Plump pudding chicken swap

>> Friday, March 31, 2006

A while ago Samantha from plump pudding offered up some of her charming fabric chickens. She sent me a lovely package, in a sewn blue striped bag. The chicken, of course, which is made from really pretty fabrics, and a soft little purple gingham pincushion, and a handy tissue cosy which I immediately tucked into my bag.

I loved the fabric on the wings, it's two layers and the polka dot layer is almost transparent. It's a really nice way to use this kind of fabric, I can never think of uses for flimsier fabric like this so now I have a good idea for it. Thank you Samantha, I loved my package!I am catching up with my swaps, and posting my swaps, and tonight I finally finished a package for Samantha. It will be in the post as of tomorrow for sure! Obviously I will have to keep the contents a surprise for now. I don't always follow up on swaps that I've sent that had to be kept secret at the time, but I will mention that the prize for answering my quiz was the needle book at the top of the post, it went to Cathy and it has finally arrived. I've had bad mail luck lately and it was chewed by a dog first!

Thanks to everyone for making my new spring etsy shop such a success, the two pincushions are already gone - I will have to make some more. I wanted to see if they would be appealing to people first. I added the bird postcard to my shop as a separate item and I've already sold six of them, so that went really well too. Thank you and the packages are already in the mail!


Spring etsy shop

>> Thursday, March 30, 2006

Some needle book visitors were very nice and emailed asking me about putting my handmade needlebooks and pincushions into my etsy shop. So I've decided to try it out and I've put my first pincushion in today. The bird illustration was also popular, so every purchase comes with a postcard of the bird on a branch picture printed by me at home.

Here's a close-up, the pincushion comes with the pins and card, and if you mention that you are a needle book reader I will tuck in an extra wee surprise.Happy Spring!

Note: this one has already sold - thank you orange blossom goddess! The 2nd pincushion has also sold, thank you Kristy! I've added the bird postcard to the shop for purchase on its own. I will be adding more pincushions soon.


Boy Knitting - part 3

>> Monday, March 27, 2006

This is the gorgeous scarf that Bradley just finished. It's knitted from blue, navy blue, orange, tan and dark olive green Jo Sharp Silkroads Ultra. He did it in the sideways garter stitch style, knitting with two colours twined together at a time and switching every row and sometimes in the middle of a row. He is so proud of this scarf and rightly so, it looks and feels wonderful plus he had the herculean task of weaving in about a million ends.Now that he's finished the scarf, he's working on a hat made from blended yarns again, with a stripe with a pattern on it around the middle. Like me, he likes to design his own things, and unlike me, he's very patient and makes lots of swatches and diagrams.

Bradley asked me to sew him a knitting bag recently, for a present, and even hinted at the fabrics he liked. I finished it today, just in time for our 2nd anniversary (of our first date). The inside is a brown, blue and white stripe, and has a square pocket to hold patterns or notes on one side, and a knitting needles sleeve with dividers on the other side.
The brown outside has an appliqued robot for decoration, this part was the surprise. I was very happy with how much Bradley liked his new knitting bag. Although I think I can't really go wrong with anything with a robot.
I forgot to mention on my last post, but it was my 100th post! I'd like to thank everyone for making me so welcome in the crafts blog world. Your comments and emails are really appreciated, whether you have a blog or not. It's been wonderful to join in with swaps and sharing ideas, patterns and inspiration. Speaking of which, coming up soon will be more swap pictures, my current knitting bag project, pictures from my new Japanese crafts books and fabric, and I'll be showing off the lovely fabrics that Bradley bought me for my anniversary present!


Illustration Friday - monster

>> Friday, March 24, 2006

*click on the pictures to see them larger*

I hear that people really like to see the painting process and so I was planning to show more of that next time I did an Illustration Friday picture. I was also just invited to join a Flickr group called Art Recipes. This group shows final artwork with links to pictures of the process, so it's good timing. So I'm warning you - it's a bit of a long post!

This picture was for the Illustration Friday topic "monster" and I started out with some monster sketches. As usual I tend to use the IF topics to create children's illustrations, so this developed into the idea of the monster in the closet or under the bed. And I thought back and remembered getting spooked at night in bed from a combination of shadows and imagination. I remember climbing out of bed to close the closet door. Then deciding that the unknown was worse, and climbing out to open the closet door again. So that was the inspiration for this picture.

This is the initial sketch. I often do the sketch quite quickly and don't refine it too much, I save that for the final artwork. Sometimes things that look fine in daylight become spooky at night, so I added a few things to suggest that. The tree branches are crooked, the curtains wave eerily, even the Rapunzel painting suddenly seems worrisome - does it hurt when the prince climbs up her hair? I wanted to use cool colours, but still have it look like a little girl's room so I added details such as the butterflies on the bedspread.I photocopy the sketch before transferring it to the watercolour block, and at this time I can scale it up if I want to. I like to draw at a smaller scale and not worry too much about the little details. I use transfer paper, tape that to the block with the photocopied sketch on top and I trace it with a ballpoint pen with a fine point.
The next picture shows the result. While I'm tracing I refine the sketch a bit, and leave out details I don't want anymore.
Then I ink the lines using a waterproof felt tip pen. There's a little more refinement done at this stage too. I measured out the page size I wanted, which was 6" x 8", added a .5 inch bleed allowance and taped the outline so that I would end up with a clean border.
I wait a couple of hours before erasing the graphite lines and starting to watercolour, otherwise the ink can smudge. The first layer of watercolour is fairly light with only a little bit of shading. It's always possible to go darker later, and I like to layer up the colour gradually. At this stage as you can see it looks like daylight, the colours are very light and the picture looks a bit flat.
Then I start adding in more shadows, darker colours, details and patterns.
This is the final stage - I look at the whole picture and add a few more shadows and details here and there. For example, compare the girl's hair in the following picture and the previous one.
Then my favourite part - I lift up the masking tape to show the final illustration with a nice clean border!


I made a skirt!

>> Thursday, March 23, 2006

I had an idea recently that I'd like to learn how to sew some of my own clothes. I haven't really had the time until recently and I thought it would be kind of difficult to just pick up. But how great would it be to make my own clothes just the way I want? That's the way everyone did it in the olden days, right?

I had a black A-line knee length skirt from the Gap that was a bit faded, but fit just right. So I reverse engineered it to make a pattern. I used my stitch ripper and took it all apart and at each step I jotted down the instructions for that stage and in some cases where it was more complicated - such as inserting the zipper - I took pictures for reference.

Then I cut out the pieces using some recently posted thrift fabric, lost my nerve and left them in my sewing basket for a few days. Finally I decided they would probably sit there for the next year unless I just took the bull by the horns and tried sewing them up. And it actually worked! I even used interfacing for the first time for the waistband. I would take a picture of the skirt on me but I couldn't quite manage it on my own and I wanted to just go ahead and post it rather than wait to ask Bradley to take the picture for me. These pictures show a bit of it, it's mainly just four panels sewn together, then the waistband and zipper on the side and a lining strip along the inside of the hem. I used French seams since I don't have a serger which is what the store-bought skirt had to keep the seams from fraying.

I'm thinking of trying a dress next. I've bought a pattern for one, but it will be trickier than the skirt because I will have to adjust it to fit, whereas I already knew the skirt was the right size and shape.Thanks to everyone for all the sweet comments about Rabbit! His confidence has gone right up since the repairs and my niece has seen the pictures and approves. Oh, and my brother reminded me that it was his idea that Rabbit appear on needle book and have his 15 minutes of fame.


Most lovable Rabbit ever

>> Wednesday, March 22, 2006

This rabbit belongs to my brother, Simon. Judging from his looks, the rabbit has pretty much been around since Simon was born in the late 60s. See how lovable he is? But he needed a little TLC plus I wanted him for a guest spot on needle book so Simon agreed that I could take him home with me.

Rabbit has also become popular with my four-year-old niece, so I was concerned that he be prepared for another generation of a child's affection. There's been some delay but he is finally ready to appear. First of all I stitched up a few gaps here and there and even darned a hole on his arm/paw. Darned paw:Most importantly, I sewed up the big gap in his front which was gaping open and revealing a bit of stuffing. I used the invisible seam technique I learned from Stoller's Stitch 'n bitch Nation book.
Chest after repair:Stitching up all the little gaps and holes led to an interesting discussion with Bradley over the mathematical properties of the "stitch in time, saves nine" adage. I collect old wooden spools of thread whenever I find them, and I now have tons of them, so I managed to find the perfect vintage tan coloured thread to match him.

Then I gave his pants a wash and as I write this they are in the dryer. These knitted pants were made by me, probably around the age of 7 or so. I can't remember, but I am sure I was pleased that they were met with approval and I don't think they've been taken off since then. Finally, to round off his treatment, I sewed up a little shirt to go with the pants and give him a little extra protection. And I put a pocket on the front because I know my niece will enjoy hiding things inside it.So there you go, a spruced up Rabbit looking dapper and ready for anything.


Spring flower

>> Monday, March 20, 2006

I thought one of wise craft's flowers would be the perfect craft for the first day of spring. I already have a beautiful white one with orange polka dots made for me by Blair herself. Everytime I wear it it feels like spring. The petals ruffle in the breeze.

Thanks to Blair for sharing the pattern. Of course I tried to personalize mine a little bit, I added an extra small brown petal layer in the middle and used an uncovered vintage button for the centre. But I basically followed Blair's instructions. I love when people are willing to share their great craft's ideas. The floral fabric in the middle is from a vintage apron I had already started cutting up. It had accidentally gotten a big rip in the middle which made it easy.

Thanks for everyone for all the nice comments on my bird illustration. I really appreciate the encouragement, especially as I'm trying something a bit new. And thank you for the congratulations on our engagement! I didn't actually announce that I was engaged on my blog because we got engaged last August and I started needle book in November. We're getting married September 17th, at a beautiful historical house in Toronto called Spadina House. I've always loved it because it feels like the countryside tucked into the city. There's a huge gated lawn with an Edwardian garden, orchard, greenhouse, and even a pumpkin patch. It's very quiet once you're inside the gates. We're going to have the ceremony under a large tree on the lawn and set up a tent nearby for a luncheon afterwards. If it was up to me, we'd all be having a picnic on blankets, but I guess that's not very practical...


Brown and pink bird painting

>> Saturday, March 18, 2006

This is what I painted today. I'm thinking of creating an extra illustration portfolio for editorial work. I love children's illustration, but I thought I would also like to branch out a bit (excuse the pun). I also spent some time leafing through my Martha Stewart wedding magazines for inspiration for our invitations. I've been a bit daunted about planning for the wedding so I'm starting with something I like to do. The bird illustration is possibly for the invitations.

I've also been busy updating my illustration site, I sent out a lot of self promotions recently and I want people to see an updated site if they visit.


Thrifting - aprons

>> Thursday, March 16, 2006

Vintage aprons can be a great way to pick up some nice fabric, the only problem is that sometimes they're really charming and it's hard to cut them up. This one is currently my favourite, and although I love the fabric I think I'll keep it the way it is. Part of the charm is the white rick-rack trim, and the pale blue background colour is so pretty with the floral pockets. This particular apron was also the best bargain - the thrift shop owner had it put aside in a bag for a Goodwill donation and said I could just take it. I think most people aren't interested in old aprons. Lucky me! The next week she had some aprons in a box for sale for $6 each.
This yellow apron I bought for $6 at the same store. I think I will cut this one up for fabric. I don't like the style as much, plus it has two layers, the floral and the plain yellow, so there's more fabric to use. The outside has a plain yellow pocket and the inside has a floral pocket.
Here's a detail of the cute flower fabric. Very cheerful, good for something in the kitchen. I have an idea already but I'll tell you about that in another post.
This blue one was from a thrift clothing store on Queen West. It cost $4. Another one for cutting up I think. The floral pattern is too busy for me at this size, but for something small it would be really cute.
This light blue and red one is one I got years ago at the Goodwill dollar-a-pound (it's now closed and relocated uptown). Which means it cost around 20 cents. I bought a few other aprons there - this was my favourite. It's very small, so I think it's for a child. Of course my favourite part is the strawberry pocket.
This turquoise and flowery one came from Value Village, another thrift store - it was $1.99.
Here's a detail of the floral fabric. I love it! This one will get cut up too. I love how well the floral fabric goes with the plain turquoise part.
So that's it for aprons. I have a few more stashed away but these are my recent acquisitions and my favourites. The funny part is I'm not much of a cook - but I love sweets so I do like baking. Sometimes I wear the pale blue one around the house while I'm working on illustrations so I can tuck pencils, my eraser and pencil sharpener etc. in the pocket. Now you think I'm dotty right?


Thrifting - fabric finds

>> Tuesday, March 14, 2006

This is my favourite detail from a fabric I recently found while thrift shopping. It's a circus-themed print with animals, circus tents and performers. My picture didn't turn out well, the fabric is white with pale pink lines. Speaking of thrifting, I'm sure you've already been there, but make sure you don't miss Hillary's wonderful new blog: thrift craft. It's nice to hear other people getting so thrilled by thrift shopping too! Another fabric I found was this floral:
It's a sheet, but the fabric is really nice, very smooth and soft. I wasn't sure about it at first, but I was pulled in by the interesting colour scheme, grey, orange and tan. Plus I like most vintage floral patterns. I think it will look great with just the right contrasting colour with it.

This one is a linen tablecloth, the flower pattern is in a square border with a circle in the middle filled with the same pattern. I love the cheerful colours and I was picturing what a nice picnic cloth it would make. I think I was getting excited about spring.
And finally, I found a set of four orange knapkins, also in a nice thick cotton fabric. I made a crochet hook holder out of one of them, similar to the pencil holder in the new Martha Stewart Good Things for Kids magazine. (I like the new magazine, but I miss the beautiful illustrations in the original one). The crochet case turned out just right, with just enough slots to fill all my crochet hooks. All the slots are full, the hooks at the left end are too little to show over the top.
Is it just me, or do the crochet hooks look really cute in their slots? To me they look like they're tucked up in bed.Next thrift post will be dedicated to my marvelous vintage aprons!


Vintage button bracelet

>> Monday, March 13, 2006

I loved the vintage buttons I bought recently in Montréal so much that I've been thinking of making a button bracelet. I got the idea from one that was in the store, it had really nice buttons on it, but it was made of metal links and I thought I would rather have the bracelet part made of a ribbon or something similar. So I crocheted a "ribbon" using brown pearl cotton (size 8), and a tiny 1.75 mm crochet hook. One end has a loop to go around a button for a clasp, and the rest of the buttons are sewn onto the top in the usual way.Once it's closed, the clasp button covers the gap:Here's a detail, these are some of my favourite buttons, in my favourite colours:It's a great way to enjoy your favourite buttons and have a one-of-a-kind bracelet!


Current illustration projects

>> Sunday, March 12, 2006

This is a current illustration project of mine, a picture book about a girl who is adjusting to a newborn little sister, it's called Drusilda's New Sister. This is a project for Stargazer Press. I'm also working on an illustration for a new children's mystery magazine that a publisher in the U.S. is starting up. And finally I have an upcoming project for a company in Indonesia, illustrating some classic children's stories such as Puss in Boots and Cinderella.

Lately I've also working on updating my portfolios because this week I received several copies of books I illustrated last year. All of these books were intended for schools, which means that they're not available in bookstores. But thank you to those who have asked about buying copies of my books! The kinds of children's books that sell in bookstores are called trade books - as opposed to educational books, and I am hoping to do more of those in the future.

In the meantime I did have requests for copies of a recent book of mine, I'm Heading to the Rodeo, and so I bought a few copies from the publisher directly. The book is about a young girl who dreams of being in the rodeo. Here are some sample pages from the book:This paperback book is available in both English and Spanish editions. If anyone is interested in a copy, please email me at clairelmilne(at) I'm selling this book at cost, which is $8. It's a must-have if you love horses and/or the rodeo!


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