Archive for January 2012

Anyone who knows me well knows I have a bit of bird fear.  I can’t help it.  I admire birds and love the feathers and the whole flight thing, but put me near one flying low & I hit the deck. I think it all goes back to when I was a child wearing a pretty bow in my hair while I visited a zoo.  My father told me emu’s like to eat ribbons & then took me through the bird enclosure and I freaked out.  Thanks Dad!

But as I say, I do love to look at the wonder of birds and when I first saw birdsinhats I could help not but smile.

Pigeon in a Tophat by birdsinhats

I have asked Alice a few questions and here’s what she has to say about her work.

It’s an obvious question – let’s get it out of the way. Birds in hats – why?

It’s a good question. I always describe it as a joke that got out of hand – a few years ago I was drawing a barn owl, that turned out to be pretty bad, so I stuck a baseball cap on it… and here I am now!

Magpie in Crown card by birdsinhats

Do you like music on while you work & if so who do you listen to?

Music wise I like a good album that I don’t need to skip tracks on – any Billie Holiday, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear etc etc… but more often than not I’ll have a Harry Potter audiobook on – I can’t listen to any audiobooks that aren’t narrated by Stephen Fry anymore, he’s just so good at it.

Snow Bunting in a Christmas Cracker Hat

Your work puts me in mind of Bruce Whatley – a favourite children’s book author & illustrator of mine. Is there a book in your future?

Why not! I’m concentrating on just producing more material at the moment – I have a scene of woodland creatures playing folk instruments that probably won’t leave my head till I paint it – but certainly in the long term, I’d love to.

Pheasant in a Flat Cap by birdsinhats

Do you imagine the appropriate hat before you start to draw? Do you make up stories to match the hat choice? I see the white swan as a lonely princess waiting for her prince charming to whisk her away.

I’m always torn between the bird-hat combination making sense (nightingale in a nurses cap, turkey in a chef’s hat) and them really not (canary in mexican wrestling mask). I usually end up going for ‘not’, and though I don’t make stories for them I think they’ve all got a bit of attitude

Mute Swan in a Hennin

What is your creative space like?  A special stuido? The kitchen table?

My creative space is my bed/floor! I’ve been drawing curled up or sprawled out somewhere awkward looking since I was old enough to hold a pencil (according to my oma anyway) – though I don’t have a choice as I have neither a desk big enough, or a chair in my flat at the moment. One day I’ll have a fantastic studio to make up for all the damage I’m doing to my spine…

Thanks so much Alice for letting us into your wonderful world.  If you’d like to find out more, please visit the following places you can find Alice.  I really recommend the blog – so many wonderful birds in hats! :

Birds In Hats Blog

Birds In Hats Facebook Page

Birds In Hats Twitter

Birds In Hats on Esty


I am a lover of the wonders of technology.  We’ve come so far in such a short time.  My kids find it hard to imagine the world I grew up in with just a black & white tv & no computers.  Not all that long ago really. Now we have touch screen devices, 3D tv’s, the internet and so much more.

One of the most amazing more recent technological developments is 3D printing. All of the wonders you’ll see here are created using a printer – yup really.  Amazing huh?

Sprial Cuff by nervoussystem on etsy

Steampunk Dice by MechanicalOddities on etsy

Black Pebble Necklace by GreenWallNL on etsy

Filigree Swirl Puzzle iphone Case by CWestbrookDesigns on etsy

Moonball Necklace by designerica on etsy

3D Printed Silver Heart Pendant by thedroppingform on etsy

I want one!

I joke that I have every embroidery floss colour known to man.  Well, I may not have every one, but I come pretty close.  I love having such a choice of colour to work with.  But, it can be troublesome to work with.  Over the years I have tried a few methods of storing my thread and today I thought I’d share the way that works best for me.  And it wont cost you a penny – just a little time.

If stored incorrectly, embroidery floss can be a real chore to sew when you get lots of tangles and knots. Got a bag full of loose, tangled, inseparable threads? Or maybe those little white cards with their compartmentalised boxes that look very organised and neat? Not only can that method be expensive, I found it caused too many kinks from being wound around the card and hence knots when sewing.

Also, embroidery floss generally comes in 6 strand, 8 metre lengths.  This can be tricky if you only want one or two strands, or a little bit for a small piece of embroidery, and often a whole skein can be wasted if it’s not separated carefully.

So how do I avoid those pesky tangles and the hassles of different lengths?  I pre-cut all of my floss to the same length for starters. This is particularly handy if you need 2 strands of different colours as is quite often the case in intricate cross stitch patterns.

This method will give you lots of skeins all the same length – regardless of how many threads are left in each.  Here’s how I do it. :

  1. Carefully remove the label rings with the number and brand – don’t throw them out – you’ll need the number at least.
  2. Put one hand carefully through the centre of the threads
  3. Find one end and start unravelling the skein, but keep a hold of that end as you go.  I tend to pool the loose thread on the floor or table
  4. When it has all been unravelled, catch the other end and align it with the end you held onto at the start.  Double the thread carefully – if you go slow, you wont tangle it. If tangles start to form, gently work from the looped end up.
  5. Now double again and keep doing so until you have a length that you are comfortable working with.  I generally use DMC  floss and I like my length at about 100cm (about 39 inches) which is 8 lengths of 6 strands each.
  6. Fold the threads over one more time and slip the paper ring with the colour number over the loop with no ends and the brand label as well if you want to.
  7. Cut the threads at the other end only (don’t cut both ends or you’ll have very short, annoying lengths – I know – I’ve done it!)
  8. To keep it all together neatly, place 2 fingers through the loop end in and hold  the cut ends in the other.  Begin twisting and twisting the loop end and then thread the cut ends through the loop.  8-12 twists should be fine for a full new skein. When you let go, the skein will twist loosely together.  (The less strands of threads you have, the more twists you will need.)
  9. Voila!  A neat skein of thread. 
  10. If you are using already started skeins, just do the same keeping an eye on the length so you can keep it roughly the same lengths as full skeins.

Now how to store those neat skeins?  I have a large metal hoop (that used to be a belt hanger) I use to store most of my threads on & yes I do keep them in number order.  This is a hangover from my cross stitching days when the number was very important.  If I started again today, I’d probably store them in colour groupings.

I find this to be a great method.  If I need to match a thread colour to a felt piece I am working on, I put a bit of the felt in the centre and bring the various shades into the centre & see what matches best.

Of course, you can do the same thing with smaller collections of floss too.  I have a small plastic ring that I use for smaller projects, or in this case different threads.

Getting one or two threads out of the twisted skein is easy.  Just take the cut ends out of the loop and untwist the skein – place the loop over your finger, holding it firmly & using the wrong end of a sewing needle, pick up a thread and pull it out.  If it starts to get snarled, pull from the bottom, cut ends and try again.  Then re-twist your skein.

The labels come in handy too.  When I run out of a colour, I pop the number label in my purse & grab a new skein next time I’m in the right place.

I hope this has been of some use to you.  It does seem a daunting task to re-organise if you have a lot, but I assure you, the time and angst saved from tangles while embroidering makes it well worth the effort.  I’m not saying you wont ever have a tangle or knot again – you will, but you will have a lot less.

Happy New Year my friends.

I have committed myself to weekly blog posts this year.  I’ve even already pencilled blog posts in my new diary – don’t you just love the organised feeling of a new diary? All the birthdays marked, special events, even the bills.

So, as I’ve committeed myself mentally & on paper, I thought it was time to get my own domain registered and really get  Spincushions out there in the world.  This is where the old bit comes in…

Question Marks by Epheriell

Question Mark earrings by Epheriell on etsy

I have been sitting here for hours, struggling to understand HTML, DNS, java stuff and the list goes on.  Perhaps my confusion and feelings of age are more easily understood if you realise that my first experiences with computers were way back in high school when we had 1 hour a week to learn BASIC.  Good old DOS haha.  Yes I even had a Commadore 64 that I used to write game programs in BASIC for.  If, then, =,  brackets galore etc – those days were so simple & logical!  (Some of you younger one’s may need to google those things hehe)

On reflection , perhaps I should be proud of myself for getting there in the end – there is a universe of difference between the world of DOS and the wonders of the internet.  Yes I think I am proud.  I’ll persevere and see you every week. 🙂

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