Getting to grips with the formalities of design

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As you know, I have embarked upon a Curtains and soft furnishings course in order to conquer yet another of my stitching phobias (the zip gremlin was kicked into touch some time ago).

The last part of my current unit was to develop a window treatment for a fictitious client. Until I started this process I had no idea that there was a whole range of books which exist simply to give you line drawings of every conceivable curtain, blind, pelmet and pole combination you could ever think of. Part of my reading list were two volumes by Wendy Baker entitled The Window and Bed Sketchbook and The Compact Sketchbook of Blinds. Both of these gave me a very clear idea of what different curtains in all kinds of environments would look like.

I am lucky in that I can draw (though nowhere near as well as Kitty) so creating the sketch was not at all daunting. I’m sure I am not alone in spending numerous hours planning out new interiors designs on the backs of envelopes, but what I did discover is that if you draw your window/room to scale, the design you thought you liked often doesn’t work at all.
I chose a slightly awkward window, in that it is at the top of a half landing, and originally planned just a single curtain to the left. But when I sketched this out it didn’t look at all balanced and I was forced to rethink. As the curtains are never required to close, the fact that they are completely different lengths doesn’t matter at all.

I’ve submitted all of my first unit coursework now, so I am awaiting both my mark and details of Unit 2 which will involve some curtain construction. the other news is that having shown off the cushions I created for the little sewing lesson I ran, I now have multiple orders for these as well. Better get on then I suppose.

Cat x

Finished article

Remember the sewing class I was giving, here’s the finished article…

It’s mighty fine, though I could have done with using a bigger zip, and super snugly. I’m going to make a few more for the sofa over the weekend so I’m going to need to go and get some more cushion inserts from somewhere.

Cat x

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Hot pink upholstery

hotpink chairThis week I have been researching interiors fabrics, which has been both fun and a little bit onerous at the same time.  It’s been a while since I was a student and I haven’t yet worked out whether I am writing too much, not enough or veering dreadfully from the project brief.

For my historical period I chose the Arts and Crafts Movement, mainly so that I could avoid the Victorians, but it is actually an architectural style that I rather like.  Some friends recently bought a beautifully preserved Arts and Crafts house with all of the lovely wooden features still in tact.  They did feel the need to replace the green and black bathroom for something more modern though.  Can’t say I blame them.

Then it was the turn of contemporary fabrics, where I discovered that this year’s Pantone colour is Marsala, an earthy red whicdownloadh apparently will images (1)be giving all designers their theme for the year.  I’m not sure I like it in its purest form, but it is very warm and welcoming. The perfect contrast for this is Indigo Blue, so there are lots of linens around for use as curtains and other soft furnishings.

But my favourite modern fabrics have to be the new tweeds.  Taking a traditional woollen fabric and reinventing it with brilliant new colours is inspired.  I love the feature chair at the top of this post, and one day I hope to do some upholstery so that I can make one for myself.  That’ll be the next course then…

Cat x

Making preparations

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Later this week I am going to be giving a sewing lesson to a good chum who has been bugging me for a very long time to show her how to make cushion covers with piped edges and zipped fastenings. So guess what… I had to make a trip to a favourite haberdashery shop to get ‘supplies’.

Rather worryingly, when I searched for ‘haberdashery’ near my office there were a few too many options. Living slightly outside the M25 means that my choices are all a car drive away so the prospect of so much choice within walking distance was tantalising.

I don’t have to buy any fabric though. I bought a bolt of this lovely plaid before Christmas, intending to make a set of winter cushions for my sofa. This is what we will be using as it will be very forgiving of any beginner errors. I have bought lovely red ribbon for the piping as it will be a real contrast of textures as well as some buttons to cover.

My friend has promised to buy cookies to eat as we stitch so it looks like we’ll be having a fun afternoon. If I remember to take a photo I’ll share the finished results with you.

Cat x

Feeding the fabric addiction

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One big, and very exciting, development in Planet Cat is that I have finally signed up for the soft furnishings course that I have been threatening to do ever since time immemorial. This means that I now have a valid excuse for buying all those interiors magazines and spending far too long in my favourite places ordering samples of beautiful and luxurious fabrics.

This is not good. On two counts… Firstly, I already have an enormous collection of a whole variety of sewing based literature (and can I ever find that pattern I was saving to make…) stashed under my bed. While Mr C was busy disposing of his old Top Gears and no longer useful cycling magazines over Christmas, I was sorting mine by type and working out how many I could store before they become a fire hazard. Secondly, I already have more samples than you can shake a stick at. In fact, for my first assignment I am supposed to get samples of six different types of fabric and write about them. Only six! I’ve got all I need but that means I don’t have to go to the fabric store, I need to up my game!

My main motivation for doing the course is that curtains really are my bête noir. I don’t know what I do to them but they really don’t like me. I suspect that one of the problems is that I over engineer them, but also I think that I have an innate fear of wasting that much fabric. I have, in my time made some pretty brilliant Roman blinds, but that’s just a case of applying maths to material and I can do that.

I’ll keep you up to date with my progress, meanwhile I’ve got fabric collections to research!

There and back again

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Well hello there! It’s been a while, for which there are many reasons, but most of them desperately boring so I won’t go into them. Just be grateful that I have resurfaced!

Do not think however that I have been idle in my absence… Oh no! While a considerable amount of time has been spent helping Kid achieve his fundraising goal for the great Japanese adventure, I have managed to sneak in a little craft project here and there.

At the tail end of the year the fundraising involved making a substantial quantity of Christmas decorations. This was a bit trickier than you would think because we had to devise projects which the Scouts could handle and produce goods which people other than their indulgent parents would buy. One of the simpler items we created was a wooden heart which was sanded and varnished then hung with a little piece of vintage ribbon.

These sold very well, but I was still left with a shoebox full at the end of the process. Having stored them away I had a mini flash of inspiration and popped into a gorgeous little shop called Fair Lily in Great Missenden to purchase some of Annie Sloan’s Emperor’s Silk chalk paint.

I painted each of the hearts with a single coat of paint, and when dry applied some clear varnish then buffed it up to a nice shine. Once this was finished I applied gold size to one half and then laid on a very fiddly bit of gold leaf. The result is pretty cool methinks.

Valentine’s Heart anyone…?

Cat x

Having a ‘Ta Dah’ moment

20140217-092825.jpgYesterday’s sunshine was such a relief after such a prolonged period of persistent rain (I haven’t opened the curtains yet this morning, early indications aren’t promising on the weather front) that I managed to get lots done. Including finishing the tidying process in Spare ‘Oom.

I didn’t spend the whole time simply rearranging everything because that would be plain boring. I took the occasional creative break to jazz up my banister. I was tasked to paint this by Mr Cat when we first built this room and it took me 3 years to get an undercoat on it. After that I was undecided on what colour to paint it and I never really got any further.

20140217-093207.jpgThen this Christmas a crafty mum at school showed me some of her decoupage furniture and I had a lightbulb moment. I found a specialist paper I liked, borrowed Kitty’s decoupage glue and got started. The beauty of this method was that I could do short sections at a time, with no need to put down dust sheets or apply masking tape and there was only one little brush to wash each time. It took me five sessions of about 15 minutes each to stick all of the paper on and I finished the job with a couple of coats of clear varnish.

Mr Cat isn’t convinced, but I am really please with the results. In fact I was wondering what I could glue and stick next!

Cat x

In the name of progress

Despite a distinct lack of enthusiasm on my part, I am definitely into the final phase of organising my creative space. There is now a lot more of the carpet visible than buried under stuff and all the fabric is collected into a single area.

Last week I tootled off to the local DIY superstore to get myself a piece of plywood to put on top of the children’s football table so that I could use it as a base for my cutting board. As luck would have it, they were giving away sample pieces of laminate flooring and I managed to find 6 pieces the same (sorry but my brain doesn’t do mish mash) and they are perfect.

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I’ve already used this lovely new resource and can tell you that having something just that little bit taller than the dining room table is a revelation. Its going to be getting a lot of use, when I’ve finished tidying up that is…

Cat x

Harnessing some house envy…

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We are very lucky to live in a part of the UK where there are great State primary schools and plenty of them. This means we have a wonderfully wide range of people, many of whom we can now count as good, if not great, friends.

Recently we have had a new family arrive from Russia. Pretty cosmopolitan even by our local standards. Even more so because they are from Texas (I think, because of the whole hat thing!) and this week a lucky group of us got our first taste of some fabulous US hospitality.

It wasn’t the food that was jaw-dropping (though that was pretty marvellous and prepared by another Mum from our school) it was the truly wonderful Christmas decorations which festooned and adorned every room of the house. There were wreaths, decoupage letters and a pretty cool reindeer. Decorative garlands aplenty adorned the halway and the most magnificent collection of Russian St Nikolai including a gorgeously round Baboushka had pride of place in their very own display shelving. With six trees resplendent in baubles of every hue and shape it was just the thing to get you immersed completely in the Christmas spirit.

Most impressive was the fact that the Mum concerned had made it all herself and was more than happy to show off her tricks of the trade, in particular this wonderful wreath.

Well, my tasteful Christmas decorations now looked frankly a bit substandard, so off I hopped this afternoon to get supplies when I should have either been helping Kitty to decorate the tree or making my items for Day 3 of the Twelve Days Challenge. I parked myself at the kitchen table armed with my roll of insulating tubing and glue gun to create this rather lovely item for my hallway. I’m very pleased with the result, though my top tip would be to put the string you are going to hang it up with on before you start gluing!

Cat x