Friday, 28 June 2013

Screen printing t-shirts......

Tie Dye Vest
Today I'm handing over my blog to my daughter who has just started making dip dyed and screen printed clothes.

Hello! I’m Elen and I’m currently taking my GCSEs. My first year exams are all over now so I can dedicate more time to my fashion ideas, yay! 

I decided to start screen printing some of the t-shirts and bags that I'd managed to tie dye in breaks between frantic revision sessions!    

At first, it took a few tries to cut out the stencil that I had designed - I kept cutting off small parts of it by accident, but eventually I managed to get it right. I then started the long process of using sellotape to stick the stencil to the screen in exactly the right space. 

I had just finished sticking the stencil down, when I realised I’d stuck the stencil to the wrong side of the screen! So, I then enlisted mum’s help in undoing all of the tape, and redoing the whole process on the other side of the screen. It was much quicker with her help! 

I printed onto a few t-shirts and then on the third one disaster struck! The paper that I had cut the stencil out of was wet and leaking the ink onto the t-shirt! Needless to say, that t-shirt was ruined.

Screen Printed and Tie-Dyed T Shirts
I wasn’t sure what to do then, because I had planned to screen print a load of t-shirts and bags at the same time using the same stencil.

That obviously wouldn’t work if the stencil was getting ruined every few prints. Again, mum came to the rescue! She suggested that I use acetate as the stencil instead of paper, and offered to order some for me. 

There are loads of great stall at Craftfest again this summer and I've been having a look round myself. These are just some of the things I'd love to have myself.

Memory Wire Purple

This purple memory wire bracelet from ChillOutChic's Craftfest Stall is just gorgeous.

Lilacs and purples - some of my favourite colours - and perfect fit for Xmas Stocking. Hint hint Mum.  

Dog Blanket Kit
I found this cute little cat blanket kit on EmmaRose's Craftfest stall. It is adorable.  

I can't knit but I know someone who can! If I bought it, do you think my cats would stop sleeping on my school uniform!

Green Sherbet Heart Bowl

One of my stencil designs is a heart so I just had to include this beautiful glass bowl that I found on Glasspirations' Craftfest Stall

This would be perfect for holding my little bits of jewellry. 

The swirly pattern is looks a lot like tie dye too!

Black Leather Leaf Earrings with Silver Screw Spikes

Oh wow! Love love love! These fantastic leather earrings have studs! 

I've used studs on my up-cycled shorts, but not spiky ones like these (too painful LOL).

Check them out on Eminence Mode's Craftfest stall.

Summer Wall Hanging Kit

And finally, here is a fantastic wall hanging kit from Perfect Patchwork's Craftfest stall

The fabrics are gorgeous colours and I love batik. I've used the batik technique in my Textiles course and it's really hard work. Great to be able to buy fabrics ready batik'ed (is there such a word?).   

I bet this hanging would be stunning made up - my favourite colours again!

I hope my picks have made you want to pop over to see Craftfest for yourself. I'm sure you'll find loads of your own favourites. 

And if you are a crafter, why not join Creative Connections yourself. As well as meeting some great people, you'll can find out about the Mega Christmas Craftfest. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Trying to get the best photos of crafty makes!

Up front I have to say I'm not brilliant at photographing my makes. I've read loads of brilliant blogs and have picked up a lot of tips but I still struggle to get really good images.

A few Old Button makes with "garden" backdrops
"Do not, under any circumstances, photograph inside". Are you serious? I live in Wales. We only get about three dry days a year. OK, I'm exaggerating slightly but you get my point. I do try and photograph outside as much as I can though - and I try and avoid mid day. So that's a big tick.

"Use an uncluttered background - black or white is the best". Oops - most of my photos are taken in the garden - hanging aprons off trees and the line, posing toys next to flowers and laying quilts on the lawn. The neighbors must think I'm mad, especially when I get up on a step ladder to try and capture a huge quilt from a birds eye view!
Some Old Button makes on white
"Use a light box" - a box with white card or fabric. I have thought of making one of these for times when the weather just won't improve. But part of my problem is size and shape - its not easy getting huge quilts and play mats in a light box - I'd need one the size of my lounge! I have been experimenting with white sheets and card for smaller items and close ups - to bounce light on what I'm photographing.

The jury is still out for me - I totally get the plain background idea, but I'm having real difficulty getting them all the same shade of white! And I still love setting up shoots among the leaves (sorry that pun was awful - but it wasn't intentional so it is staying in.) I think I may need to enroll on a photography course!

I've been doing a bit of research around some of the Craftfest stalls - I'm putting myself in "customer" mode and picking out some pictures that I love. And after all, the customer is always right. It was both easy and hard - every stall I looked had brilliant photos that just said "Pick me! Pick me!" So here are just a few from the Coral team. Check out some more previews on the Craftfest Facebook page and of course come along to the on-line craft fair itself - it starts on 29th June, and runs for a week! A visual treat of fantastic quality hand made goodies.

Turquoise Open Flower Button

And I just love this collage from The Bead Bounty Buttons Craftfest stall. The glass lamp work button is just beautiful - the intensity of the colours just grabbed me and the different ways the button is angled make it easy to see the detail and the fantastic quality. 

The clever trick of show how a similar button on a clutch bag gives you ideas on it can be used and how big it is.

Knitted Baby Owl Twins

Adorable! These fluffy little chicks from Jollysam's Craftfest stall look amazing on this pale blue table - you can see how tactile they are. You just want to pick them up for a cuddle.

And I think the little props help focus the eye and add scale. 

21st Birthday Card

I just love the feathery skirt! This is just one of many gorgeous cards for all occasions on Paulines Passion's Craftfest stall.

I think the photo has great definition - the textures really stand out. The girl's skirt seems to float.

Candy Cane Ring

I think this really strong image of a gorgeous bracelet from Auli'i Beads' Craftfest stall is very clever.

The red and white bands of beads are brilliantly displayed against both white and black - and I think the subtle backdrop pattern really works too.  

I need to finish now so I can go off and make some more stuff - so I can try out some new photography ideas inspired by these photos and all the hundreds more on the Craftfest website.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Tie Dyed Stuff for Teen Boys?

My 15 year old nephew Joe came round yesterday -  I'm arranging a work experience for him and he needed to sign some forms. He and my daughter Elen are the same age and although they spent a lot of time together as kids, we don't see that much of him now he's older as they go to different schools. 

Surprisingly for a teenager Joe's rather chatty - while I was digging out the forms he told us all about his recent clothes shopping trip with his mates. He was wearing one of his buys - a Help the Hero's t-shirt - which he was rather proud of - his dad was in the RAF and his older brother is just coming home from Afghanistan.   He also showed us a picture of a tie dye t-shirt he's bought from a popular clothes shop and was pretty interested in finding out what Elen was up to - he had seen her Damoiselle Designs Facebook page.

Tie dye t-shirt in slate blue
One of Joe's tie dye t-shirts
He was asking all sorts of questions about how to do it and where do you get the dye from - it was pretty obvious he was dying to have a go himself! Apparently tie dyed clothing is pretty popular with teenage boys as well as girls at the moment - one of his mates had even bought himself a pair of tie dyed boxer shorts!

So while Elen took herself back off to her room to revise - she's still in the middle of exams - I let him lose on a batch of slate blue dye and a couple of t-shirts.  Pretty impressive results!

He's dead keen now to do some more - he's coming back on Sunday to make a few batches up - he reckons he can sell them to his mates in school. I've been tasked with sourcing tag-less t-shirts - apparently boys prefer t-shirts without labels on the necks! I tracked some down by Hanes and ordered a load which hopefully should arrive tomorrow.

Dip dyed, bleached and re-worked denim shorts
Elen's dip dye and bleached denim shorts

I noticed Hanes also sell white cotton boxer shorts - and remembering Joe's mate, I was tempted to get some - but I doubt even my budding entrepreneurs could sell tie dyed boxers to their friends! So we won't go there.

Despite her exams, Elen's still managing to get some crafting done. As well as tie dying some t-shirts ready for screen printing and applique, she's been dip dying and customising denim shorts.

Scent Cosmetics Men's 007 Skyfall Set
Men's 007 Skyfall Massage Set

I've been browsing through some of the other stalls on Craftfest and found another crafty lad to keep Joe company - Gareth who, along with his super talented wife Carla, creates the most amazing hand painted soaps and scrummy cosmetics.

Just check out this Men's Skyfall 007 set on  Scent Cosmetics Craftfest stall with a gun shaped massage bar, soap bullets in soap case and a candle to get you both in the mood for a perfect massage.

Gareth is the team leader for the black team on Craftfest so I thought keep an eye out for some black beauties as I looked through my fellow Coral team member stalls this morning.  

Denim Daisy Hairband

Ok, so not strictly black, but close enough. And it's denim, so I had to include it! 

Blooms by Lyndsey's Craftfest stall has gorgeous flower inspired hairbands and clips. Made from lots of different types of fabrics and great centre pieces including buttons and diamante, there is something for everyone.

Valentine Black and Red Love Hearts Scrapbook

Keep It In A Frame's Craftfest stall has a fantastic selection of scrapbooks and memory albums.

I love the strong colours and shapes in this black and red love hearts scrapbook - perfect for memories of your first love?

Keep it in a Frame also has a wedding album stall.

Almost black - Blue Crystal Rainbow Bracelet

If you are looking for gorgeous pieces of jewellery that are all individually made, why not take a look at Claire's Craft Corner's Craftfest stall.

Claire loves colourful beads and each of her necklaces, bracelets, earrings and bag charms are bright and attractive - standing out from the crowd.

Black Jersey Crochet Bracelet

And there's more jewellery here from Dueamiche's Craftfest stall - an amazing asssortment of unusual pieces created using crochet and knitting.

But with a modern twist!

And for my final stall today, I think I'll finish with one of Elen's favourites - she has a passion for hot chocolate.

She spotted these hot chocolate blocks that just need to be melted in a mug of hot milk on Special treats and tasty sweets Craftfest stall.

Think it's time for a hot chocolate myself. Bye.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

It's's five to five... It's Crackerjack!

Remember that catch phrase? If like me you grew up in the UK during the 70s and 80s you may have watched a children's comedy TV show called Crackerjack.  The show's opening phrase has stuck in my head ever since and I borrow it from time to time.  

So it's's five to twelve.... It's Crafting Time!

Or it should be. I work part time and look forward to my days off so I can get some serious sewing done. And I've got a few custom orders due for early July as well as loads of new ideas in my head so I need to knuckle down.

Unfortunately I had an accident with a pair of scissors a few days ago and, although healing, my hand is very sore. Using a needle is difficult and cutting out - well, almost impossible!

Fuchia and lilac dip dyed denim shorts by Damoiselle Designs
Damoiselle Designs Dip Dyed shorts (work in progress)
It's a rather embarrassing story. My daughter Elen is (finally) following in my footsteps and making her own design printed and dyed t-shirts. She fancied doing some dip-dyed denim shorts as well, and as she is in the middle of her GCSE exams I offered to act as assistant.

I was showing her the "safe" way to fray the shorts after they were dyed - holding one blade against my thumb and scraping the other along the edge of the fabric. And you've guessed it - the scissors slipped and I gouged a whole chunk out of my thumb.

"Thanks Mum", she says, "I now know what NOT to do", while calmly getting out the first aid box and whipping the shorts and scissors out of my reach. "I'll finish them later this week after I've done my Chemistry exam."

I couldn't believe it - I've done this loads of times before - it's a great technique for distressing stage costumes. Note - a cheese grater works well too, but watch your knuckles!

So ok - if I'm not able to do much sewing, I thought I'd spend a bit of time on the computer. I'm a one finger typist at the best of times, so I don't need to use my poor thumb. I've had a lovely morning browsing through some of the stalls being set up for CRAFTfest and can't wait to share some real crackers with you. Just click on each of the links - highlighted in dark red - to go to each Craftfest stall.
Necklace from The Bead Bounty
Lamp Work Pendant Bead On Unusual Antique Bronze Coloured Chain

Sal, otherwise known as The Bead Bounty, just adores beads. As she says - it's a bead thing!

As well as a couple of great bead supply stalls, The Bead Bounty also sells the most gorgeous finished jewellery, like the Lamp Work Pendant shown in this picture, which is one of my favourites.

You can see more of Sal's finished pieces on The Bead Bounty Jewellery Craftfest Stall.

Beach wedding invitation with rafia, shells and starfish embellishments
Beach Wedding Invitation - Rafia,Shells & Starfish

Next stop is Waterlily Cards Keepsakes Craftfest Album which is jam packed with keepsake albums, unique cards and clever stationary sets.

Like many crafters, Waterlily Cards custom makes items to order - check out this wedding invitation.

It's stunning design and quality finish make it perfect for a laid back beach wedding - you can just imagine a tropical beach setting with the bride in a simple but stylish dress and the groom wearing rolled up trousers.

Merino Bamboo Wool Roving - Hand dyed Spinning Fiber

This glorious mix of hand dyed merino wool roving really caught my eye on SussesSpindehjrne Craftfest Stall.

I just love the colours and the way the yarn has been presented - the twisted effect just makes me want to learn spinning so I can weave my own things.

But until then, Susses Spindehjrne also has sells garments such as socks, wrist warmers and scarves that have been beautifully hand crafted from her own spun yarn.

EcoEthos Lantern - Denim -

As I started my blog with a photo about denim jeans, it is fitting that I end it with one as well. 

I spotted this amazing lantern on Smouldering Wicks Craftfest Stall - a handmade tealight nestling in a glass jar with a denim jean effect covering. And it comes with a little tealight swan so you don't burn your fingers! I love it. 

Smouldering Wicks produces a fabulous range of handmade natural wax candles & home fragrancing products.

Hey, I'm not sure it it was intentional, but each of my featured stall photos have a hint of coral about them. Go Team Coral!  I'm now going to brave the sewing room now but I'll be back soon with some more Coral Craftfest Crackers, and hopefully including Elen's finished shorts.

And until then I'll leave you with another phrase from the Crackerjack show. Enjoy with cheese and crackers and a glass of wine (or juice)...... 

"Ooh I could crush a grape!"

And if you fancy a stall on the June Craftfest - you still have time to register and set one up - the closing date is 17th June - find out more on the Creative Connections's CRAFTfest page

Sunday, 9 June 2013

So what makes us creative?

What is creativity? What drives us to use our imagination to write, paint, compose, sculpt, design? To see things differently to others, to be inspired by everything we see around us. To have that "aah" moment.
And is everyone equally creative? Are we born with it? Is it dependent on what we are exposed to and our environment and opportunities? And can we keep that freedom of ideas and not get squashed in processes or practicalities?

Can you imagine a child lying on the floor doodling fantastic fish or aliens from outer space. Or gathering cardboard tubes and old yoghurt pots to make a magical tower. Leaving mud pies and flower dresses for the fairies. Or fighting dragons in your back garden. Were you that child? Are you still that child?  

"Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up. "  Pablo Picasso

I recently came across a great Creative Thinking article by Peter Carruthers who argues that the evolution of creativity in adults started with the ability of the prehistoric child to engage in pretend play, and that there is still a link between adult creative thinking and childhood pretend play today.

Cave painting depicting hands from Patagonia

This early cave painting from Cueva de las Manos in Argentina tells no obvious story or lesson in the way that a hunting scene might, so you are free to imagine what inspired these cave dwellers.

Perhaps they were recording numbers of the tribe, or maybe it is a celebration of life. Or like young children today, maybe they just liked making hand prints. Who knows?

What is clear, that over the centuries, we have continued to build on our childhood imaginations to produce the most incredible things that seem to go beyond the practical - sometimes beautiful to everyone, sometimes not - but all uniquely creative.

"Creativity is just connecting things" Steve Jobs

A couple of years ago, I stumbled across an amazing community of creative people on Creative Connections who have encouraged my creativity and supported me to develop new skills.

I started writing blogs because I read some brilliant posts from the other members and they all assured me that I could overcome my fear of technology! And they have introduced me to some of the fantastic internet tools such as Pinterest which is brilliant for both sharing creativity and as a source of inspiration.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Making the Sound of Music Costumes - Part 4 - Soldiers, Sailors and a Farewell Concert!

The story of The Sound of Music costumes comes to an end with the men's costumes and the farewell concert. I didn't have a clue about these characters, so it was back to the internet for a little more research. Although the American director of The Sound of Music film and the subsequent musical made quite a few "creative" changes, the underlying Von Trapp family story is still there.
(Photographs by Peter Cook)

Captain Von Trapp was a sailor - he captained a number of submarines and by 1918 he was appointed to the equivalent of Lieutenant Commander in the Austrian navy. However, after the first World War, Austria was reduced significantly in size and lost it's sea coast. So Captain Von Trapp was without a job - or "a retired naval captain" as Mother Superior refers to him. 

The film and musical portray him as a rather detached stern father, running the household like a naval vessel - dressing the children in sailor suits and using whistles to call them.

Michael McGrinder as Captain Von Trapp (photos by Peter Cook)

I had thought of hinting at his sea captain past, with a navy blazer and gilt buttons, but in the end I chose a simple suit jacket that had a formal 1940s feel - single breasted with open lapels in a dark coloured wool.

Michael McGrinder who played our Captain needed a quick change into his Les Mis costumes, so I added plain black trousers and a traditional collar shirt with the wings tucked down. These worked for both the 19th and 20th century costumes - there is surprisingly little difference in formal clothing for men since Beau Brummel introduced the modern man's suit during the Regency period - replacing ornate jackets with understated coats and crisp white linen shirts and swopping breeches and stockings for long trousers.

I was able to use the same trick for David who played Max and Rhodri who was the Butler - making sure the trousers and shirts also worked for their characters in Les Mis. It was easy enough to swop jackets and ties for 19th century sailor jackets, frock coats and cravats.

The German soldier costumes for Daniel, Rhodri and Brandon were fairly easy to create - most army clothing follows similar design and hasn't changed much in the last 60 years. I started with some really cheap shirts in olive green that I bought from an on-line army surplus store. I looked up typical German WW2 insignia on line and used the drawing function in Word to create silver grey stripes for collar lapels. I printed these onto white fabric using the special paper that is used for creating home printed t-shirts, and just machine sewed the stripes to the collars - with the buttons done up tightly, the shirts looked very German. I also created black swastikas and printed them onto white fabric - making sure I created them in reverse so they printed out correctly. I cut these into circles and sewed them to red fabric to create Nazi arm bands which were tacked to the army shirts.

Alex McDonagh as Rolf (Photos by Peter Cook)
For the German Colonel, played by Joe, I already had a vintage green army jacket that had been used for Seussical last year and I just added the arm band and we hired a replica German officer hat.

Rolf - the messenger boy who Liesl falls in love with - joins the Germans at the end of the story, so I based his costume around the same green army shirt as the soldiers. Although I didn't add the collar insignia, I did create a arm band to be added to his sleeve using velcro for the final convent search scene. With the addition of vintage striped braces and an authentic canvas army satchel, Alex McDonagh, who played Rolf, looked perfect as the young and impressionable lad in this scene - I am Sixteen Going on Seventeen.

Edelweiss (Photographs by Peter Cook)
Although the real Captain Von Trapp initially refused to let his family perform publicly, he was eventually persuaded by Maria as the family's financial difficulties worsened, and they took part in a number of local concerts before being invited to perform in Vienna. The Sound of Music concert scene portrays them in a Farewell Concert where Max asks the Captain, joined by Maria and the children, to sing an emotional Edelweiss.

Of course, the concert was a competition and although we don't see the other competitors perform, the runners up make a comical entrance to collect their third and second places. Fraulein Schweiger, played by Libby R, almost fell over in her haste to get her prize and had everyone in stitches with her enthusiastic bowing before being physically pushed off stage.  Libby was also a nun, so I just added a traditional style white blouse and a large vintage nurses apron to transform her into a housekeeper. And I finally got to create some real Austrian style costumes for our Toby Reiser group, played by Caitlin, Ellen G and Sian. The girls wore pretty embroidered peasant (gypsy style) blouses and dirndl skirts, and I added little black pinny aprons with more embroidered flowers. 

At the same time as the family was making their musical debut, the Captain was being pressured by the Germans to take up a post in their navy - but both he and Maria were opposed to the Nazis. So they left Austria - but not over the mountains in secret - they went openly by train to Italy. But the final scenes - the German soldiers at the farewell concert, hiding in the convent and hiking over the mountains make for so much more exciting theatre.

So it is So long, farewell to The Sound of Music. But hopefully these couple of photos from the LRVS Showcase - Les Miserables and We Will Rock You - showing even more of the cast will give you a taste of what is to come in later blogs.

Photographs by Peter Cook

The Old Button is more than happy for you to use these costume ideas as inspiration for your own production. 
Pinning through Pinterest is fine as long as you credit The Old Button but please respect the copyright of the photos, and do not reproduce in other forms without permission.