One of the reasons I wanted to take up wet felting was because I felt (haha!) that the fenland landscape round here would lend itself well to the process. Because it is so flat around here, you can see for miles, and the fields give a kind of striped effect.
As the process of wet felting involves layering the wool up and down and side to side, the side to side layer would allow me to create that stripy effect easily.
I tried with with a picture of the beach at Hunstanton. It’s been nearly two years and I still haven’t finished it! Deciding to embroider it by hand was possibly a bad idea as it takes ages. The stripiness has worked well here.
This picture I made back in the autumn. As I was going for leaves here, it was more blotchy than stripy. Doing most of the embroidery with the sewing machine meant that I actually finished it! You can read about it here: An Autumn Felted Picture and An Autumn Felted Picture Part 2.
We live in such a beautiful place it was hard to choose somewhere as a starting point for a fenland landscape! I decided in the end on Tydd Gote wind farm.
I know that many people do not like wind farms and find the turbines unsightly. I however really like them! During the Middle Ages the landscape would have been dotted with windmills that powered the pumps that drained the fens of water. The windmills have mostly gone now and, although the turbines are not draining the fens, nevertheless I like to think of them as a modern day equivalent! They are harnessing the energy of the wind in the same kind of way.
How To Make a Felted Fenland Landscape
1. Using white wool roving, I made the first layer. As the third picture layer would need to be a side to side layer, I started laying the tufts from left to right rather than up and down. I pulled off tufts of wool about 10 cm long and spread them out a bit before placing them on the bubble wrap and the bamboo mat. The bits all needed to overlap a bit.
2. To make the second layer, I did exactly the same but instead of the tufts going side to side, I put them going up and down.
3. The third layer was the picture layer. I started with the sky, then layered up different shades of green for the fields. I combined some of the shades to give the impression of one side being slightly darker.
4. Before adding the turbines, I wanted to felt the background a bit first, so I covered the picture with the sheer fabric and rubbed it all over with warm soapy water. I rolled it all up with the piece of foam tubing and rolled it backwards and forwards a few times.
5. Once the fibres had started to felt together, I added the turbines. I used a longer piece of wool for the main bit and shorter lengths for the blades. Then I continued felting until the fibres were all stuck together.
6. The turbines looked a little bit indistinct, so using a zigzag stitch on the sewing machine I sewed around them. I used white for the front of the turbines and grey for the back.
I can’t decide if it needs something else. What do you think?
I love working with felt. The process is very satisfying and even if you are not artistic in the traditional sense (I can’t draw at all!), it is easy to get pleasing results.
If you would like a more detailed tutorial on how to make felt, I’ve included one here.
I bought some wool from these folks on Amazon. This is an affiliate link, which means if you click on it and make a purchase, I will be paid a small amount.
One of the difficulties that crafters face is how to price their work fairly. Nobody wants to undercharge, especially if it means selling things at a loss, but nobody wants to ask too much either and put customers off as a result.
In my experience, crafters tend towards asking too little for their handmade items, worrying what people will think if they ask for a bit more, or whether it will prevent people from buying the things at all. Crafters often massively underestimate the value of their time and their skills.
A year or two ago my mother in law and I wandered into a craft fair in Great Yarmouth. MIL knits and makes cards. Her favourite shop is TK Maxx but she’s also addicted to shopping channels so she knows how much craft materials cost.
Among the lovely handmade things and incidental weirdness, there were a couple of people selling hand knitted baby cardigans. One person was selling them for £8 – £12 and the other person was selling hers for £3.50. To which MIL said, “Well, if she’s selling hers for £3.50, why does this other woman think she can charge so much?”
I’m not much of a knitter, although I can knit, mostly because I am the slowest knitter in the world. Yet, I know that even for a speedy knitter, it would probably take at least a couple of evenings to make a little cardigan, and I know what yarn costs.
Taking that into consideration, £10 sounds about right, probably more than that if it’s complicated. The lady selling hers for £3.50 was probably not even covering the cost of the yarn, never mind the time they took to make. But while she was charging so little the other baby cardi lady had barely any hope of selling anything, as most people would surely react in the way that my MIL did.
Here’s another example.
A couple of years ago I was reading a card making magazine. The letters page featured a woman who had sold handmade Christmas cards in her local supermarket to raise money for charity.
She had made literally hundreds of cards, each one of them different, and she had sold every last one, raising £200. Studying the photo of her smily self and her cards unfortunately caused the warm fuzzies I was feeling to become an unpleasant taste in my mouth.
I had spotted a sign on her table which read, “Handmade Cards 50p Each”. No wonder she sold them all! If I walked into a card shop wanting to buy a special Christmas card for a close friend or family member, I would expect to pay rather more than 50p. And that would be for a mass produced card.
The idea of selling handmade cards for 50p is lunacy. It would cost more than that to make them, even if she had used paper packs that came free with magazines. She would still have needed to buy cardstock and embellishments, not to mention the time it would have taken to make them.
This makes it very difficult for crafters who try to price their work fairly. While people are so massively underselling themselves, it is much harder for others to ask a fair price for their work.
Of course, crafters underselling themselves is not the only problem. For those of us who can remember a time before foreign imports, “homemade” used to mean “an less expensive version of what you could buy in a shop”. So if there was something you wanted, making it yourself was usually a cheaper option.
But times have changed. Clothes are no longer seen as an investment, made to last providing they are taken care of. Now we can wander into a shop on the high street and pick up a coat for £25 or a dress for £10. The sad reasons for this are that the manufacturers use poor quality materials and the clothes are made by children in sweatshops in China and India where they are paid a pittance.
I could not make a dress for £10. The materials alone would cost more than that. The fabric I used to make my Cherry Blossom Dress was £7 / metre and I used 4 metres. I also used 6 metres of bias tape and an invisible zip. The total cost was in the region of £35, not including the time I spent designing the dress, drafting the pattern, cutting it out and making it up.
Cherry Blossom Dress
A friend of mine makes clothes for herself. She usually uses Colette patterns although she uses others too. Providing she has made a version of it already, she can whip something up in an evening.
A friend of hers has asked her to make her a dress, but my friend is reluctant to do so. She knows that a fair price, taking into account materials and labour, would be about £60. She could not imagine somebody wanting to pay that much for a dress when they could buy something on the high street for a fraction of that.
Gertie of Gertie’s Makes and Bakes has encountered this problem recently.You can read her blog post in full here. She had made some bags and was selling them on Ebay. A customer contacted her and asked if she would make for her the same bag but in different fabric. As things progressed, it transpired that the customer actually wanted a completely different bag to the “Jenny” bags that Gertie was selling, not just in different fabric but also with more pockets.
Gertie set about designing and making the bag for the customer. As the fabric, extra zips and assorted hardware alone cost more than £25, Gertie charged the customer £40, £15 more than the “Jenny” bags on Ebay. The extra £15 was for 15 hours labour at £1 per hour, even though Gertie says it took her more than 15 hours to design and make the bag.
Unfortunately the customer felt that £40 for a handmade, one of a kind, custom bag, made to her exact requirements and in fabric she chose, was too much. She asked Gertie to lower the price to £30. Believing that her time and her skills are worth more than 30p an hour, Gertie rightly withdrew the bag from sale.
So what is the answer?
I can’t claim to have all the answers, but here are some of them!
Firstly, crafters need ask a fair price for their work. To calculate this, the crafter should take into account how much the item cost to make, including materials, sundries such as thread and tape and wear and tear to tools and equipment, such as a sewing machine. The crafter also need to decide what their time is worth and apply that to the length of time it took to make. Some very good advice on pricing work can be found in Fiona Pullen’s fabulous book, Craft a Creative Business.
The link below is an affiliate link, which means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I am paid a small amount. Be assured though that I do think actually think that Fiona’s book is fab!
Secondly, the rest of us need to recognise that cheap stuff is cheap for a reason. Poor quality, mass produced junk made by the poorest people in some of the poorest regions of the world, including children, is often the reason.
It’s no good expecting a handmade item to cost less than a mass produced version of something similar.
We all need to stop thinking about handmade in terms of what we would pay for mass produced tat and more in terms of what we would pay for designer gear, one offs and custom made items.
This is why handmade is a better word here than homemade. Homemade implies something cheaper than store bought. Handmade means something else entirely.
Handmade means something that is one of a kind or one of a limited number. With a handmade dress, you can walk down the street and not pass 14 people all wearing the same outfit as you.
Handmade means something that fits, or that meets your needs perfectly and in a way that you like.
Handmade usually means that less people have been exploited. I don’t know anything about fabric production and I acknowledge that there may be exploitation going on here too.
Handmade means something has a story, a reason behind it, and often an opportunity to find that out from the person who made it.
**This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will be paid a small amount. Please be assured that all the opinions expressed are my own!**
A few weeks ago I needed to buy a new stroller for Boy 4. His little umbrella stroller had developed a problem with its wheels, in that the ones at the back were so worn down that it was becoming difficult to push. Especially with a chunky little two year old in it.
I started to have a look on the internet for a replacement, which turned out to be a bad idea because I saw several pushchairs that I really wanted (I used to have a bit of a pushchair addiction!). After an hour or two i managed to reign myself in and did the sensible thing. I bought a replacement umbrella stroller the same as the one that was worn out.
It’s actually a decent little buggy, it’s nice and sturdy and it’s not too heavy to push. It reclines, there is padding on the seat and it comes with a hood, shopping basket and raincover. I have had pushchairs that have cost a lot more and have been a lot worse! Obviously the wheels wearing out was an issue but as I liked it so much I got another one the same anyway. I got it from Amazon and the link is here:
To cheer myself up over the whole buggy thing and Boy 4 not being a baby any more, I have decided to customise it a little bit, starting with the hood!
I used the existing hood as a pattern but added an extra piece at the front.
I sewed the new hood to the existing struts and a coat hanger the extra front piece.
As the fabric was lightweight, I used curtain lining to make it thicker.
How to Make a Stroller Hood
1. The easiest thing to do is to use the existing hood as a pattern, so remove the hood and try to flatten it out.
On some pushchairs they come off easily. On cheapy ones they do not. I had to resort to using the unpicker and even the scissors in the end!
2. Lay it out flat and pin it to the fabric. Cut out the pieces. You might find it easier to separate out the pieces of the hood. I was able to cut mine out without doing this, although I did have to unpick the darts in the back of the hood.
I had a bit of an issue with the existing hood in that it did not come very far forward. This meant that if the sun was in front of us, Boy 4 got the sun in his eyes. To solve this problem, I cut an extra piece to go on the front.
To make this extra piece, I used the curved edge of the front of the front, then measured how much further forward the hood needed to be. I marked this off at the middle then joined it up at the sides, allowing enough to make the casing for the coat hanger. I folded in half to ensure that it would be symmetrical.
3. Cut out the lining. If the fabric you are using is already quite thick you probably won’t need to line the hood unless you want to! The fabric I had chosen was quite lightweight, so it needed a lining. As I had some curtain lining in my fabric hoard, I used that. It has the added bonus that it is possibly waterproof and also keeps the sun out.
4. Sew up the darts in the back piece if your hood needs them.
5. Hem the bits at the side.
6. Make the casing for the coat hanger in the front section.
I also added casing at the back for some elastic as I didn’t like how baggy the original hood looked at the back.
7. Sew the pieces together. Make your pushchair try its new hood on! I found that, despite careful measuring, it didn’t for quite right and I had to take the back seam in a little bit.
8. Cut strips of your lining fabric for the struts. I allowed more width than was needed so that it didn’t matter if it was not a perfect fit. Sew the to the inside of the hood. If you have to sew the struts in, sew the casing pieces along the inside edge first. That will make it slightly easier!
9. Depending on your buggy, sew up the other side of the casing either with or without the struts inside. I had to sew it onto the frame and to say it was a fiddly nightmare would be putting it mildly! In the end I wedged one end of the struts between the sewing machine and the wall and slid the casing along as I sewed.
10. Add the elastic at the back. The easiest way is to attach one end to a safety pin and wiggle it through the casing. Pin both ends then hand sew in place.
11. Thread the wire coat hanger through the casing at the front. Bend the ends into the a loop around the front strut and tuck the ends into the casing. This is where having been generous with the casing can make a difference! I tried sticking the end of the loop with gorilla tape but that made it too bulky.
12. Trim the threads off, reattach your hood, grab your babba and go out for a walk!
If the fabric you love is too thin, make a lining.
When cutting out, put a pin in the top of the piece. You might remember which edge is the top, but after the disastrous car seat cover episode, I didn’t want to take any chances (You can read about that here!).
Be generous in how wide you make the casings. This will allow for the hood not being a perfect fit.
Just as if you were making a dress, keep getting your pushchair to try the hood on!
Use the existing hood as much as you can, for pattern pieces and for the struts. If your pushchair doesn’t have a hood, you could probably rig something up using a couple of wire coat hangers in a similar way to how I made the extra piece at the front.
If your existing hood is too small or doesn’t offer enough protection from the elements at the sides or the front, make extra pieces and use wire if they need structure.
Our friends Matt and Vicky are getting married in a couple of weeks and I needed to sort out something to wear. I hadn’t even thought about it unti the other night when Husband was getting bleary eyed staring at dozens of suits on the internet.
Not being one to pass up an opportunity to get making, I found some gorgeous fabric on the internet with cherry blossoms on. What could be more perfect for a spring wedding?
The dress is very simple. The bodice has two parts, front and back, and the skirt is a circle, in quarters. There is an invisible zip in the side.
Here is a tutorial in case you want to make one yourself!
Cherry Blossom Dress Without a Pattern
You Will Need: some old fabric/ bin bag/ greasproof paper or newspaper, 3-4 m cotton fabric depending on the width of the fabric and your dimensions (I used 4 m of fabric 110 cm wide) , 6-7 m bias binding again depending on your size, usual sewing supplies.
1. To draft the pattern for the bodice, pin a piece of old fabric/ greaseproof paper/ bin liner to your front, while wearing an old t shirt or fitted top. It will need to fit snugly without being too tight as cotton doesn’t stretch!
The piece of fabric will need to be large enough to cover side and shoulder seams of the t shirt you are wearing.
Using a pen, draw where you would like the neckline to be. Pin some darts to give it some shape, then draw on where the side and shoulder seams will need to be. Mark onto the fabric where your waistline is. You might find it helpful to use a mirror.
Carefully remove it and put it to one side.
2. To make the back piece, you could either use the same approach and pin a piece of fabric onto yourself and draw it on (you will need a friend to help you unless you are a contortionist!) or you could take the t shirt off and use it as a guide to make the back piece.
3. Cut out the bodice pieces, marking on where the darts will need to go.
4. To make the skirt, you will have to do some maths. If your maths is not your thing, unfortunately it is the only way. But don’t worry, maths is not my thing either and I managed, so you can too!
The measurements you need are your waist measurement (add 10 cm for seam allowance and a bit extra, just in case) and how long you want the skirt to be.
The thing to remember is that the circumference (edge of the circle) is the diameter (distance across the circle passing through the middle) x pi (which is 3 and a bit).
Diameter x pi = circumference.
Equally circumference divided by pi = diameter.
So: waist measurement (don’t forget the seam allowance!) divided by pi = diameter of the bit where your waist will go. We only need the radius though as you will be folding the fabric to cut it out, so diameter divided by 2 = radius.
Now add the radius to the length that you want the skirt of you dress to be. So mine was 15 cm (radius) + 80 cm (skirt length plus a bit extra for the seam allowance) = 95 cm. You will need 4 squares of fabric this size (ie my squares were 95 cm x 95 cm) to cut your skirt from.
If you are using a directional print, make sure you have it the right way up! I actually made a bit of a mistake with mine, the cherry blossoms are all the correct way up but some are pointing the wrong way because the fabric is directional right and left as well as up and down!
WIth the squares on top of each other (you might prefer to do them separately if you are a nervous nellie) take one corner. From the corner, make a mark on each side the same length as the radius that you calculated earlier. Further down, mark off the length for your skirt.
So I pinned 15 cm down from the corner, then 95 cm down from the corner.
Using pins and a tape measure, carefully measure off your waist and hemline from the top corner right across the fabric.
Cut out using the pins as a guide.
You should now have 4 quarter circles, each one with a chunk out of one corner.
Phew, tricky part over! Sewing it up is much easier!
5. Time to start sewing it up! Take two of your circle quarters and, with the right sides together, sew along one of the long straight edges. Repeat for the other two quarters.
6.Sew the darts on the front bodice piece.
7. Take one of your semi circles made in step 6. With the right sides together, pin the waist of the skirt to the bottom of the front bodice. Sew. Repeat for the back bodice piece and the other semi circle.
8.Pin the 2 dress pieces to yourself inside out and pin the side seams (pin the waist, but don’t bother with the rest of the skirt). Undo one of them (you won’t be able to get it off otherwise!) and sew the pinned seam.
9. Put it back on, pin the open side again and pin the shoulder seams. This is easier if you have someone to help you, but not impossible if you do not. Unless you have uneven shoulders, you could just pin one, then do the other the same so that they match. Sew the shoulder seams.
10. Put the dress on again inside out and pin the open side. Mark where the pins are on both sides. This is easier with someone to help you, although I managed without! Unpin, take it off and pin it back together. Sew the side seam. Press all the seams open.
11. Place the zip over one of the side seams, ensuring that the bottom of the zip covers the top of the skirt. Pin, then tack in place. Sew round the zip (much easier with a zip foot), then unpick part of the side seam to free up the zip. For more detailed instructions for putting in a zip, take a look at my tutorial here!
12. I find that the easiest way of finishing armholes and necklines is to use bias binding.
Starting with an armhole, cut a piece of bias binding long enough to go round the armhole, plus a bit extra.
Open it out and pin one of the edges to the raw edge of the armhole, on the wrong side, beginning at the armpit. Sew it on, remembering to tuck the end of the tape underneath when you start. Fold the bias tape over the armhole and pin on the other side. Top stitch all the way round. Repeat for the other armhole and the neckline.
13. Finish the hem with bias tape in the same way. As hemming a circle skirt can be tricky, I found this way so much easier!
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. John 20:1
Making an Easter garden with the boys was something I’d planned to do the week before Easter. However, due to a last minute decision to go on holiday, it didn’t happen. We went to the Wye Valley and wandered round ruined castles in the mizzle. It was nice.
Anyway. It’s still the Easter holidays and Jesus’ resurrection is something to celebrate every day so I prised the boys away from the computer and turfed them out into the garden to give me hand.
We popped next door to our local plant nursery and bought some little alpine plants. The rest of the stuff we used we had already: stones, sticks, twine, a small amount of compost and an old tin.
We put the compost in the tin.
Then the boys collected some sticks and we tied them together to make three crosses, which we stuck into the compost.
We used the stones to make the empty tomb. I brought out the PVA glue but, as it turned out, we didn’t need it. We used smaller stones for the walls, then larger, flatter stones for the roof. I actually found some bits of slate and broken pot which were great for this!
Lastly we added the plants. There was a slight problem in that the pots the plants were in were taller than the tray. This was solved a little bit by mashing the root balls.
It was a lovely thing to do and it also gave the boys and I an opportunity to talk about the Easter story.
“He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.” Matthew 28:6