Thursday, 30 April 2009

All stripped and ready for action!!!!!

woohooooo ... how many men have peaked because of the title??? LMAO

I've made a start on Gen's quilt (shush don't tell her as it's a surprise for her birthday). I've cut up plenty of strips and am ready for action. This quilt is going to be a Tripple Irish Quilt. She saw the design I had made on the computer and said she liked it. I innocently asked her what colours she would use if she was making it and 'PURPLE' was her answer. I was hoping she would choose blue as that seems to be her favourite at the minute and I didn't relish the thought of another purple quilt this quickly, but if that's what she wants, then who am I to argue.

I'm not going to write too much detail in this posting, as I'll do a full one when I've actually finished the quilt. However, as promised to Kerry, I'll post a quilt teaser of photographs below to make sure you come back to see the finished item (hopefully not too long away).

I needed 4 fabrics for the design, I found a wonderful batik fabric ( and decided that this was going to be the material I would base the other colours around. It was a struggle, we had almost every purple fabric off of the shelves to compare them together and spent a lot of time, but we got there in the end. I chose and After a suggestion from Jo, I decided that instead of a darker colour in the middle of the chains, I would use the light colour again, therefore only needed 3 fabrics.

To ensure that I was on the right track, I showed Gen the colours last night and she loved them - Although I did fib and tell her that it was another quilt for Jo! lol


Sunday, 26 April 2009

Going Potty over Pottery!!!!

I have has many customers during the 3 1/2 years we have been running Potter Doodle Doo, some come back time after time whilst others just come along for something different. Either way it's always a pleasure to see their creations. Each and every time I open up the kiln after a firing, I'm like a kid in a sweetie shop. The colours and designs really do come alive during the firing process. Many have asked what happens to their items when I take them home so I thought that I would write a posting which will hopefully explain the process.

Those who have attended will know that we start off with a blank plate. This is called bisque or bisqueware which is a clay product that has been fired without any glazes. All of the tableware items that we sell are imported from either Italy or America by our supplier.
The bisque is painted using a non-toxic, lead free coloured glaze. The brand that we use is called 'Stroke & Coat' and is made by a company called 'Mayco' in America. As this glaze is water based, it is suitable for using to make wonderful baby footprints. The colours aren't very interesting when painting, however the effect after firing is fabulous.
I use a super high gloss unleaded glaze which is made in Italy. It gives a wonderful sheen and shine to the surface of the item. The item is held with a pair of tongs and then dipped into the bucket of glaze. This covers the item with a light blue / green colour which if you haven't seen before can be quite concerning.

Here on the left is a selection of pottery waiting to be glazed.
As my website states, we are a family business, and many of your will have seen Gen at the events and workshops that I have run. She is always asking to help during the glazing process, but I don't allow her to dip items unless she hasn't painted them herself. Tiles however are unsuitable for dipping as you do not want to have glaze on the underside of them, therefore we brush glaze these. As you can see, Gen was in her element glazing these for me, she was so proud when they came out of the kiln - you would think that she had actually painted them all herself not just glazed them.

Items that have been dipped and are now drying out waiting to be fettled.

Once the items have been dipped, they are left on the table to dry, the time this takes depends upon how warm the room is. In the Summer, items dry in just a few minutes, however in the cold of Winter, it can take upto half an hour or so.

When they are dry, they are 'fettled' this involves removing any glaze from the 'foot' of the item. The foot is the area underneath your pot that sits on the table, if glaze is not removed from this area it will fuse to the shelf in the kiln. It is done by firstly scraping the area with a fettling knife and then sponging with a damp cloth to ensure that all is removed.
The kiln I have is a Paragon Kiln (again made in America), this will hold approximately 20 plates with special plate racks. I can get approximately 45-50 mugs in there at once. They are then loaded into the kiln for firing (unfortunately, I forgot to take a pic of the kiln loaded up - SORRY!)

The kiln takes approximately 8 hours to reach the high temperature of just over 1000 degrees celcius and then about another 8 hours to cool down again. The cooling period can be longer during hot weather. I don't open the kiln until it is showing about 30-40 degrees at which point I leave for at least another hour with the lid open as the items are usually a lot hotter than the ones at the top. being a bit stupid last week, I opened up the kiln and thought.... 'oooooh that's a lovely mug' at which point I decided to pick it up to take a better look! How dumb was that idea, I burnt my hand on it. If it had been anything else, i would have dropped it instantly but knowing that it was something a customer had lovingly painted, I grinned and gently put it down on the top of the kiln controller ... now how's that for dedication! LOL.
Below are some photographs of fired items, these were all painted at events that took place over the Easter Holiday 2009. I apologise in advance, I didn't have time to take photographs of everything, so just chose a few at random. If you would like to see your item on my blog or website, then please email me a photograph of your item, including your age, name and where you painted it and I will display it for you.
How does this strange looking substance go clear?? WELL! It's all part of the firing process which sees the kiln heat to temperatures exceeding 1000 degrees celcius! How I explain this to the children is the fact that the kiln gets over 4 times hotter than the oven in your kitchen. The coloured glaze that was used to paint your design also undergoes a chemical reaction to the heat and becomes a lot more vibrant giving some stunning colours and effects.

These tiles were painted at an event I did on Easter Monday for Oasis Church Wintringham. Guests were invited to paint a tile with what Easter means to them. We had a varied selection of tiles painted from beautiful Spring flowers and Easter Eggs through to the Cross. These are going back to the individuals who painted them which in a way is a shame as they look wonderful all together there on the table.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Spring Garden

I know I promised my next post to be about Ceramics, but I haven't yet managed to take some pictures of complete items and I just couldn't resist posting some of the snaps that I took of the tubs in my garden a couple of days ago. They are all coming along nicely now, it looks like Spring has finally arrived - especially considering the weather that we have had over the past week.

This pic is of my extremely expensive greenhouse LOL. A bargain from The Range costing £12.99 which was half price. Makes a change me getting a bargain purchase.

On the right is my lavender which is just starting to send shoots off again. I have a few of these in tubs dotted around, and the smell from them in the Summer is absolutely wonderful. Especially if you rub your hand across them. I really do like the smell of lavender, but if I'm in a room with it for any length of time (e.g. a candle or air freshener), then it does start to give me a headache.
This one was an experiment. It's actually cress. Gen is keeping an eye on it to see how high she can grow it. I'm quite impressed with her efforts so far. whenever we have tried to grow cress in the past, she's forgotten to water it and it's gone all brown and yucky within a short time.

I'm good at experiments and this is another one .... believe it or not we're growing some lettuce in here. They're both mixed leaves and were planted a couple of weeks apart. I'm going to plant some more over the weekend to hopefully have a constant supply as we eat a lot of salad .... that's assuming that the damn snails don't get to em first. If you see tiny blue dots in any of the pictures, these are actually snail pellets that I've put down all around my garden to try and eradicate the problem that we have. (this area is fenced off from our doggie, therefore doesn't pose a problem for her.
ok, this shelf of the green house contains my favourites .... the back tray is strawberry seeds that we planted and the front tray contains yellow tomato seeds. The strawberry seedlings seem to be growing very nicely, however the tomatoes don't seem to be doing as good yet. I'm hoping that they will start to sprout in the coming weeks now that the weather has made a turn for the better.
I purchased 5 strawberry seedlings from B&Q last year and we got a wonderful crop from them. I'm hoping that we will have the same effect this year but from seeds. There will be a lot more plants than last year too if they all take when I plant them out, yummy strawberries and cream all summer long :-).
Gen is like myself, she absolutely adores tomatoes. I remember when I was her age, my grandad had a large greenhouse full of them. He always had at least 2 plants that were yellow, no-one was allowed near them except me. Last year Gen brought home a tomato seedling that she had planted at school. It grew very well in the conservatory, however unfortunately, we didn't get any fruit from it at all. So like I used to, she kept visiting my dad's greenhouse and pinching from her grandads crop.
Now these are something that I would never have considered planting, however when we were browsing in the garden centre they caught my eye. They are actually sweetcorn seedlings. I planted them in small pots last weekend after they had been in the greenhouse for a couple of months. I don't know if they will take or not, hence the small starter pots. But you never know with these things unless you give it a try now do you.

These are yet another item that is completely new to my garden. These seedlings are actually garden peas. They were planted at the same time as the sweet peas below, however they did sprout up quicker and are growing nicely. They are already putting feelers out ready for climbing. Once they are big enough, I plan to tie them to some string that I have for the fence. Hopefully we'll have a nice crop of fresh pod peas to have with our salad as I have 3 pots full of these.

Yes I do have some flowers in the garden too! The rectangular pots on the right contain sweet peas that I have planted directly outside. The smaller of the round pots on the left are also sweet peas, however these were given to me as seedlings that my mum had planted in her greenhouse. Hers are slightly more mature than mine, however will all of the ones that I have now I should get a really nice smelling crop during the summer ... and also plenty of seeds for next year! The larger pot in the left picture is a selection of mixed flower seeds that Gen planted.

Now I don't have a clue what these are, the yellow ones look like a flower from the daisy family, but I wouldn't swear it under oath. The purple ones are absolutely beautiful, altho unfortunately I think they were a little camera shy and didn't show up as well. I planted this tub last year with what I thought were bedding plants. It has been stuck in the corner of the garden over the winter, and hey presto just as I was about to dig all the roots out of the pot and plant something else in there, these started to sprout up.

Well I think that's my garden more or less summed up. I do have more pots containing some carrots (we had a good crop from the same brand last year), spring onions (again a lot of success previously), radish and beetroot that we haven't tried before. I will try and update the photographs in a month or so as things grow.

Friday, 10 April 2009

99 Bobbins of Cotton in the Box

I started this posting on the 10th April, but unfortunately I've been too busy to upload the photographs and finish off, so I'll apologise now if the timeline seems a bit weird. I've finished all of the Pottery Painting workshops for this school holiday, and I've taken lots of photographs of the items. I'm hoping to do a long posting on this during the week especially for those who have painted with me and haven't any idea what happens between painting and me delivering the glazed item back to the schools.

Ok ... back to my sewing post ........

So, maybe 99 bobbins of cotton is a bit of an exaggeration ... but there's a lot! I decided it was time to wind all of my empty bobbins this morning .. and boy did it take a while. I've been embroidering like crazy over the last week or so and didn't realise how many I had empty, despite the fact that they were right there in front of me and I kept taking one out every ten mins or so LOL. But the dreadful job is done now and these should last me quite some time. I think there's around 50 that I've done!

When I last purchased some new embroidery threads, I decided to purchase 2 x 10,000m cones of sewing cotton. I honestly thought that I would never get through it, or if I did it would take me years to do so. With that in mind, goodness knows why I decided to purchase 2 of them. BUT during my bobbin winding marathon this morning, I've finished it! I can't believe I've used over 10,000m of thread, I knew it was starting to get low, however I was sure that it would last me a long time. I've now broken the seal on the second one and have it ready and waiting for the marathon sewing of bags today......wish me luck.

I've been wondering why my sewing machine is playing games with me today. I've had 5 broken needles within the space of about 20 mins ... very unusual as they don't break that often at all. Then the penny dropped when I looked properly .... Stooooopid me had been putting embroidery needles in there when I was sewing - no wonder they were breaking d'oh. Once I changed to a 'proper' sewing needle, the machine worked perfectly.

I was very proud of myself last weekend when I was able to post all of the bags that had been ordered. I thought it was going to be touch and go for a while as I've been so busy working, however they went out on Saturday and were received mid week after the Bank Holiday. All customers were very happy with their wares.
Little Ruby has been carrying hers around the house completely empty and won't let it out of her site ... bless her. I understand that she's going to pack a few things in it and take it to nursery with her next week.
I made this one as an Easter present, her mum has asked me to make some party gift bags with the same designs for Ruby's birthday at the end of May ...... I have an idea in my mind as to how I'm going to do them, I just need to get cracking on them soon. (it's in my task master list to ensure that I don't forget).

Nicki is getting married soon and saw my auction on eBay. She asked me if I could do a Greek Flag design for 2 children and then 2 tote bags for the Mothers. I came up with these, I received a lovely email from Nicki saying how pleased she was with them. Don't they look fantastic all together there in the photograph? The one at the bottom is an additional gift I did for Nicki for her large custom order.

The last bag was made for another lady who purchased following my auction on eBay. She asked for a rainbow which I found amongst my vast collection. The photograph doesn't do this one justice, the colours are much brighter in 'reality'.

I haven't got around to finishing off our laundry bags yet. The above ones took priority over my own sewing. I think I mentioned in my last posting that I've got them all embroidered, they just need finishing off which shouldn't take a huge amount of time.

I did however, have a play with my machine yesterday (on my one day off this week) making some labels to put inside any future bags that I make.

This is a picture of them all together and shows you how many I can make per hooping. i.e. 3 large, 4 medium or 6 small ones. I've included a £1 coin in the photographs to give an indication of sizing on the close up photographs.

These are the 3 large labels. I have my own favourite, however before I comment on any of them, I would like other opinions.

Although these labels do look ok, i was very unimpressed with how the machine stitched the border on them. I've never known it do this with anything else, but it only stitched around once and didn't knot the ends properly. As you can see in the photograph on the right, they are coming undone at the start / end point. If I decided to use this size, I would change to the border used on the smaller ones below which stitched around the whole border 3 times and knotted properly.

I love these small labels with the reel of cotton on them. I played around with these for quite some time. I didn't want to make them any bigger as I liked this size to use on the inside of Party Favour Bags. Unfortunately, however it did mean that I wasn't able to stitch the website address on one line. So, I decided to make a feature of it and spread it across 3 lines. I thought that it would be nice to stitch some in both blue and pink rather than all the same. I had images of boys opening their bags and throwing a fit because it had a pink label on the inside LOL. I like the effect, however I'm open to constructive suggestions and comments.

Gen is back to school on Tuesday, and I'm going to go off to quilting class where hopefully I can finish off Jo's quilt. I haven't been for a few weeks and am really looking forward to catching up with everyone.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Blood Tears and Toil !

What a busy weekend I had. I was embroidering all day on Saturday and got quite a lot done. In between embroidery, I was on the laptop downloading hundreds of new designs. However when chatting to a friend (you know who you are!) I realised that I had spent way too much time at the laptop and machine over the past few weeks. So I decided to do something else. I picked up a book and started reading. Now, if I'm honest, I absolutely love reading, but never seem to have the time. When I start a book, I can't put it down and then I'm disappointed when I get to the end because it's all done. The book I started reading is one I purchased in Asda when I was shopping last week. It's one by Marian Keyes called 'This Charming Man'. I've read two of her books before so when I saw it on offer, I picked it up with eager anticipation. So far it hasn't disappointed at all, I'm loving every page...... yes all 883 of them! So far I'm about 3/4 of the way through it (yes since Sunday). I'll try and write a little review when I'm done.

Tuesday and Wednesday this week, I delivered pottery painting workshops which were fun as usual. When I've sorted out the boxes of painted items, I'll do a few 'before and after' shots with firing. It's amazing how the colours change when subjected to over 1000 degrees. I'm back next week delivering activities Mon-Thurs.

Today, I have been back at the machine again. I've embroidered flags galore! A customer wanted some bags to give as gifts at her Greek wedding. Therefore requested the Greek Flag. Personally, I think it's a great unique idea. The fact that time has been taken to obtain a personalised gift is something special. I hope she will love the items I have done for her.

Unfortunately, half way through one of the flags I had a little accident ... oops! Yes it was my own stupidity. I saw the end of the thread and decided to try and grab hold of it when the machine was running! I can see everyone reading now cringing at what comes next. Well, the screw used to tighten the needle came down full force twice on my index finger before I managed to hit the stop button, and has taken a nice little chunk out. However, being a true professional, and despite the fact that the air in here was as blue as the colour of the flags, I managed to continue the task at hand without dropping even the slightest little spot of blood on the item ... now how's that for dedication! LOL.

From my recent work, I have 9 PE / Tote bags sitting on the side with all of the embroidery and personalisation that are now waiting to be sewn together. This is my task for tomorrow as I need to go make tea and do some glazing soon. We're having toad in the hole with mashed potatoes and gravy .. yummy!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Weekend Tasks To Complete

I tend to jot things on here during the day, hence one minute things are in the preparation stage and the next they're completed - sorry if anyone gets confused, but I will try and divide where I've come back later and added bits in. The way it saves having numberous postings on the same day.

Tasks I set myself for the weekend - to complete 3 laundry bags (one for each of us).

I thought that this would be a very easy task to do, but boy was I WRONG! Gen has just spent over an hour choosing the design that she would like on her bag. Then we spent another 20 minutes trying to find a nice font that I think would work with her super long name. Knowing my luck, when I start programming her name in it won't fit :-( Why didn't I name her Amy? It would have been a lot easier (and quicker) when embroidering LOL.

Gen has chosen a daisy design for the middle of her bag which is currently stitching on the machine, it should take around 50 minutes to complete this. The picture here is a screen image of the design - I think she's chosen well. She has also claimed the 'Mrs' Cute Monster design that I did yesterday. This will be on the reverse of her bag.

The next thing I need to do is choose a design for mine and Jon's bags - a womans work is never done is it LOL.

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I was rather surprised at Jon's choice - he has asked for Yogi Bear. Again, the picture on the left is a screen shot. If I'm honest, I didn't even realise that I had any Yogi Bear designs until I did a search and found a folder full of them. He's chosen one complete with BooBoo. This design takes around 1hr 10 mins to stitch out! There are 13 colour changes within the design, only one colour is repeated throughout.

Two designs chosen ... one to go!!!!

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Now, what have I chosen? Hmmmmm, I haven't a clue yet lol. I can't decide between some beautiful flowers or butterflies. I can see my bag being full of all different embroidery designs. That's the beauty of having your own machine, it doesn't matter how much time it takes as it's my own to use so I don't have to calculate 'woman' hours into the costing.

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After hours and hours of deliberation, this is the design that I have chosen for my bag. This will take around 1 hour to stitch out. As it is rather a large design (only just fitting in my large hoop), it actually stitches out in two parts. Starting on the left, it stitches Perdy and the two puppies next to her. Then when complete, it stitches Pongo and the two remaining puppies. Fortunately however, it doesn't need rehooping inbetween.

The lines that can be seen on the design in red and black are 'jump' stitches where the machine 'jumps' from one area to another. These are cut off when the design is finished (newer machines cut them automatically whilst embroidering the design.

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I'm going to get all of the sides embroidered before I stitch them together. I find it much easier this way as I don't have to keep attaching and detaching the embroidery unit of my machine.

I'll post photographs of the actual bags when I've completed them which will hopefully be tomorrow.

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OMG - my dalmations were about 2/3 of the way through embroidering when a certain little madam decided to plug in her Nintendo DS which needed charging. To be fair, she did ask first. She plugged it into my extension and pressed the button to switch the charger on. At which point my machine went off argggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!! The silence in the room was so LOUD. She just didn't know what to do or say, she stood there in horror crying 'I'm so sorry mum - I'm really sorry mum'. She was very lucky that I hadn't altered the size or orientation in any way from how it loaded onto the screen so it didn't take too much work to get it back to the position where it stopped.

Usually, I've got a few things on the screen, or I move them about or resize them, and it's almost impossible to get them back in the same place again. Her angel must have been watching over her!!!!

Alls well that ends well.

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