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Welcome to the Toadstool Cottage Crafts blog.

Hi I'm Pip and this is my blog about the behind the scenes goings on of my business - Toadstool Cottage Crafts. I've always loved craft and sewing but last year I thought I'd see if I could make it into a business.

This blog is a way of sharing my journey with you the ups and downs the successes and disasters (and there have been a few!). I know it will at least give you something to laugh at, but hope it will provide you with tips and inspiration for your own craft endeavours! If you have a question or something to say just leave me a comment.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Some Days You Wish You Hadn't Bothered To Get Out Off Bed.

Today has been a disaster.

I have come up with a design for a new bag.
Not just any old bag but an all singing and all dancing one!

Now its only a small bag approximately 18cm wide by 12cm tall and 4cm deep (to be precise), but it has to work on so many levels.
So there is a zip here, and a pocket here, and a thingy for holding something here, and another one exactly the same over here.
Then there is a security strap here and a keyring there, oh and I want the bag to have some body to it I don't want it all flimsy floppy.
Then the lining has to be wipe clean, but the whole bag has to be very pretty and suitable for many different situations.

So I started on Saturday and drew the pattern - which in itself was very easy until I discovered that my ruler doesn't seem to draw a straight line any more and the set square is not square!

Usually I only make one bag at a time but this time I decided to be efficient and make more than one, it has to be quicker.
So I cut out 8 different pretty fabrics for the outer bag and then I cut the interfacing for all 8 and then the linings for 8.
I ironed all the interfacings into place and by now it was Sunday evening!

I was still trying to work out how to make the bags firm, I have some really stiff interfacing but it is so stiff that it can't be turned through to the right side after sewing.

On Monday morning I came up with a brilliant idea!
I will cut the stiff interfacing small enough to slip in between the lining and the outer fabric after they have been sewn, but before they are sewn together.
So I spent Monday cutting the stiff interfacing and ironing it onto some thin white fabric.

Today is Tuesday and everything is ready and I can start to sew and the bags will be ready in no time at all.

However I hadn't reckoned on today being one of those days!
'Some Days You Wish You Hadn't Bothered To Get Out Off Bed.'

Everything went wrong!

The tension wouldn't work properly, it had ideas of its own.
The security strap was so fiddly and kept getting jammed under the foot of the machine.
The wipe clean material was sticking to the sewing machine and causing problems.
Worst of all was the 'brilliant idea' that I had of just sliding in the stiff interfacing - basically it would not slide in! I started with the bag flaps and I had to cut a bit off here and then some more off there and then shape it around the curved outer edge and then ease it into place (brute force was used) but then I remembered that it was 1/2cm too tall so I had to pull it out and cut off the 1/2cm and then ease(?!) it back in. This happened 6 times, most people would remembered after the first one, but not me.
I only had 2 more to go but as I was having such a bad time of it I decided to move onto the zip pockets. Not such a good idea because just at the crucial point of the zip insertion the bobbin decided to run out - it could have been my best zip ever, but now I will never know.

I found myself looking at the clock thinking "Is it time for alcohol?"
 - - - but it was only 3 o'clock!!

Quite glad that I had finished the bottle last night otherwise I might actually have poured a large one!

Enough is enough, I turned the machine off and came away.

So far I have spent almost 3 full days on these bags and I'm not even half way through one of them never mind all eight!!

Oh well, tomorrow is another day....and my new gazebo is coming! Yipee!!


Monday, 7 April 2014

My Rustic Chair.

I have had the most amazing weekend but I ache in muscles that I didn't even know I had!
My husband bought me a two day, chair making course, for my Christmas present and it finally happened this weekend.

The course was run by John at his lovely cottage - but  there is no point in me telling you all about the cottage because he is moving in two weeks! There should have been four of us but due to illness there were only two of us, and it should have poured with rain all weekend but apart from a couple of very short showers we were able to spend the entire weekend working outside in John's garden. Even during the showers we worked under a tarpaulin.

The entire chair is made out of hazel and willow,  all coppiced by John so thankfully we didn't have to chop down our own trees.

First we started with the front and back legs, selecting the right pieces of wood and sawing them to the correct lengths, then we cut the side pieces and to add strength and stability we put in diagonal supports. Every thing was nailed together and every nail hole was pre-drilled to avoid splitting the wood. So now we had a left side and a right side and under John's watchful eye we sawed and nailed and sawed and nailed some more, and eventually we had the framework of a chair.

Now we used willow to create the arms, each piece was individually chosen, cut to length and  fixed in place, then shaped into a sweeping curve.

Next we started with the first piece of the arch for the back of the chair, again this is made from willow so using a fair bit of strength it was possible to curve the willow right around the back of the chair.

This took the whole of the first day to build and trust me it was non stop - apart from the mid morning coffee and flapjack break, the lunch break and the afternoon tea and cake break. Cakes and flapjacks were made by John's wife, Helen, and they were delicious.

The day finished at 4.30pm and I was home by 5.00pm - and ready for bed, a mixture of fresh air and physical work meant I was exhausted and slowly beginning to seize up.

The second day was less strenuous, in fact all we had to do today was to finish the arch at the back of the chair and to fill in the struts on the back and the struts on the seat.

These struts are made from hazel and here is where you can put your own mark on the design of your chair. By choosing particular parts of the hazel different shapes and patterns can be formed and so each chair will be unique.

Simple though it looked and sounded (when John explained it), it took quite a long time to select and cut each particular strut and form a pleasing pattern for the back of my chair. At the same time the remaining back arches are fitted and again everything is pre-drilled and nailed into place.

Lastly the struts are cut and fitted to form the chair seat.

Finally you can sit on your chair!

Now I have my chair at home in my garden it seems to be permanently raining and a little overcast and dark, so the pictures are not very good, the chair is also quite heavy and my muscles are no longer working so I can't move it into a better position.

I think my chair is absolutely amazing, I am so proud of it and I really can't believe that I actually made it myself. I am so looking forward to some lovely sunny days, a large glass of Baileys and a good book!

If you would like a similar chair, I can highly recommend