In which there is a puffin and lots of sewing

This is one of those there crafty blogs and it’s not even about knitting…

I own a sewing machine but mostly it languishes, loved but unused, in the cupboard under the stairs, however for a long while I’ve had a hankering to have a go at machine embroidery. So I asked Father Christmas for the ways and means and was lucky to get needles, a hoop, pointy scissors and two lovely books (Beginners Guide to Machine Embroidery by Pam Watts and Freehand Machine Embroidery by Poppy Treffry) from mum and a day’s course at the Ministry of Craft from Ginge. Buying me a course ensures that there will be at least one occasion when I do the actual thing that has caught my eye this particular time…

This morning I ventured into Manchester and tried to maintain my focus going downstairs in the tempting Aladdin’s cave that is Fred Aldous . The course was a full day with the morning getting to grips with the sewing machines, having a play with the different stitches and making a small appliquéd picture of our own choosing.

Having flicked through the resources that Sam the teacher had supplied and become slightly intimidated by everyone else’s artistic genius, I settled on a puffin. I like a puffin and I also like to prove that I am aware that penguins are not the only seabird.

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I was quite chuffed with the little fellow but wanted to experiment more with machine embroidery techniques (rather than just sewing straight-ish lines on appliqué) and hatched a plan for our bag decorating in the afternoon… After a quick google image search for seed heads and some doodling, I was ready to cut out my basic shapes and stick them down before running free with the thread.

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Apart from nearly going blind doing the tiny circles in the centre, having one or two thread mishaps and accidentally sewing the bag handle to the back of the picture, I don’t think that I made a bad job of it.

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It’s rather wonderful seeing your design appear in front of you and there’s no room for being hesitant with the marks that you make; if I try to draw in pencil, I will go over my lines any number of times trying to get it ‘right’, but using the sewing machine you just have to go for it.

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This is the second course that I’ve done with the Ministry of Craft – the first was making tiny Fimo cake jewellery – and I would heartily recommend them to anyone wanting to try a new craft or brush up their skills. They even do Sew Your Own Knickers afternoons!

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Contains penguin – I am proud of this in a very unseemly way

If you come here for the insightful running commentary, it’s probably best if you move along, there’s nothing to see here. I have run post-Janathon, and may even blog about the start of February, however I am excited about my latest crafty project and want to show off share.

During January, I retweeted a link from SW Craft Club in order to try to win a cross stitch iPhone cover. And would you believe it, I only went and won one of them!

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I spent ages trying not to fear the blank and scary potential of it (realising that my indecision is one reason why I’m unlikely to ever get a tattoo). I had aspirations of doing something, you know, a bit arty and classy like, but that soon went out of the window. It seemed apt to use my twitter name (@knittingpenguin) for inspiration so I eventually plumped for designing something around that. Like a penguin doing some knitting maybe.

I have a difficult relationship with cross stitch, I like it at times, but the basic skills it requires (paying attention, counting, not stabbing yourself with a needle) are not high on my list of strengths. With a bit of focus though (Ginge can vouch for the Sunday afternoon of virtual silence he enjoyed) I can get very into the designing and making.

First up, the designing. Lots of graph paper, lots of counting and double checking, lots of googling for penguins.

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I think you can see how he evolved, mainly getting shorter and rounder (but his feet stayed the same throughout). After that came the stitching and this was the end result.

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Did I mention that I’m very proud? I really enjoyed making this – it’s been nice to do something a bit different and create something from scratch. My only criticism of the silicone case is that it’s bowed slightly, despite me trying my best not to pull my stitches too tight.

I’m a few hundred miles too far north to be considered SW Craft Club’s target audience, but if you’re in their neck of the woods take a look at their blog and events calendar (which just gives me craft envy!) and see if there’s something to inspire you!