Wednesday, January 25, 2012


These little boxes were once made from greeting cards and held hankies and or other little treasures.   Now with so many beautiful papers for scrapbooking, beautiful stickers, cheap greeting cards and the ability to transfer your own designs with a computer and photocopier,  the inspiration for these boxes is endless.  The last couple of days have been spent, cutting papers, making confetti (from the holes - it is everywhere) and re-acquainting myself with a crochet hook (well I used a latch tool, I have crochet hooks somewhere  creating this Vintage Style Hanky Box.
I have downloaded the pattern sheets to Google Documents (you will find them here  and here ).   NOTE:  I have placed a 1inch marker on one of the pattern pieces.  I am not sure how these will down load - the pattern may have to be enlarged.  This is my first pattern download - be kind!  You may also notice that during the course of this blog I sometimes use inches and sometimes use centimetres - 2.5 centimetres is roughly equal to an inch.  ANOTHER NOTE:  Use printer option "fit to page".

Transfer the designs on to template plastic.   I used scrapbooking sheets but had to hunt around a bit for acetate sheets - you know you are getting on, when you ask for acetate sheets, and the young-uns look at you dumbfounded.    To make your search a little easier, I eventually found acetate/plastic sheets at Officeworks under the banner of Lowell A4 Clear Binding Covers - 150 microns.  There are 25 sheets in a pack and cost somewhere around $8.  I also purchased  overhead projector sheets, but these where a lot more expensive.  Both were in packs that couldn't be opened, so I had to take a punt that I had been steered in the right direction.

For the large box,  I used 1 piece of scrapbooking paper for each panel  (that is two panels per piece) with leftovers from each.  Depending on how you lay out and cut the side panels, the base should also fit on a couple of the sheets.   Some papers are definitely a one way design and this may limit how many pieces you can cut from each sheet. You may also find that some papers are double sided!   To make the lid of the box, wait until you have finished putting all of the pieces together.   The lid will be a bigger size, and you can either photocopy the pattern and enlarge, or using the template, add extra all around.   When making the lid, do keep in mind the width of the acetate sheets!  Not having the opportunity to see an original box, I am not entirely certain as to how rigid they actually are.   The large box I completed is probably not as firm as it could or would have been and I'd consider adding a layer of cardboard between the two sheets of scrapbooking paper.   These boxes aren't meant for heavy lifting/storage so I think this one will be fine.   Just something to consider!

So here are some photo's of how to put the boxes together.

I didn't mark the template pattern with holes because if you plan to make smaller boxes, then you will need to make adjustments to the placement of holes.   For this box (large size) - I marked the holes at increments of 1.5 cm.  The hole punch  had a guide to determine the depth of the holes from the edge.    If you can't see what you are punching, make pencil marks that extend towards the middle (see lid further down).    Trace two panels (the box is lined - I shuffled the colours around for the inside) from each piece of scrap booking paper.  Keep pattern in mind when placing templates - you don't want sideways or upside down!
For each panel of the box, you will need two side panels cut from cardboard, scrapbooking paper or old greeting cards.  You will also need two acetate panels - one on the front and one on the back.   You can see in the photo below that I used small bulldog clips to hold all of the pieces in place.  

Tip One:     The template should allow two side panels per piece of acetate.   I folded the acetate sheet in half  and used the bulldog clips to hold the template plastic panel and the acetate sheets together whilst I cut.

Tip Two:   When you are placing all the pieces together ready to punch holes, make sure they are all in the correct order  - acetate sheet/decorative paper wrong sides together/acetate sheet.  If you are adding an extra layer of thin cardboard, place it between the decorative papers.   This way, when the holes are punched, all the holes will align correctly.    

Tip Three:  To help keep all the layers together, a couple of small dabs of glue stick between the decorative papers or gluing the papers to a thin card stock - will help.  Do not glue the acetate.   I found there was enough static to keep it in place.   (But still use the bulldog clips).  I didn't use paper clips because they can catch and damage the acetate.

When each section is cut and punched, you are ready to start the needlework.

 I used a cotton mix thread.   The stitch used was a simple double crochet (feel free to let me know if this isn't the correct name - I don't crochet much ).   I did this stitch three times in each hole, and then one chain stitch and moved on to the next hole.

Tip Four:  Don't start in a corner hole.  I started one hole in from the corner on the bottom edge.
When I reach the corners, I did three double crochet and one chain and then another three double crochet.  This got me around the corners neatly!

As you are crocheting, you may find that the stitches come to the front like this......
Adjust them every few blocks of stitching so the edge is balanced on the edge of the panel.  See below.
When all the pieces are finished (including the base), you can lay them out and move around until you are happy with the arrangement.    I had three panel that were definitely green, so I made sure they weren't all together.  (The stripe on the base, was actually the back of one of the scrapbooking papers).
Working from the front, with a needle and thread, you can now start stitching the panels together.   I did a basic overcasting stitch, catching the outside edge of the chain, this kept the outside and the inside looking neat and tidy.

When all the sides have been sewn together, you will then be able to determine the size of the lid.  Using the base as a template, I outlined the template on the back of a piece of card and then added an 2 cm all around.   Don't take this measurement at the corners.   Make a couple of small marks (two per edge) and then using a ruler, redraw the lines, intersecting at the corners.   When you are happy with the sizing, cut out as above.   You can see here how I marked my pieces.

I ended up having to use a piece of card stock between the layers because I was using a few scraps up on the lid, I had one sheet of scrapbook paper left so used that on the underside.  
 I used the yarn to make a couple of hinges for the lid.  Simple chain stitch, or you could twist some yarn to make these.
I punched a hole in the middle of the lid to place this fancy heart shaped bead.  In the next picture, you can see that I tied it off with a bit of a tassel.

Tip Six:   The punch I used made a pretty big hole.  This made crocheting  the best option.  If you can't operate a crochet hook, other ways to finish these boxes including:
* Cross stitch - Criss cross all the way around the panels and then stitch together.
*Blanket stitch - use blanket stitch all the way around each panel and then stitch together.
*Use 4mm ribbon in the place of thread for a different look.

If using these methods, I would try and find a punch that could make smaller holes.  I would then punch the holes closer (but not too close) to the edges of each panel.    Something to think about!  For lots of ideas good old Google  (Vintage Hanky Boxes)  will find you plenty of inspiration.

So there you have it.  A genuine Vintage Hanky Box. 

Til next time....Sue 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


This tutorial is designed to give you that little bit extra from your embroidery machine.   I mentioned yesterday that I was back on the fish quilt - I think its last showing was way back last year.    I have been adding mossy rocks, and ferns and other leafy bits.   Sometimes you just don't quite get the look you are after!   After embroidering your little heart out sewing leaves over other leaves your work looks flat and lifeless and a bit of a mess.
I wasn't happy with the leaves over the ferns, so I set to work with Embird and "chopped up" the plants.  The leaves were reasonably plain without any fiddly holes to deal with.   I copied and flipped sets until the largest hoop was filled.   Do not colour sort when you are doing a large batch of designs.    Whilst it is a bit of a pain with machines that are single needle models, I have found that there is a lesser chance of the designs starting to "go out of whack" (for want of a better term) as the stitching progresses.    That is my theory anyway! 

Hoop some stabilizer and a layer of organza.  The organza can be any colour, although I would aim to either match the designs colours or that of the background.   I use black a lot!   The type of stabilizer you use is up to you.   The leaves I was planning to stitch were pretty straight forward and didn't need to be soft, so I used a tearaway stabilizer.   If you are doing something lacy or delicate then the best stabilizer for the job would be a wash away.    If the designs are really dense and could pull out of shape whilst embroidering is underway, you might think about using two layers of organza. 

You can see in the photo above how I saved the designs ready to sew.  You may also be able to see that the two colours used for the leaves are alternated, as I did not colour sort.    Below shows the leaves in the process of being stitched in the big hoop.  I managed to fit 19 leaf segments into one hooping.
Here they are all sewn out!
If you are using tear away, remove all of it now.   If you are using washaway, wash it away now.  I find with washaway,  the pieces may need to be soaked a couple of times to remove all of it.   Trim the organza close, but not too close to the edge of the design.

It is perfectly ok to have pokies!
 Now comes the fun bit.   Make sure the designs are wet - not dripping wet, just well wet.    I work at the kitchen sink on the drainer - just make sure it is fire proof!    If you are feeling nervous, don't be.   Have a bowl of water beside you or some water in the sink just in case.     I use a  chunky candle for the next part.   You won't have to worry about knocking it over  (I don't spend too much time worrying about these things, but I know some do!).

Hold the design close to the flame, but not in it.   Because the embroidery is damp, only the organza will melt.   Move the design along the flame.   If you do a practice with one or two pieces, you will soon get the idea about what will work and what won't.
Tight corners can be dealt with by a bit of manipulation.  You can pull the pieces apart as you hold it close to the flame, then go back and burn out any bits you don't want.
When you have finished, place the embroideries face down on the ironing board and give a good shot of steam - when they are dry, they are ready to go - I did press mine until they were dry because as usual I was in a hurry......
They are now ready for placement.  I should also add,  if you used washaway you may find when the iron hits the embroideries, they may still  be a bit tacky, just put them back into some warm water and leave to soak for a while and try again with the iron.

Set your sewing machine up for free motion - darning foot on, embroidery needle in, feed dogs down and for the stitching, I use a zigzag set at length (1) and width (2).   Thread up with a suitable coloured embroidery thread for the top and bobbinfil for the back.   Loosen off the top tension by a couple of notches - down from your normal sewing position.   This ensures that the top thread is pulled through to the back of your work and no bobbin thread will be visible on the front of your work.

Position your embroideries as required and start stitching into place.   You can go "around" as many times as you like but once is usually enough.
Here they are in place.

NOTE:  Some embroideries are designed to be "free standing".   There are many laces etc designed specifically for the purpose of being sewn onto wash away stabilizers with no need for organza.   I sew lots of embroideries on to organza and make them into applique motifs by using either the above method (with fire) or by using a stencil burner.  Stencil burners have a variety of points and are used a bit like a hot knife through butter.   I place the embroidered piece on a ceramic tile I have specifically for the purpose.   Sometimes (after a lot of cutting) you may have to stop and turn off the stencil burner and once cooled, clean the tip.   This is why I like "fire" for simplified designs, but a stencil burner gives you more control when cutting fiddly designs. 

The methods I have described above, would also work if you appliqued on to organza or did free motion work, that you wanted to add to a piece.   Sometimes when doing a lot of  "artwork" by machine on a piece, the fabric starts to distort, or you may be concerned that your machine (either in embroidery mode or stitching) is not going to be able to  stitch through the background work.    Doing some of the pieces separately and then stitching in place, helps to solve these problems.   It also gives a lot of freedom when you are working in layers - and you want to weave pieces in and out.  It is far simpler with a separate piece. 
You can see examples of that here on my   Pirate Quilt.   If you look at the fish swimming through the some of the weed, I was able to weave them so they looked like they were coming through the seaweed, rather than just plonking them either at the back or in front.  The other area where making some free standing pieces proved to be invaluable was in the large piece of purple coral on the left border.   I sewed the coral, cut out the organza in the centre and then added the fish - I could then play with how much of the fish would be visible.   (If you want to see more of the Pirate Quilt and some of the others I have completed, take a look in my Photobucket pages, listed on the side bar).

The above methods also make embroidering on bulky items, such as heavy jackets etc a breeze and if there is a "stuff up" it is easier to re hoop and do another embroidery than having to start trying to remove stitches.  You can also "hide"  problems - if something has gone awry on your item.   If it helps to remove bulk, you can cut out behind the embroidery!   

The following photo's show some of the elements I have added so far:
Bubbles/foam - more stitching will be added to this, possibly in the quilting phase.

A little frog waiting for some leaves for camouflage!

If you don't find my instructions clear or you want more information, feel free to contact me at tiramisue at bigpond dot com - there is a link on the side bar - I am always happy to try and help!!

Bye for now.  Sue xxx
PS   I have now added pictures of some of the quilts I have finished over the years.  They are listed under Quilts I Have Made  (duhh) over on the side bar.   All links will go directly to photographs - More closeup photo's are available in my various Photobucket Pages (also listed).

Monday, January 9, 2012


Natural greenery is something that evades me.   Our home is dark in some rooms, quite bright in others - and I have a bad memory - so watering can be a bit hit and miss.   Once winter hits, I like to keep the temperature at a level somewhere in the vicinity of a tropical holiday destination, so plants tend to curl up their toes - not a pretty sight.

Flicking through pages of interest (depending on the day - today it was collecting pictures of feet) I noticed a few Terrariums making an appearance.    I felt the need for greenery, this was the answer.  Let the shopping begin!  A  tall Apothecary Jar at Tarjay last week, and another larger jar in a lovely gift shop in Montrose at the base of the Dandenongs, and the third jar I got for the bargain price of $3.99 (just need to "Shabby Chic" the lid) at an op shop.   Now to find suitable plants.  

Another gorgeous shop in Bayswater, just a few shops up from Spotlight, is "The Complete Garden" - boy could you spend some money in that shop.  I digress.   I found a couple of plants - of the fake variety - and hey presto - AN EVEN I CAN'T KILL IT Terrarium.    

This one is my favourite though.   I found this fabo' toadstool.   It was a little top heavy, so I siliconed it into the base of the jar, and then added the layers of "dirt" and pebbles.

Here is Norm, inspecting my work.
I finally found a frame to use for my bakery sign.   Naturally it was the wrong orientation, and yes I could have pulled all the staples out of the back, but there were that many of them, I would still have been at it this week.    The frame was  very plain, but with some wooden swirls from the scrap booking section of Spotlight, a bit of sanding , the swirls  then glued  into position and the whole lot  receiving a  coat of undercoat and a few coats of semi gloss water based paint, a bit  of roughing up at the end and "hey presto" the frame was suitably "shabby". 

    The print was redone to fit the frame and printed as a poster print - with a matt finish.    The wording was put  through my computer painting program and the edges fussed up a little.    When I got the print back home I used the glass as the template and trimmed the edges.    It didn't quite have the look I wanted (I wanted it to look a little like a chalk board, complete with that dusty look of used chalk boards) so I set to and after a bit of  "research" (that would be googling), I went back to Spotlight and bought some transparent gel medium.   For those that haven't seen or heard of Gel Medium, this, I discovered, can be used to add "brushstrokes" to your photo's, prints or paintings.    I applied mine with a cross hatched stroke - don't be too generous with the medium or it may not dry clear.   It still didn't have the look I was after, so with damp paper towel and some white acrylic paint in hand, I rubbed the white paint over the surface of the gel medium.   Let the paint dry  and add another coat of medium.   Again I had been a little cautious with the amount of paint I added - I had taken off a little too much - and I had a couple of spots in the medium that were a bit flat so another coat of Medium was added with the same cross hatching method and then rubbed it over again with the white paint on a damp piece of paper towel.    It didn't take long to dry - it was up in the high 30's (Celsius) that day, and I was able to put the whole thing together that night.      
The vertical lines are just a trick of the light. 

It is now  back to working on the goldfish quilt.  Today I decided  it needed another design element.  (You have all seen the Ghastlie Quilt, so should know I like a design element or two, or three or six).  I am adding a jetty/viewing platform.    Found some great "plank" fabric.  

This is where the feet googling came in.   Then I took a few photo's of my feet.    When and if they make it on to the viewing platform, the toe nails will be perfectly manicured, the calves smooth and silky or the feet will be wearing shoes and the legs will be covered in pants - the jury is still out - the final decision will be determined by my drawing skills or lack thereof!

Whilst I was out and about, I gave a brief thought to my self portrait that we are doing this year with the quilting group.   Purple is a personal favourite, so this will most likely be the background.   
Next, whilst perusing the fat 1/4's I chose the hair colour.  I may have been delirious when choosing the colours, but who says I can't dream of golden tresses.   I can add silver bits when I applique them into position!

So there we have it, the first 9 days of January in a nutshell.
Bye for now, Sue xxx