Clare Willcocks

Clare Willcocks: March 2014

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Embroidery and appliqué - the creation of the teacup tote bag

In my last post I extolled the virtues of the humble cup of tea. Well this post is a slight extension of that one because tea has once again become the focus of this weeks' creative endeavours!

This time, it's in the form of an appliquéd and embroidered teacup and saucer motif on the front of a simple tote. Here it is displayed on a handy tree stump in the garden!

I found the pattern for the tote on the blog Skip to my Lou. The instructions are really clear and simple, with photographs for each stage. I'm so pleased with how it turned out! It's got a kind of flat bottom as you can see a bit better in this photo.

The whole appliqué patch is on a separate piece of fabric. I didn't know what I wanted to do with it until I'd finished and the piece I'd done it on was too small to turn into a bag.

The interior is grey lining fabric, which was a little tricky to sew as it's so slippy. It was an off-cut bought from a haberdashery shop I've just discovered right next to work - I have a feeling I'll be in there quite often from now on!

The main dotty fabric was left over from my shabby chic chairs.

I couldn't stop at making just one bag, so I made another one with some fabric I bought in Malaysia. This time I attached the straps slightly differently as I wanted to put bias binding around the top. I made some out of the pink lining fabric, but I realise now I missed the point of 'bias' tape because I didn't cut it on the bias! Oops!

Here's a view from the top to show off the lovely vibrant interior.

Although the 'not-so-bias' binding looks quite neat from the outside, it could do with looking a little better on the inside, but not bad for a first attempt.

I've really got the bug for making these now so I may just have to pop into the haberdashery shop again tomorrow to pick out some new fabrics!

I'm in a phase of enjoying embroidery at the moment. I've done a bit more work on this crazy patchwork piece which I blogged about here.

I love these little flowers, they look so pretty and give the fabric a bit of texture and interest.

I like experimenting with different embroidery stitches. With so many edges, this piece has been great for trying out new techniques.

These embroidered sheep are just a bunch of french knots with satin stitched heads. They're so fun, I'm looking forward to doing a few more :)

I'm going to get back to it now, see you next Sunday!

If you've enjoyed this post and would like to see more, follow using one of the links on the right, 'like' my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter. I'd love to welcome some new faces :)

Today I'm sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour, Tatertots and Jello, Lamb Around and Be Different Act Normal.

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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Celebrating the humble British cup of tea

I don't know about you, but I think tea is one of the best inventions in the world.

Apparently we've been drinking it here in Britain for over 350 years. They were a little luckier in China, having enjoyed a cuppa many centuries before us. In the UK we now drink over 165 million cups a day (thank you UK Tea Council) so I think we've just about made up for those years we were deprived of what is now the nation's favourite drink.

I thought it would be nice to celebrate tea in my own little way by making a papercut featuring a tea quote and surrounded by all things related to the delicious leafy infusion.

British cup of tea

It was quite nice to spend a couple of hours cutting out teacups, teapots and tea bags while drinking a cup or two of the wet stuff!

Here's what it looks like framed. The quote reads "A cup of tea makes everything better". Which it does!

Would you like to know how I made it? Yes? Ok.

I started by drawing out the design in reverse on the back of the card. I always make sure each element is touching or linked in some way at this point because if not it would all fall to pieces when cut.

Then comes the fun bit, getting the knife involved! (Please excuse the pants picture, it's from my phone and let's just say it's not 'top-of-the-range', but rather 'hand-me-down'!).

So then I cut it all out, which I completely forgot to take photos of, but I think you probably get the idea! I decided that, to make the letters show up better, they needed a different coloured backing. To get the backing the right size and shape I drew through the lacy papercut around the letters, took the papercut away and filled in the gaps. Probably not the most conventional way to do it but it worked.

Here's the letter backing cut out.

 To stick it on I applied PVA with a cotton bud so it didn't all squish out the edges and cause a sticky mess.

Then I had the fiddly task of aligning the backing and gluing it on level.

A little while later, all the letters were backed. The main colour, a dotty green/blue, was easier to stick on as I just dabbed glue on everything, aimed it for the backing and went for it.

And now I'm off to make oaty cookies. And a cup of tea. Mustn't forget that!

I'm sharing today's post on the following lovely blogs: I Gotta Create, Rhinestone Beagle, Domesblissity, Free Pretty Things for You, Manon Popje's Illustrations, Savvy Southern Style and Seasoned Homemaker.

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Sunday, 23 March 2014

Four days in Paris - an action-packed itinerary!

This was shaping up to be a bumper post today, so I've decided to split it into sections to share throughout the week so keep your eyes peeled for the rest!

Sam took me away for a lovely four days in Paris last weekend (romantique, non?). The weather was beautiful; perfect for sightseeing.

We spent our time walking, eating, drinking, eating, visiting the iconic landmarks and eating. With so many delicious French foods we wanted to try, we visited a lot of cafés, restaurants and patisseries, and I still didn't manage to have one of the main things on my 'to eat' list - macarons. Good excuse to go back though!

While we were there, Paris was apparently experiencing severe smog, though it wasn't obvious. This meant that public transport was free, which, for us hopping on and off the Metro, was quite a bonus! This was the view from our hotel room, six floors up in the four star Best Western Opéra Faubourg on Rue La Fayette. See, no sign of smog here!

view from Best Western Opera Faubourg

On our first afternoon we made a beeline for a cake shop and scoffed a delicious, melt-in-the-mouth, chocolatey thing and a zingy citron tart overlooking the Jardin des Tuileries. Definitely a good start to the weekend.

patisserie jardin des tuileries

We headed up to Montmartre on Saturday, starting with a walk to see the Moulin Rouge and stopping for a coffee in the Café des Deux Moulins where parts of Amélie were filmed, before wandering around the artist's stalls and the Sacré Coeur. Then it was off to Le Marais, the Jewish quarter, for a famous falafel pita.

sacre coeur montmarte

In the evening we decided to go all-out with a three-course meal at the restaurant Au Général Lafayette, opposite our hotel. After a couple of glasses of wine we felt ready to try a very French delicacy which we've never been brave enough for before - snails!

Certainly not the most appetising of dishes, but edible nonetheless. I wouldn't say we were blown away by the flavour, which was garlicky with a hint of soil, but they weren't quite as repulsive as we'd thought they may be. Chasing them down with a delicious steak and a crème caramel definitely helped!

Our first stop on Sunday morning was the Marché Mouffetard where we could have gone crazy picking up all sorts of delicious French delights, from cheese and cured meats to chocolate and cakes. Reigning in our desire to try everything, we settled for a couple of wedges of cheese, some salami and a French bagette which Sam carried under his arm like some sort of Parisian accessory.

We spent the day taking in the most iconic sights along the Seine. First on the itinerary was Notre Dame cathedral, near which we popped into the famous Shakespeare bookshop.

notre dame cathedral

A visit to the Arc de Triomphe was next, followed by a wander down the impressive, tree-lined boulevard of the Champs Élysées. Unable to resist the temptation of our picnic, we devoured half of it outside the Élysées palace where there just happened to be a major showjumping event.

arc de triomphe champs elysees

We sat in the sunshine in the Jardin des Tuileries to munch the rest of our picnic before a sunny river cruise along the Seine on board one of the Bateaux Mouches, topped off with an evening climb of the Eiffel tower.

eiffel tower paris

As anyone who's walked up will know, the climbing the stairs is a challenge, but the incredible views from the top are worth every breathless step!

view from the top of the eiffel tower

We had to take the customary photo posing with the Eiffel Tower at the bottom!

Our final evening's meal in Paris was at Au Petit Riche, an overwhelmingly French restaurant split into several mirrored rooms with old-fashioned décor and a certain je ne sais quoi! The food was absolutely delicious, oysters followed by tender duck and an almond and pear tart for dessert. I honestly couldn't fit in another morsel. (Although that might be more due to the fact that prior to dinner I had eaten this, a 'religieuse' - could you resist?)

That concludes our long weekend in Paris! It went far too quickly but I've no doubt we'll be back again one day.

I'll be back with an update on what creative bits and bobs I've been working on later in the week, so if you've enjoyed this post and would like to see more, please follow using one of the buttons on the left-hand-side. If you feel moved to share this post, that would be lovely too!

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Sunday, 16 March 2014

We're in Paris!

Sorry, but there will be no blog today as we're in Paris!

Off exploring now, à bientôt!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A new blog header and a lovely, sunny weekend - life is good!

Introducing my new blog header! It's taken me every evening after work this week to cut, so it was a time consuming piece but I think it was worth it! What are your thoughts? Should it stay?

Disaster nearly struck as I had forgotten to mirror the year (top left) when I drew it from the cutting side. Thanks to my Dad's eagle eyes, disaster was averted and the date is the correct way round!

Here are some more close-ups of the papercut.

new blog header

I like the idea of having to look at it for a while to find all the little details hidden among the flowers. There are a whole variety of things to spot, from teapots (see below) to bees and butterflies.

new blog header

There are also a few stars hidden in there too.

new blog header

At the beginning of the week I also completed another heart commission to be given as a wedding present. I'll be able to reveal that one when the big day is over later this year!

My Mum and Dad came to stay on Friday night, and, as luck would have it, the weather has been absolutely stunning.

We took the opportunity to get out exploring the lovely North Devon coast, walking from the south end of Westward Ho! around the corner and along the South Devon Coast Path.

South West Coast Path Westward Ho

It's warmer than it has been in a long time and a sure sign that spring is in the air. It makes me feel very happy to be outside enjoying such incredible scenery, catching some rays and much needed vitamin D.

The colours at this time of year in England are so vibrant. There's something lovely about these tufts of springy grass on weather-worn mounds of earth.

Mum and Dad went home on Saturday evening, so Sam and I took advantage of a second day of sunshine for a little road trip to Bude, about 40 mins south and just over the border into Cornwall.

We took a little walk along the breakwater for a closer look at the crashing waves. The surf was amazing today - a little too big for most of the surfers braving the winter-chilled sea!

This photo shows the view from the end of the breakwater across the bay of Summerleaze Beach and back towards the town.

Summerleaze beach, Bude

After an ice cream we set off north along the coast, past Crooklets and on to Northcott along the South West Coast Path. The views were beautiful across the sea and coast, and back across the fields.

view towards crooklets, bude

A ladybird hitched a sneaky lift on Sam's shoulder!

lady bird on t-shirt

After a brief pause to admire the view, we set off back to Bude for a well-deserved pasty from Tasty Pasties - and they are just that, yum!

When we got back it was still sunny in the garden, so the sun-worshipping continued, this time with a book and lounger.

As it got a little chilly, I came inside and finished a sleeveless top sewing project that I started on Saturday evening. I adapted it from a few patterns and the block that I made last week, which may explain why it's not quite right!

sleeveless top sewing project

The little tucks in the neckline weren't originally intended, but when I tried it on the neck was a little baggy so I improvised.

sleeveless top sewing project

It needs a good iron!

sleeveless top sewing project

The back went a little wrong as I didn't line up the shoulder darts with the waist ones, so there was a baggy part between the points of the darts which I just pinched together and bodged so its still a bit lumpy.

Not bad for a first attempt though and it'll teach me to match my darts line up next time!

I'm sharing today's post at Handmade Harbour, Manon Popje's Illustrations, Be Different Act Normal, Lamb Around and Tatertots and Jello

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Sunday, 2 March 2014

Weekends go too quickly!

You know those weekends which just fly by and you feel like you haven't actually accomplished anything? Well, I've just had one of them.

I set out with good intentions - there was so much I was going to get done! As usual, though, I've ended up starting lots of projects and not finishing any of them.

Corduroy hand bag

I began cutting the pieces for this bag in June last year! The fabric was bought in Kuching in Malaysian Borneo which I wrote about here. It's been put aside for a few months but has slowly progressed since Christmas thanks to the help of my new sewing machine.

This weekend I've taken a big step towards finishing it by inserting the zip and sewing on the flap. It still needs a couple of side pockets sewing on and some shiny poppers to secure it, then it should be finished.


Clothing project

I have always wanted to make clothes I can actually wear, rather than spending hours on a creation which I wouldn't dare step out of the house in!

My sister bought me a book about adapting and designing clothing patterns, so I started by making a 'block' and 'toile' as a template for other garments. I made three in total, the first couple weren't quite right and this one still needs a bit of tweaking but it's close enough.

It doesn't look much but it's the start of great garments to come (I hope!).

Papercut banner

Sam's always telling me that my blog design needs a little sprucing up and I'm inclined to agree with him. With so many other interesting craft projects to embark on though, I've been putting it off.

Having finished a commissioned papercut, and as I'm a little addicted to them now, I thought that a design including my name would make the perfect top banner for my blog.

Here's a little peek at the end I've started cutting.

With a bit of luck I'll have finished it by the end of the week.

Off now to do what Sunday nights are all about: stuff my face with crisps, watch some TV and flick through a craft book in front of the fire :)

PS. Thank you to Manon from Manon Popje's Illustrations for including a link to my papercut heart. Take a look at her lovely scandinavian papercut here.

I'm sharing this post today at Handmade Monday, Manon Popje's Illustrations, Tatertots and Jello and Lamb Around.

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