choice, the tilt of my head creates an angle for my eyes, and my mouth is slightly tilted you can see what problems crop up in the stitched portrait.

As it is just playing I decided to go with it.

Stitched portait

You can get something called dressmakers’ carbon paper, its used to transfer embroidery designs or simply use ordinary carbon.

Iron your fabric so that it is free of creases it should be larger than the picture.

Lay the carbon paper on top – make sure the transfer side is face down onto the fabric – finally place the picture on top.

Carefully trace the features, eyes, mouth, hair and nose. It helps if you use a ball point pen that shows up in the photograph so you can see what you have traced. Its important to check you have all the pieces because once you lift the picture off, you cannot re-do it.

begin stitching

I find it easier to back the fabric with some iron on interfacing, and a hoop. It prevents the fabric from shifting and wrinkling as you stitch.

Drawing with your sewing machine is easy but different to using a pencil. The needle stays in place and you move the fabric to create the lines rather than the paper staying still and the pencil moving!

Use a darning foot – you can see easier and the loop of the foot prevents the fabric from being pushed through the holes in the footplate.

You may find it easier to work backwards and forwards, moving the fabric quickly results in large stitches, or slowly creates tiny stitches.

applique shapesOnce you have created the features, you can trim it and then assemble the appliqué shapes.

Use the photograph to create the appliqué templates, such as the hat, and the dress.

Use the lines not just to highlight the features, but also to give shading to the hat.

rose applique

Finally I added a rose appliqué, another feature I often have is a flower brooch in my hair – this was a tiny flower on a scrap of fabric, but it really brightens up the whole picture.

I think it is best to simply follow a few lines, rather than go into too much detail. I could have put in the cheeks and little dimple that you can see in the photograph, but it can go drastically wrong! less is more.

As you can see, the tilt has meant my eyes are at a slight angle. I think I can get away with it, but maybe next time I shall try and get a more level photograph.

I do hope you will try this, its so much fun – frame them in an embroidery hoop and hang on the wall.

ttfn x

Poppies, workshops and fabulous felting!

I love Autumn; its a time of nesting, gathering ripe blackberries to create jams and jellies, pickling onions and cucumbers: the anticipation of cosy nights by the fire crocheting or knitting while the cold nights stay outside the warm glow of the windows. The summer activities are winding down, my focus turns to creating a comfortable cosy home, and crafting.  
I have been speaking to Clothkits and Eternal Maker about running workshops, the first of which will be needle felting poppies for remembrance day in November. Its the centenary of the start of the first World War this year, the BBC have been running such interesting programmes about the lives of ordinary men and women a hundred years ago.  Yet in recent years, we are still seeing soldiers return home injured or worse, it has begun to feel less like history, and lamentable that we are still engaged in conflict today. I hope to give a donation to the Poppy appeal as it is such a great cause. 

I really enjoy needle felting, it is so satisfying to be able to replicate the beauty of flowers and leaves so easily, blending colours, shaping the wool; it’s a pleasurable way to spend half an hour, the projects evolve very quickly and easily. (You just have to keep your fingers out of the way!) 
If you would like to try this yourself, I can recommend Gillian Harris’s book Felting Fabulous flowers, the projects are delightful and the step by step instructions are easy to follow. You can purchase a copy on amazon.

Making Merry

Happy New Year!

What a a great Christmas break
!  Despite my earlier postings of my potential meltdown, I had a fab time, even though:
 My Christmas Puddings were an absolute disaster (consistency of stew rather than pudding)
We had our Christmas dinner on a lovely piece of fabric that I had not hemmed -it still looked lovely.
I did manage to enjoy all the decorations without my bunting, heart felt garlands, handmade stocking,  etc etc.

So… note to self, (when the magazines and shops are revving up their ‘best ever Christmas’) it doesn’t matter! What matters is having fun with your nearest and dearest without throwing a wobbly over the handmade thingamy that is supposed to be the pinnacle of the celebrations but you feel you have to finish like a sweat shop sewing machinist on Christmas Eve. Everyone just wants a glass of wine and play a game or two! (Luckily I ditched all the ideas of the handmade thingamys way before Christmas eve and was happily playing a word game with my beloved over a glass or two snug as a bug).

January is nearly over; I  kept up a new year’s resolution to take regular exercise – (I have managed wii fit plus now for 6 days running – (with the exception of Saturday)) so the plan to be fitter and healthier is on its way. Although the healthy eating is postponed until all the Christmas Chocolate is eaten.. (hopefully it will be Easter by then!)

My resolve was further enhanced by creating my body double for my dressmaking… oh la la.. all those curvy bits that have become even curvier!

Yoga is proving to be absolute bliss..

I had a fabulous birthday,  whisked off to a famous London store to spend a little credit card! Needless to say it was well and truly swiped clean of the credit in under half an hour in the fabric department! See photo above and try and guess which store… (I am the one in the middle) the shop is  famous for bodices, fabric, (did I mention fabric?) the arts and crafts movement.

Oh.. the shop itself is absolute bliss, little fireplaces tucked away with exquisite tiles! It looks like a tudor building but really isn’t that old… Of course delightful Mr D, did recognise that I do have certain endearing qualities. The way I strolled through the jewellery department without a second glance, my eyes fixed on another one of my passions… stationery. Notebook (with cream pages) the latest edition to my growing collection.

cheerio
 (that used to be a way of saying goodbye before the breakfast cereal!)

Girlie Birthday Party – tea cake and crafting!

I bought this lovely basket last year and when it had finished flowering I put it in the garden, last week I discovered the bulbs had pushed through the snow so I brushed it off and put it on the kitchen window sill where I can enjoy it while I wash the dishes. It is a lovely reminder that spring is not that far away. 
I had a lovely weekend, after the gym on Saturday I just hung about the house enjoying having very little to do, and on Sunday I had my Girlie birthday party at Lulamaes in Arundel. Its ages since I had a Birthday party but this was a very grown up affair, with cream tea, cakes and crafting. There were ten of us in all and everyone went  home with a lovely felted brooch or pendant they had made. The cafe itself is beautiful, so delightfully decorated and the cakes are home made and sublime. Everything was provided for us and all we had to do was sit down, chat and enjoy ourselves. I went home feeling thoroughly spoilt with some beautiful gifts – definitely a birthday to treasure for a long time to come.  

Top of the Pots

I never used to understand why people would make pot holders until I bought a lovely cast iron skillet. After years of using tea towels, scrunched up or oven gloves that always seemed to be so padded I ended up nearly dropping things, these little pieces of cloth are perfect! 
The heart is embroidered with a fancy machine stitch, I created it as a practise piece when I was trying to get to grips with my sewing machine and never really knew what to do with it. It was also another fad of dyed wool blanket which came out a beautiful thick consistency and a lovely christmassy red. 
I love the cosiness of the red and the white and the bias binding was a great ebay purchase all the way from Poland. I think they will be my latest fad, there are so many variations and designs out there and it is a small simple project to play with, far more manageable than a huge double quilt! 
With time so limited these days, I often just want to make something quick in the afternoon in the short time I have available, and these are ideal, I am sure I shall be adding to the list of pictures over time. 

Perfect Christmas?

December is always busier than I realise, I get lulled into a false sense of security the shops start selling Christmas goods in September so I learn to ignore them until suddenly its the second week of December and Christmas cards drop through the letterbox which gives me a sense of alarm as I have not written any yet! 
I do enjoy Christmas it gives a tremendous focus for creativity, not just present making but decorating the house and cooking special food. It has taken me a number of years though to get the balance right. When I was first married with a young baby, I would try to create the ‘perfect Christmas’ which often left me worn out, stressed and not great fun to be around. I would put so much pressure on myself, mostly fuelled by the magazine articles of ‘create the perfect Christmas’ or ‘The best Christmas dinner menu’ or ‘wonderful party food’ that I somehow lost all the fun. 
Now I put on my filters remembering that Christmas is just one day and it is all about having fun with those you love and care about. I plan a menu of what we are going to eat, not because I want it to be the best turkey ever, but it means that I don’t overbuy, in turn meaning I don’t over eat. I have lost count of the number of times I have filled my trolley with Christmas essentials, nuts, chocolate, fruit, cakes etc, so that my home is a constant buffet. I eat chocolate thoughtlessly, fruit very often turns because I have overbought, and I don’t enjoy the lovely meal because I am full of chocolate! 
I learnt to let go a little, the children got far more pleasure out of decorating the Christmas tree than I did with my careful arrangement, sometimes it was a case of balancing it up a little when they were asleep but I began to take pleasure in subverting the ‘Christmas perfection’. It was revolutionary not to be perfect; less stressful and a whole lot more fun.
I am far more competitive than I realise, but the competing that is going on is not against anyone else it is against this ‘illusion’ that is created by magazines usually in August! The competitiveness is from my desire to reach that ideal, re-create the perfection for my family, and it begins to sound rather like a nasty critical taskmaster in my head, pointing out the faults in my home crafted imperfections against glossy illusion. I have taken part in a magazine shoot and seen behind the glossy images, now when I look at the stunning home ‘set’ I look for the practicalities, yes it may look beautiful but you cannot live that way. 
This taskmaster voice that suggests everything should be ‘home made’ so that I have very little energy to enjoy visits of friends and family. Now I just decide what is more important? To impress someone because it is made from scratch, or simply to relax and enjoy their company. 
I found the same was true for the rest of the year, I used to hide the cake that sunk in the middle, or the biscuits that had gone a little too ‘caramelised’ but now I laugh with my friends about these things;  it helps to shatter the perfection illusion and allows them too to be imperfect. I think that is the greatest gift of all.