Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Robot softie ready to go out into the world

Geared up robot softie 

Following fast on the heels of my last post about robot fabrics and sewing projects, I have a completed robot softie ready to go on the robot rampage. In posting, I was really just bookmarking Jenny Novinsky's 'Geared up robot' from issue 8 of Fat Quarterly on the to-sew list, but before I knew it, I had a whole robot leg in front of me.

Issue 8 of Fat Quarterly is all about paper peicing, and although I've done English paper piecing for years, I've never tried foundation paper piecing, or freezer paper piecing before. If you're interested in giving any of these techniques a try, then this themed issue will give you lots of small projects to have a go at (next up for me is Kerry's fancy teapot cosy block using the freezer paper method). I also found this useful youtube video, Paper Piecing Made Easy which I wish I'd seen before getting started.

I'm not saying I didn't have to unpick the odd line of teeny tiny stitches as I went, or that I didn't sew right sides and wrong sides together once or twice, but I really loved making this little robot! The little flying geese on the arms and legs were a bit of a challenge due to the small scale and curve of the limbs; I made life more difficult for myself by making this as a bona fide tiny scrap project - the pieces I used for most of the triangles were the little offcuts you get from slashing your quilt binding strips at a 45 degree angle prior to sewing them together, on the small side even for the scrap bin! You give yourself a much bigger margin for error if you use scraps that are bigger than you need rather than trying to make small scraps fit. It's a very satisfying feeling to make something out of such tiny bits and pieces though, especially when that something is a cute and cuddly robot.

paper pieced flying geese

One caveat only - I belong to the school of stuff-your-softie-like-there's-no-tomorrow which made assembling the robot a trifle difficult. Those bulging biceps don't half get in the way of your sewing machine foot, in spite of me trying to push it well down the arm. Next time, rather than compromising on stuffing quantity (I do loathe it when a softie goes flat), I am resolved to pack it down even more firmly into the limbs, then to keep it an inch shy of the open edges with a couple of tacking stitches to be removed when the robot is fully assembled, letting the stuffing expand back into those flattened underarms. Alternatively, I could have handstitched the whole body, or even just finished the leg and arm openings by hand just to make it that bit less awkward.

I made just one tiny change, which was to introduce an antenna made from jumbo ric-rac. That was mainly because I happened to find a 6 inch piece of red giant ric-rac on my sewing desk crying out to be used. I like it though; it's jaunty.

alas it's too wet for robots to go outside to pose

I foresee a future filled with robots. But then, that was how I ended my last post too.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Robot fabrics and sewing projects for boys (and girls!)

robot fabric

Who doesn't love a robot? Maybe it's the geek in me, but I've always liked robot stuff, the more clunky the better, from Marvin the Paranoid Android to the Cybermen of Doctor Who. In fact, the first ever gift my husband bought me was a book about Cybermen (which makes me - and probably him too - sound like a complete weirdo). I mean, it was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but what's not to love about these figures who inspire terror in all who meet them, but have the unfortunate weakness that they're allergic to gold? Petrifying yet also hilarious. And I consider it to be one of the great privileges of being a mother that I can make my children do robotics to 80s electropop in order to earn their dinner.

Robot coin purse
I'm irresistibly drawn to the cute Japanese robot fabrics by Kokka, including this latest purchase, a robot line up in blue, now made into coin purses and pencil cases for the shop. I snapped up the last piece of this one over at Fabric Inspirations but they do have some of Kokka's other robot prints in stock, and Celtic Fusion fabrics has this one in red and blue. Eternal Maker also has this sweet robot mechanic print  and Dots n Stripes have a cute robot ribbon trim.

There are also some great quilting fabric collections out there. I used some of the prints from David Walker's Robots collection for Free Spirit for my little boy's quilt and my nephew's baby quilt.

finished boy quilt

They have a pattern for a robot quilt using the fabrics as a free download.  There's also the fantastic Robot Factory by Caleb Gray for Robert Kaufman which comes in a boyish colour palette of rusty orange, brown, olive green and blue. 

And did you see the paper pieced robot softie from Issue 8 of Fat Quarterly? This leapt straight to the top of my to-sew list. Wouldn't every small child want one? He's such an amiable little thing. After a little sewing session today, I am currently two legs up and itching to get started on the bendy little arms.  

four legs, two robot, two human.

And if you don't fancy foundation piecing, there's a cute robot and spaceboy duo over at Wee Wonderfuls which would make a lovely little play set.
I can't sign off without sharing the soundtrack to this post (though you may not want to play if children are in earshot!), whirring around in my head as I type, 'the humans are dead' by Flight of the Conchords.

'Binary solo': now that's what I call musical genius. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Christmas in August

Felt Christmas decoration tutorial

Hello to any new visitors who have popped over from Sew, Mama, Sew this week! They have a Christmas/holidays in August theme over on the blog at the moment, and my hand-stitched felt Christmas decorations are one of the tutorials in the series. The set includes a parcel, robin, reindeer (complete with red nose) and stocking. They're very quick and easy, and you only need minimal supplies. So, should you wish to get ahead, or should you be looking for a nice portable hand sewing project to take on your Summer holidays, then head on over to download the pattern templates and to see the step-by-step instructions.

Have a look at my tutorials page for more free sewing projects, such as this festive stencilled hoop decoration. 

Christmas tutorial_stencilled embroidery hoop

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Oh we do like to be beside the seaside

Alum bay

We're just back from a blissful holiday, making the most of the British seaside. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Welsh girl, so much more familiar with the Gower, Pembrokeshire and North Wales coastline than with England's beaches. My husband has long harboured a plan to lure us all to the Isle of Wight, having grown up there, and after having deferred last year due to our house move, we finally made it this Summer.

Alum bay and the needles

Compton bay

Our holiday was pretty idyllic, an unexpected window of sunshine opening and showing us 'the island' (the husband still refers to the rest as 'the mainland') at its best. Compton beach, though its cliffs had crumbled somewhat since Mr Angharad's time, offered the perfect spot for ball games and picnics and sandcastle-building. Children's bedtimes went out of the window and we stayed till the sun set. We also went to Alum bay, famed for its coloured sand. We were mildly mystified by the children's obsession with the tide being in until we realised that they had expected to see a multi-coloured patchwork effect, like Elmer the elephant in beach form. Novelty bottles were filled with layers of coloured sand, and the vertiginous chair-lift was braved and survived (by me and the two eldest, my husband preferring to wait until the whole thing was over before telling me of all the terrifying possibilities he had envisaged). On other days there were castle ramparts to be walked, model villages to be explored and lots of ice-creams to be eaten (youngest has discovered a new favourite flavour, 'brown').

Alum bay chairlift

Compton bay sunset

We spent a second week in Cornwall with my husband's family, staying in beautiful Portscatho. We had outings to gardens and to the incredible Eden project, as well as a fantastic day watching a medieval joust and melee. The children had endless fun with their cousin, perfected the sand-building techniques they had honed on the island, and indulged in endless Olympic-inspired races. In fact, the littlest member of the family should really have come with a built-in 'Chariots of fire' soundtrack after all the sand-miles she clocked up!

Joust and melee at Pendennis castle

Trellisick gardens, Cornwall 2012
I did not pack my scrap vomit, I knitted not a single stitch of the stripey cotton baby jumper I'm working on, but I did have the most enjoyable and relaxing holiday. Sea swims, sunsets, beach football, castles with moats built in a race against the tide, and children with sandy toes, bronzed skin and salty hair. Just lovely.

Compton bay

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