Sea Green and Sapphire

A blog about a love of colour, addiction to fabrics and joy of crafting…


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Green (or not)

A few weeks ago when we were taking down the decorations from the Christmas tree, I had a brilliant idea: I’m going to use the remains of the tree to dye some wool. After all, I had dyed with fir in Finland over twenty years ago when I first experimented with natural dyes. I can’t remember any more what the basic colour was (possibly olive green?), but I seem to remember that with iron you get a nice dark grey.

Because of the different climate, conifers are not nearly as common here in the UK as they are in Finland. Here in Kent you only really see them if someone has planted one in their garden, so getting hold of fir for dyeing is not that easy.  Now I realise the species of fir they sell as a Christmas tree here (typically Nordman fir) is not the same as the common fir tree in Finland (which is Picea abies), but I though it’s nevertheless worth having a go.

So I chopped up some branches and soaked them for a few days, then boiled them for about an hour. And this is the colour of the water I got:

unhopeful dye bathcolour  from Nordman fir

well it was worth a try…

Not very hopeful, is it? Given that there’s hardly any colour there, I think I will abandon this experiment and not even try to dye with it.

***

So instead of showing you some beautifully dyed yarn, I’m going to have to find something else to show you today. And this one sort of fits with the green theme. It’s a table runner that I sewed for my sister-in-law for her Christmas present. I made two of them so that you can use them instead of table mats.

Green table runners

The table runners I made for my sister-in-law

Green table runners, reverse side

The reverse side

The inspiration for these table  cloths came from my sister-in-law herself as she had sewn a similar set for me a few years ago. The material she chose was a great Marimekko classic, Tantsu (a similar fabric also goes by the name of Satula). I just love its strong and vibrant colours.

Table runners made from Marimekko's Tantsu fabric

The table runners my sister-in-law made for me, using Marimekko’s Tantsu fabric

The Tantsu fabric in more detail

Tantsu comes in several beautiful colourways, but this one is a vibrant mix of magenta and bright red


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The Home-Spun Bear and Other Presents

A teddy bear from home spun yarn

Earlier on this year, on Valentine’s day, my brother and his wife had their second baby. When his older brother, age two, was asked what his new brother should be called, he answered: “Silakka”  (which means a herring in English). Why he wanted to call his brother after a small and rather mundane type of a fish no one really knows. My sister tried to ask about the logic behind this, but the answer was so cryptic (apparently it had something to do with parrots) that she was none the wiser. But needless to say, the name stuck. Since then the little boy has been christened Touko, which I think is a lovely name, so hopefully he won’t be permanently traumatised by being called after a fish.

For a christening present I decided I’d like to knit him a teddy bear from a home-spun yarn. I had some yarn spun from Jacob wool, but in the end I thought it wasn’t really soft enough for a small baby so I went with Shetland wool instead as it is soft with a nice woolly feel to it. I had several colours of Shetland available, but I thought Moorit (a lovely medium dark brown) would be the most bear-like shade. I handcarded the fiber into rolags, and while carding I mixed in a bit of fawn (light brown) and white for a slightly speckled look. I then spun it with a long draw for a nice fluffy yarn. I wanted quite a sturdy fabric, so I made it into a 3-ply yarn. I also wanted to felt the yarn a little bit to make it stronger, so it had quite a vigorous finishing process: first I washed it in a very hot water, really agitating it for some time, and then rinsed it with cold water.

The pattern for the teddy bear came from Knitted Toy Tales by Laura Long, a book that was recommended in one my favourite blogs,  Crochet with Raymond. I’ve never knitted any toys before but it was incredibly easy. I think I placed the nose a little bit too low, but decided not to undo and redo – it is a part of his character. In the end both Hugh and I grew quite fond of this little bear and it was quite hard to give him away, it looked so lovely and comfortable on our arm chair, like it belonged there.


Patchwork Baby Quilt, a detail

I also made a patchwork blanket for the baby from some lovely soft children’s flannel fabrics (designed by Valori Wells) I had in my stash. I haven’t got any children myself but I adore those fabrics, they’re colourful and fun and not too twee or “over-cute”.

A patchwork baby quilt in Valori Wells cotton flannelIt was a quick and easy project and since the batting was made of fleece it didn’t even need much quilting. The end result was really nice and soft.

I really enjoy making these quilts, it’s a wonderful opportunity to play with colours and patterns that fabrics for grown-ups just don’t have.

There aren’t that many babies in the family so occasionally I toy with the idea of making them for selling. Who knows, maybe one day…

Patchwork Baby Quilt, reverse side


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A Seagreen Patchwork Tablecloth

A patchwork tablecloth from Kate Spain fabrics

Here’s one of the Christmas presents I made – a patchwork tablecloth for one of my sisters-in-law. I like making presents for my sisters-in-law – as they are women pretty close to my own age it is always relatively uncomplicated to think of what to give them. Most of the time they’ll like what I like, which makes gift-making much less anxiety-inducing. Home-made tablecloths from pretty fabrics always seem to be a big hit.

The fabrics for this project are by Kate Spain. I particularly like them (well, they’re seagreen so what do you expect!)  but I also knew they’d be just right for my sister-in-law’s dining room. I still have some fabrics left so I might need to make another one for myself.

I nearly always make my patchwork tablecloths double-sided. Yes it takes more fabric and more effort, but the reverse side of patchwork never looks very tidy so I prefer to hide it between two layers. I’ve also found double-sided tablecloths to be very practical: if one side gets stained you just turn it over and you get a clean cloth without having to do any more ironing (great if you suddenly get an urgent need to keep up appearances because of unexpected guests).

A patchwork tablecloth from Kate Spain fabrics


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Sewing Works in Progress

Lotta Jansdotter fabrics

Although recently most of my crafting time has been spent spinning and knitting, I haven’t forgotten about sewing either. I’m working on a patchwork quilt at the moment which is a wedding present for friends (the wedding was ages ago so I’m really late with this project).

It is a double bed-sized quilt, my biggest craft project so far, and it is taking quite a bit longer to finish than I had anticipated.  It has turned into a bit of a nightmare project, in the sense that it just goes on and on. Well I suppose it didn’t help that I didn’t like the first version, so I am already on version 2.0… And I’ve realised I don’t really even have the space to work on a quilt project of this size: there just isn’t the floor space where it fits completely which makes things rather difficult. The backing is made of fleece, so I don’t have to quilt it that much, but I still have to figure out where to lay it out in order to attach the layers together. I am thinking of trying the dining table, and see if I can baste it together there one area at the time. Alternatively, I will have to take it outside and lay it on the lawn… Any handy tips are very welcome!

Once I finally get that project out of the way, I’ve got several sets of curtains I need to make. To keep my sewing motivation going, I bought some fabrics by Lotta Jansdotter from Seamstar. I just love them, they look very Scandi, and the colours are great, colourful but not too overpowering.

I am thinking of making patchwork style curtains from them, where the squares are quite large and different sizes. Not sure if that sounds too complicated, we’ll see…


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A Summery Tablecloth for Mum

Patchwork Tablecloth

My mum had her birthday in June, and she asked if I could sew a tablecloth for her as a birthday present. As it is the height of summer, I wanted to select some really summery fabrics for the project. She lives in a modern flat, with walls painted white in a typical Finnish style, so modern cotton prints with large patterns suit the decor very well. In the end I chose some fabrics from Heather Bailey, as they are nice and summery, and romantic to suit my mum’s style but modern at the same time.

Patchwork Tablecloth detail

My mum and dad’s dining table is quite wide, so none of the fabrics were wide enough by themselves, so it had to be some sort of patchwork style, but I didn’t want it to be too overpoweringly hotch-potch. In the end I just added a border to the main fabric, with a narrow band of green fabric for contrast to separate the two main fabrics.  I’m really pleased with the results, and I think my mum was too.


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Shopping for Vintage Fabrics Again

Vintage Fabrics

Those who have seen my stash of fabrics would no doubt be horrified to learn that I have been buying even more fabrics. Well, rather than buying just random fabrics as I have a habit of doing, this time I have been getting them for very specific projects. And no, I did not have suitable fabrics already in my stash. Most of my fabrics are modern colourful fabrics which, lovely though they are, are completely unsuitable for my new quilting plans.

Vintage Fabrics

One of the plans is to make a double-bed sized quilt for us from vintage fabrics. My first vintage fabric quilt has been such a success my husband suggested I make another one, similar in style but bigger for our bed. Obviously I did not need much encouragement and instantly started surfing eBay and other trusted sites for suitable fabrics. Some of the fabrics arrived today and they are truly lovely.  The quilt is going to have an Arts & Crafts sort of feel, and based on the fabrics I’ve been able to find it looks like it’s going to be a mixture of brown, terracotta and bit of green.

It’s been a couple of years since I bought the fabrics for my previous vintage quilt and I really noticed that the prices have been going up. I suppose vintagey things are pretty trendy at the moment so all the eBay sellers really know the value of their fabrics now. There are far fewer bargains to be had, and the best fabrics are now more expensive than new quilting fabrics, which didn’t used to be the case the last time I was shopping. A good example is Spinsters’ Emporium, a lovely site with a nice selection but very pricey.

But I know the quilt is going to be really fabulous so it’s definitely going to be worth the cost. I’m so looking forward to making it.


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Patchwork Garden Chair Covers

Patchwork Garden Chair CoversThe canvas covers of my garden chairs were getting very faded, and this weekend I decided to give them a make-over. I wanted something bright and summery, and so I chose fabrics from Amy Butler’s Mid West Modern and Heather Bailey’s Pop Garden collections, with a few other fabrics thrown in. Patchwork fabrics on their own are not really strong enough for these kinds of covers, but I left the old canvas inside to provide support.

It’s exactly the kind of project I love, allowing me to play with colours and fabrics. Initially, I had chosen a fairly tonal colour scheme of different shades of bright pink, with some splashes of orange. Unfortunately, this scheme seemed a bit stuffy and dull (if you can call a combination of pink and orange dull…).Patchwork garden chair covers

So it soon became clear that I needed to introduce a bit of contrast. Green being one of my favourite colours I had plenty of those that I could use. In the end, I added one yellow fabric as well. When working on patchwork projects, my first instinct is always to choose different tones of one colour, but in most cases, when I have played with the fabrics a bit more and thought about it, I realise that colour schemes that are too tonal and harmonious just don’t work (at least for me). You need some contrast, so it often takes at least three main shades before the result looks interesting.In this case, the colour scheme ended up being childishly, unashemedly colourful.

Patchwork Chair CoversUnfortunately, Hugh, my normally very supportive husband is not too keen on them. He thinks they are not very manly. Well, I can’t really argue agaist that. I do admit they are not very “manly”. He says he’s going to have to go and buy some more masculine chairs on which he can sit. Well, I like them anyway! I get that joie de vivre feeling whenever I see them …