Working wood in the hills


making wood buttons

I traveled to the hills yesterday to visit family and do some work with wood.  Willow is a great source of wood as it is quick growing and managing through pollarding, pruning the upper branches to encourage new growth, increases it’s lifespan and encourages specialist wild life.  So I also collected some green wood from the family willow tree for a willow weaving project.  Once the branches were cut I trimmed the parts too old for weaving and stripped the leaves and then weaved them into circles.  It’s surprisingly hard work as the less flexible parts of the wood need a significant amount to pressure to bend them into shape.   So after finishing a couple I decided to finish the others later at home.

Having the larger parts of the branches left over gave me the idea to try and make some buttons from them.  This didn’t workout as the wood was too green and so was too full of sap to saw successfully.   Luckily wood that had previously been pollarded from the willow had been stored to allow it to season, that is dry out so it can be used for wood working.  The wood that had been stored for a couple of years worked really well and could be sawn into even round segments.  I kept the bark on because I think it adds to the look.  After being sawn the buttons are kept in a tub with olive oil to seal them, this also made the surface smooth enough that it didn’t need sanding.  I’m going to leave them to soak for a while before drilling the holes for the button threads.  It was really nice to catch up with my family and I’m thankful for all the help, entertaining conversation and great food that was on offer.

Pollarding Willow

Woven willow circle

Willow circle

Wood store

Sealing the wood buttons

cutting buttons

Wooden button drying in the sun

White rabbit drawing


White rabbit drawing

I really enjoyed Alice in Wonderland as a child, both the story and the illustrations by John Tenniel.   Recently its been influencing some of my art especially the symbols and characters.  My drawing above shows an updated version of the white rabbit, who’s a bit more rock and roll than the original character.  The original sketch was in pencil which I’ve finished with black ink.  I may tackle the door mouse next.

Creating Beetles


Green Beatles print

Beetles print

Yesterday I read some sites about earth day and about doing something to celebrate the day.  I decided to use some of the organic fair trade cotton I have to make something and give it away on my blog.  As it’s for earth day I took inspiration from my walks by the river this weekend and decided to feature the Tansy beetle which lives along the river.

I always find drawing from life interesting, observing how creatures move and their foibles leads me to a more creative picture then if I just drew a standard image.  After doing some pencil sketches and looking at the photographs I drew the image I used for the prints.  I chose that picture because I thought it looked more dynamic then the others.  It takes some consideration to make a sketch suitable for printing as it’s the places where the ink doesn’t appear as much as where  does.  Once I’d sorted this out I printing the beetles in green with gold highlights.   Hopefully I’ll have finished sewing by tomorrow and then I can start my first giveaway.

Stripes, dragons and judo art


Multicoloured draw string bag and judo painting

Multicoloured draw string bag and painting of judo for a bag

Yesterday afternoon I moved onto some different projects as there isn’t much I can do on my main project, a dress shirt, until next week after I’ve had another fitting.  I’ve been asked to make a set of drawstring bags to keep toys in and some of the fabric that arrived this week was for these.  The first bag is being made from an organic fair trade cotton and bamboo fabric which is woven in multi-coloured stripes.  The suppliers warn that this is liable to shrinkage so I spent some pleasant time in front of the television watching Cake Boss while sewing a hem on the fabric’s edge to prevent fraying in the washing machine.  I lost around 2cm on the piece I cut and washed, which is around the 2% shrinkage that the suppliers said it would be.  While I was ironing the stripy fabric I washed the piece of fabric for the second bag which is dark green organic cotton with red Welsh dragons printing across it.  I sewed the main parts of the stripy bag, created the draw string from the same fabric and attached it.  There are some finishing touches to add but this is very nearly finished.

As today is Saturday I don’t normally do any sewing but I said I’d make a small bag for my hubby to take to judo with him so he can keep his glass and small things safe while he’s training.  So to get started this morning I drew out an image of two judo people (apparently the term for them is judoka) doing a move called tomoe nage on some fabric.  I’d been sketching some pictures of judoka for another project so I based the picture on one of those.  I then painted the image in fabric paint using simple lines.  I’m trying to simplify the image as much as I can with a limited number of flowing lines to reflect the dynamic movement in the sport.  On the face of it it would seem easier to do a simple drawing rather then one that is detailed and photorealistic but knowing what can be left out and how to work with white space to still show the image you want is difficult.  The result I got this time isn’t quite there but I’m confident I now know how to improve it for my bigger project.  Once the image is dry I can make the pouch bag.

It’s a really nice day here so I’ll be outside enjoying the sunshine by the river for the rest of the day.  I might go to the cinema this evening and watch a film about prehistoric cave art.  It might give me more inspiration for creating art with simple lines.

Live fitting


Gingham shirt fabric

Gingham pinned and tacked

I think the fabric for the shirt I’m making was a very good choice as it’s tough but light weight which is ideal for summer.  It feels different now it’s been washed and ironed, it’s softer and flows even better.  I had a chance to inspect it closely and it’s really beautiful.  As it was handmade the supplier warns that there may be slight blemishes and I did find a couple but the pattern on the fabric looks better for the lack of total perfection.  The woven dark green and white and dark green thread that are mixed for the lighter stripes work really well.

I finished cutting out the pieces of the shirt yesterday and started pinning them together.  Everything went well until the second front piece and sleeve, I pinned them together and held up the shirt to check and found they were inside out.  I blame the fact I’d had an early morning and it was getting on by this point but I managed to reattach them the right way round in time for the fitting.

The fitting was fun although I had to be careful not to stab the model with the pins.  It looked good on the model and he said he liked the way it felt and how it fitted.  Some adjustments were needed mainly to the length of sleeve and allowing more space when the shirt was buttoned.  Now I’ve checked the general fit I was able to start roughly tacking the seams together which will make the fitting for fine adjustments easier as I won’t have to work around pins. Sewing rather than pinning has given me the chance to examine the look of the shirt again.  I’ve decided to make visible turn ups on the end of the sleeves rather than hide the hem.  It’s given the shirt more definition and broken up the sea of check a bit.  I’m thinking of doing the same with the hem at the bottom of the shirt but think I try it out at the next fitting before I make the final decision.

Waiting for deliveries


cotton reels buttons and fabric samples

Cotton reels, buttons and fabric samples

I’m waiting to start my next project, a men’s short sleeved shirt.  The planning has been a lot of fun, especially deciding the design details.  Looking through samples of fair trade and organic cotton gave me a much better feel for the different fabrics available.  For this shirt, after talking to the person the shirt’s for, I ordered the green gingham with large checks.  The colour is the fabric at the front of the photo above but with the design of the blue fabric behind it.

While I’ve been waiting for the fabric to arrive I’ve been working out the details I can add to make the shirt pop.  I always think of check shirts as informal and rugged in style, like lumberjack shirts, so I decided to play on this in an understated way by making the stitching more visible.  Normally the stitching would be in white thread so that it blends in but to enhance the green of the shirts I’m going to highlight some of the stitching in a coppery/brass/goldy brown colour.  I’ve bought two shades of thread for this and I’ll see which one works best.  To go with this I also chose metal brassy buttons, I thought these would look good with a design on them as well.  I’m lucky that York has a great haberdashery with thousands of buttons to choose from so I took a walk to browse their collection.  The ones I picked are shown in the picture and have either a Chinese style dragon or fish which is cool.  Unfortunately I’ve completed all the preparation I can so now all I can do is wait with excitement for the fabric to arrive.