Archive for ‘craft’

November 3, 2017

Radiotopia quilt

I recently finished a craft project that I started nearly two years ago.

In Radiotopia’s 2015 fundraiser, I offered a bespoke quilt ‘featuring the short epithet, monogram or letter of your choice’, in return for a $1234 donation. The quilt was bought by the generous Leigh. She requested the phrase ‘The news is good’, which is something she and her husband say to each other, when reporting on their inner state.

I sketched out a few different layouts and colour schemes and Leigh chose this one:

And a mere 21 months and c.2,500 patches later, it turned into this:

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December 24, 2015

A very fruity Christmas

After the runaway train mayhem of me trying to teach Jane Garvey how to sew on Woman’s Hour earlier this year, BBC Radio 4 saw fit to reunite the double act, so I went over to Jane’s house and we tried to make Christmas decorations out of dried fruit. Frankly I showed little aptitude for fruit sculpting, but I had Great Fun Trying. You can hear it here, if you want to throw together some fruity decorations in time for Christmas.

There’s one last episode of The Allusionist for 2015, in which I tackle some of the listeners’ requests for etymology and word advice: theallusionist.org/bonus2015

And I’ve just finished the biggest editing job of the year: the annual Best of Answer Me This compilation. Assembling the montage of drunk, plaintive and misbegotten voicemails is my favourite task every year. Here are a couple from years past:


November 13, 2015

Radiotopia Forever: big non-cash prize

*** UPDATE: Someone donated for the quilt! Thanks so much, whoever you are. I’m looking forward to making something lovely for you. But I still wholeheartedly recommend donating to Radiotopia, for the other cool prizes and so that we can make shows for you for a long time. ***

It’s the final stretch of the Radiotopia fundraiser month, and Radiotopifans have been doing an excellent job of making our shows continuing exist for a long time to come. Awash with gratitude, I’ve got a special prize to offer one high-rolling donor.

Take a look at the picture below of the 100% OK quilt, which I made a couple of years ago to commemorate my friend Racton’s trademark expression of whelm-ment.

I will handmake a unique quilt featuring the short epithet – or monogram or letter – of your choice for the ONE person who pledges $1234.

You want the quilt? Get over to Radiotopia.fm and pledge.

quilt wall

I see you trying to sneak off with the quilt. Nice try, chancer. Supporting Radiotopia is the only way you can get it.
statue hides

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October 6, 2015

I, Cushion

I cushion on sofa

First A, then P, now I – only 24 more to go before the entire cushion alphabet is complete! And at this rate, it’ll be done by the time I’m 70.

This one is now owned by my new baby friend Ilithyia. About 80% of my friends seem to be dropping babies this year, so I’m miles behind with the gifts – Ilithyia’s came first because her initial has no tricky curves or diagonals.

(BTW parents, tell me if I’m off the mark giving cushions as baby gifts: I figure they’re ok, as baby gifts go, because everyone seems to receive a million quilts and onesies and toys. The babies can puke on them without the stains being too obvious, and if the babies/the parents really hate them but don’t want to hurt my feelings, they can pretend the cushions were destroyed in a poster paint accident/house fire/misbegotten fondue-dunk.)

Here comes the science bit: the front is some 16 inches square, made of hand-sewn one-inch cotton patches; I machine-sewed the border and back. I was trying to restrain my usual motley palette to blue and green, but of course strayed a little.

A few details:

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April 6, 2015

krappy krafting: kimono

Today, I had the ridiculous joy of appearing on Woman’s Hour‘s craft special. They asked me to teach Jane Garvey how to sew something on air; as the shops are presently full of diaphanous kimono-style bed-jackety garments, I decided we’d make our own, using three vintage square scarves from my ever-expanding collection (a few months ago I did try to count them, but stopped at 70).

I worship Jane Garvey, but ‘interest in craft’ is not one of her strong points. Watching her wield huge scissors and adopt the unconventional ‘Look, no hands!’ approach to machine sewing, I felt like a novice lion tamer on my first job.

Click here to hear the programme, and click the photo below to zoom in on the tutorial for making one of these very simple garments. I promise they are a lot more straightforward than we made them sound.

kimono tutorial Woman's Hour

Here’s one I made earlier, flapping about in a high wind. There are French horns on the front, medieval men on horseback on the sleeves, and a massive striped Z on the back.

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March 15, 2015

cricket dolls

My brother Andy is over in Australia and New Zealand at the moment, covering the Cricket World Cup for CricInfo.

You may notice that in some of his videos he is playing with dolls. Not Barbies – dolls of historic cricketers W.G. Grace and Fred Spofforth. Where does one obtain dolls of historic cricketers W.G. Grace and Fred Spofforth?

The same place one obtains dolls of Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Plant and Tony Benn.

As soon as I’d finished making them, they were stuffed in a suitcase and flown to Australia, so I don’t have very good photos showing the details, but the materials were felt, white bedsheet, and yarn – WG’s beard is knitted in garter stitch. Here’s one man and his dolls:

cricket dolls Andy

And here are the LADS enjoying themselves at a match:

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November 11, 2014

just do it!

AMT Guardian Nov14

Look, I wrote a piece about how to start a podcast, this time for the Guardian’s Do Something magazine. Here it is! Yes, there is overlap with my podcast tips posts here, but frankly, while the tech changes a bit, the tedious grind/joyous experimentation of making a show remains the same.

On the subject of starting podcasts:
1. THANK YOU for supporting the Radiotopia Kickstarter, because they raised enough money for me to make my new podcast! The Allusionist should start mid-January. Now I need to get on with making it…
2. If you’re thinking of starting a podcast, or you already make one and need to spill about it, or you want to hang out with podcasters, do come along to the Podcast Clinic on 24th November. It’s free! We’ll have a lovely time! Details are here.

The last time I was featured in Do Something, I was writing about patchwork. Today I’ve also got a piece in the Telegraph about starting/restarting crafting, which you can read here.

Apparently the message of both the podcasting article and the crafting article is the same: JUST GET ON WITH IT. This makes me sound a lot more proactive than I am. Most of the time, I’m so incredibly lazy, it’s embarrassing. But, you know, if I’m interrupting my slothing time, I try to make it count.

May 10, 2014

Doing Something

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Here I am in today’s Do Something supplement of the Guardian!

Click here for more of my patchwork; and here’s how I began it.

March 17, 2014

entry-level patchwork

Here’s why I started doing patchwork.

It was almost exactly three years ago. My wedding was a month away, and I was going nuts – from the venue going bankrupt; from the fact that nobody had had a wedding-free conversation with me for nearly a year, aside from the brief respite when I served on a deadlocked jury; from the general hatred of wedding planning I’ve mentioned before.

Crafts are soothing. Crafts are mood-transforming. Crafts are a good way to avoid doing the tasks you’re supposed to be doing. Thus, having not done any patchwork before aside from one single small log cabin block, I began to sew a flurry of tablecloths, scaling up traditional designs for some, going off-piste for others.

Afterwards, I gave them all away to friends and family; but recently I had to borrow back a few for something. It was nice to see them again, although I can’t look at them without thinking about what I’d do differently now, which is why I give away all the things I make.

That said, I’m feeling reluctant to return this crabby tablecloth to my shellfish-loving sister-in-law with whom it now lives, because I WANT IT:

tablecloth crab

It’s a massively simplified variation on a Log Cabin: just a central crabby square surrounded by strips of other fabric.

A brick pattern is very easy for a beginner because it’s all straight lines and you don’t even have to match any corners. It’s even easier at this size: the whole thing is about six feet square, so the bricks are about 12×16″:

tablecloth bricks
tablecloth hangers detail

Next: some random stripes, trying to make pastel chintz peacefully coexist with bright African wax prints, old pyjamas and Ikea cotton:

tablecloth stripes

Zigzags! Made up of 10″-square two-colour pieces, which are a cinch to make: lay two squares face to face, sew around the edges, then cut diagonally across from corner to corner, thus begetting four two-coloured squares. This is much simpler than matching up triangles and trying to get the fabric grains to cooperate. I vividly remember watching Babette’s Feast and Infamous whilst making this. (Also, once you get the impression that the maroon and pink print is a bunch of dicks, you can’t unsee that.)

tablecloth zigzags

This one barely counts, as it’s just three teatowels and a vintage tablecloth joined with yellow and blue herringbone stitch. But I like it.

tea

tea stitch detail

There were around a dozen tablecloths in the end. Here they are in action on Wedding Eve. The amazing marquee was from Hector’s Haus.

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January 3, 2014

P is for…

…patchwork, and also Pepper, my three-month-old babyfriend. She is the daughter of my friend Amy, recipient of the 2012 A quilt; so, hellbent on filling their house with alphabet patchwork, I threw together this for Pepper’s Christmas present:

P cushion

(Modelled by the Veronica Mars blanket.)

It’s a 16-inch cushion formed of 1-inch handsewn squares, like last year’s 100% OK piece. Accidentally I kept slicing slivers off the edges of my card square template, so cut smaller and smaller patches that didn’t line up properly. Not that Pepper will care; she’s currently more interested in chewing her own fist than criticising sloppy patchwork.

Details:

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November 28, 2013

The Peckham table

Here’s an easy DIY furniture hack you can do:

• STEP 1. Step into your time machine and move to Peckham from 2004 to 2006.

• STEP 2. On the corner of Bellenden Road and Chadwick Road is a junk shop with some excellent furniture outside (don’t go inside, because it absolutely reeks of dog piss). Buy a large wooden toolbox for £5, because soon that junk shop will be replaced by a key-cutters that does not smell of urine, but is otherwise nothing to be excited about.

• STEP 3. Note how people flytip the good stuff by the big tree at the corner of Chadwick Road and Lyndhurst Way. One night, pick up a black footstool. Rest your feet on it for several years until it starts leaking yellow foam all over the floor.

• STEP 4. Return to the present day.

• STEP 5. Remove the remaining foam and shreds of upholstery from the stool’s top, avoiding all the rusty nails because you don’t want to contract a blood disease.

• STEP 6. Sand the stool legs, then paint with emulsion – I used two coats of Habitat’s Kingfisher. Finish with clear varnish.

• STEP 7. Plonk the toolbox on top.

• STEP 8. Plonk other things on top of your new side-table.

Peckham table

June 16, 2013

100% OK

In this post last year I proclaimed that I was too pathologically lazy ever too make patchwork out of small pieces.

So why did I just end up hand-making a quilt out of 462 one-inch squares?

Because I hate myself. It’s the only possible explanation.

But perhaps my self-hating streak knows me better than I know myself, because it turned out I LOVED working with the tiny patches, and I also love the result:

quilt wall

This is a present for my friends Racton and Eleanor. ‘100% OK’ is a stock phrase of Racton’s, a synonym for ‘whelmed’.

One of the delights of small patches I discovered is the opportunity to play around more with prints. In patchwork I’m always seeking a slight jarring effect between one patch and the next, and when there are 462 patches, that’s a whole lot of potential jarring for me to enjoy. There was room for far more variety, making fragments of prints appear out of context. Plus, if I found one patch boring, I knew another would be coming along within ten seconds.

Here are a few details:

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I mentioned before that whatever I’m making becomes forever associated in my mind with whatever I was watching whilst making it. In this case: Arrested Development series 4 and series 3-6 of the American Office.

100% OK quilt

statue hides

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April 1, 2013

painting and dEGGorating

Do you understand the point of painted eggs? Nor do I, but some people seem to take the art very seriously (especially the Ukrainians, golly). And since I spent Easter with some friends who are both arty and eggy, it was time to give it a try.

First step: blowing eggs. I’d never done this before, and until we found a bigger pin with which to make the holes it was quite taxing. And gross-looking.

Second step: busting out the gouache, acrylic ink, felt pens and gold paint, and filling the eggspanse.

Egg no.1: Terror lurks in the sky for the innocent herbivore…

eggstinction herb

…and for the carnivores!

eggstinction panic

They’re right to look a little worried, for EGGSTINCTION is imminent.

Egg no.2: EGGTOPUS. Click for bigger.
eggtopus

November 29, 2012

crappy crafting: sock gloves

It’s cold in here. Too cold even to type. Fortunately, just about uncold enough to grasp scissors and socks, cut ten holes, and lo –

TYPING GLOVES!

Even when they’re just made out of an old pair of Primark socks, wearing elbow-length gloves is very fancy. I feel like George Peppard’s cougar ‘decorator’ in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

October 30, 2012

chromatography quilt

In October, the darkness and greyness really sets in. A colour hit was necessary. Enter the Chromatography Quilt.

chromatography quilt

At junior school, when the science teacher was bored and we’d already set fire to all the available magnesium ribbon, we’d be told to make chromatographs. Did you ever make them? You cut two parallel slits to the centre of a disc of filter paper, dab a droplet of ink in the centre, then leave it with the stalk dipped into a beaker of water and wait for a spectrum to spread itself across the paper.

If you’re wondering why that was considered a treat, bear in mind we only had four TV channels at the time.

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I wanted to play around with traditional Log Cabin patterns, so made four blocks three feet square then sewed them together. It was pretty quick to complete; I can’t imagine making a quilt out of normal, small blocks, because I’m so pathologically lazy I would never finish it.

Not sure why, but I hardly ever keep the stuff I make, and duly this quilt is now living with my friend Jim. For once, I think I’ll miss having it around the place.


October 15, 2012

A is for…

…a three-months-late birthday present for my friend Amy.

A quilt

This quilt is about six feet square and is composed of four-inch strip patchwork. ‘Strip patchwork’ sounds like a racy game that crafters play. It isn’t.

The ‘A’ material is a sheet that used to cover our toy snooker table in the 1980s. The rest of the fabrics include pyjama legs, my husband’s shirt, tablecloths, African wax print and a New Look dress (ie a dress from New Look; I didn’t cut up a piece of Dior’s New Look). This little lobster – cotton print from Ikea – is my favourite:

I intended to stick to a limited palette of red and blue shades, but failed by the third patch. As the front was so busy, I opted for all solid colours for the back:
A quilt back

Well, almost all.

This is a variant on the traditional ‘Chinese Coins’ pattern, which I could pretend I chose because Amy spent her formative years in Hong Kong rather than because it’s easy and nice.

The main thing is, Amy seems happy. And warm!

July 19, 2012

“It’s a doll lotta love”

How do you thank a friend’s mum who gave your husband three tickets to see Robert Plant and refused to accept any payment for them?

You make her one of these:

Here are the particulars of plush Robert Plant, from head to foot:

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March 15, 2012

Button it

A very basic bit of making this week:
old buttons + earring backs + Superglue = earrings

All components made by somebody else (I don’t fancy my chances at brewing my own Superglue), so my role was about as creative as assembling flatpack furniture. But, I’m going to a wedding on Saturday which promises to be very spangly, and I needed some mock jewels in a hurry.

Living in Crystal Palace, I have a magnificent source for old buttons: the Haynes Lane Market. Tucked away behind the Sainsburys, it is the kind of place that is virtually extinct now, a scaled down combination of the dear departed Kensington Market (now a PC World) and Greenwich outdoor market (now a boarded-up building site). In summation, it is a two-storey treasure trove of random old shit.

If you’re ever in the neighbourhood, withdraw a fistful of cash then pop in there for a rummage. There are so few places remaining where in one sweep you can snap up 1960s teapots, Georgian fishknives, Deee-Lite shoes and Arctic Explorer outfits for Ken dolls; so let’s support them while they’re still in business.

January 5, 2012

Keep your laptop warm all winter

This isn’t the most exciting or original thing I’ve made, but it turned out quite pleasingly so here it is. It is my friend Miranda’s birthday this week, and I received word she wanted a laptop sleeve. Mine not to reason why, mine but to do and…do. Here it is:

Miranda is an academic, so the exterior is corduroy, the second most academic of fabrics (the first being, of course, tweed).

But inside…

…hot pink silk shantung!

It was extremely simple to make, but if you’re too time-poor to expend 3 seconds thinking how to do it, here’s a ‘tutorial’:

1. Make a paper template approximating the following shape. Miranda has a small laptop, so I cut mine 27″ long plus seam allowance, but for a bigger computer, 30+ inches would be necessary. Approximately, the template needs to be thrice the length of your laptop and a couple of inches wider than its width, plus half an inch of seam allowance all round. Use the template to cut three pieces of the same size: one of each of your outer fabric, lining fabric and thin batting.

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2. Sandwich the right sides of your outer and lining fabrics together, place the batting on top, and sew around all but one of the edges, as marked in the photo above.

3. Turn the right way out; tuck in the raw edges, then sew the open edge closed.

4. Fold up the bottom edge to a height appropriate to your laptop’s comfort, and sew up each side. I oversewed them by hand, as my sewing machine refused to penetrate the combined six layers of corduroy, batting and shantung.

5. Attach a little loop of thin elastic to the underside of the top flap (if I make another one, I’ll remember to sandwich this between the layers of fabric before embarking upon stage 2) and firmly sew a nice button towards the bottom of the sleeve.

I don’t know about you, but I tend feel that the objects I make are a little redolent of whatever film or TV programme I was watching whilst making them. For instance, the oversized patchwork on my sofa = Babette’s Feast and Infamous. So, sorry, Miranda; your laptop sleeve is imbued with the essence of Revolutionary Road and the Marilyn Monroe episode of Quantum Leap. Happy birthday!

Laptop not included; for demonstration purposes only.

December 27, 2011

Lobster

Yesterday I promised to post about the best Christmas gift I made this year. (Best in my own opinion. Opinion of the recipient: difficult to gauge.)

Here it is:

20111226-121021.jpg

It came out nearly twice as big as I’d anticipated, at almost three feet long. A three-foot lobster is quite creepy-looking, even when made out of a material as innocent as red felt.

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Exoskeleton.

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Beady eyes.