Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Sewing pencils...


When I was small I had a little denim pinafore dress with five fabric coloured pencils coming out from the bib pocket. The satin stitched pencil leads were so shiny and in such glossy, vibrant colours that they always felt rather magical and their loveliness has stayed etched in my memory. I told my daughter about this dress a few weeks ago and mentioned how well I thought the idea would work for a pencil case and then the idea was forgotten.


Then one morning last week, my daughter came into our room and eyed the little stack of Liberty fabrics left over from my scrap challenge tutorials on my chest of drawers and, walking her fingers gently over the folds of material and sighing at their loveliness, said: when you get time, do you think you might be able to make that pencil case for me with the coloured pencils on that you said about? Unbeknownst to my daughter, for no apparent reason I'd actually woken feeling rather useless and Eeyore that morning. I hadn't vocalised any of this, it was more just an in-head feeling of gloom that gently rumbled like low-level thunder clouds overhead casting dark skies in my brain (do you ever get this?). And after she'd gone to school, I realised that when I felt so very gloomsome and lacking in ability to be effective in doing very much of anything that I perhaps should be doing, the idea of absorbing myself in making a completely unnecessary pencil case (as I only make a new one for her in September each year) for someone who was guaranteed to be delighted by whatever I'd managed to produce by the end of the school day suddenly felt like the only thing I could imagine doing.


And by mid-morning, as I lined up reels of cotton to match the fabrics I'd chosen for the coloured pencils I was feeling altogether happier and entirely grateful to my daughter having set me this task in her sweet, unassuming way.


I practised sewing the pencil leads a few times before I began. I have an entirely mechanical machine, so these had to be stitched with one hand guiding the fabric, while the other hand attempted to slowly change the stitch width dial from 0 to 5 as I travelled from tip to base of the pencil lead. It's a method that doesn't yield perfect results every time and would probably be far better done on a machine with a digital display capable of being programmed for such a thing, but there's something wonderfully satisfying when an even-edge to these satin-stitched shapes is achieved.


And the lettering. I love that too: slowly following the lines of my pen with the machine requires an enjoyable level of focus and concentration that always leaves me feeling slightly disappointed when the last letter has been stitched.


So on the reverse of the pencil case, I wrote her name in the same italic script to prolong the enjoyment of sewing in this way and appliqued flowers cut from her favourite Liberty prints to go around it.


It has to be the most time-consuming pencil case I have ever made, but by the end of the day I felt entirely happy: my equilibrium was restored by the fabrics, the sewing, the hum of my machine and the background chatter of Desert Island discs, and it ended with friends visiting unexpectedly, cake-eating and chatting on the sofa...it's always lovely when a day transforms itself like that. I didn't show my daughter the pencil case until our friends had left that evening, but I could tell from her face that out of all the things I've ever made for her, this is definitely the one which she's loved the most...and  it's possibly one of my favourite things that I've ever made too.


I won't see this again until July's end of term now: it's always a shock to see these pencil cases when they return home at the end of the year, both familiar and foreign with all the grub and pen marks accumulated from being so well used each day. I'm already hoping that she requests an identical one next year, because it was so much fun to make. But in the meantime, she's already dreamt up several other things she'd love making if I find myself at a loose end again. She's found these Liberty fabrics as inspiring and lovely as I have and has gone from wishing to have her bedroom in several shades of white, to saying how very lovely it would be to have an entire bedroom of Liberty prints.

Florence x

Ps. If you're interested in making something similar, but are yet to master applique or the satin stitch used to outline the pencil fabrics and their leads, it's all covered in my ebook here. Many of the scraps of Liberty print used in this pencil case came from Jo's shop, for I have to admit that after she sent me the scraps for my challenge, it fuelled an addiction and I returned only a week later to buy a handful of fat eighths for myself. The linen used for the main body of the pencil case is the same Ikea Aina linen which I mentioned in yesterday's post.

78 comments:

  1. Stunning Florence! Hard work but so worth it and so rewarding when you see it come together as you make it.

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    1. Thank you, Kerry! Yes, it was one of those projects where I loved seeing it unfold.

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  2. oh Florence, it's perfect, well done!

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  3. How lovely! I'd love to try this out some time!

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  4. so sweet! I'm sure your daughter was thrilled

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    1. She was - I was really delighted by quite how pleased she was with it.

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  5. Wow! Aren't you tempted to do another one for yourself?!

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    1. I sort of am actually. I might once she's moved on from her one, as I worry it may cramp her style for me to have a matching one!

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  6. This is so lovely! I might have to attempt one for myself!

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    1. I hope it turns out beautifully if you do! x

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  7. That's so beautiful. I'm not sure that I could have given it away, although I'm sure that the smile on your Little Lady's face more than made up for it. And I'm in awe of your pencil tips!!!

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    1. Thank you, Sonia - I have to admit to feeling very pleased with my pencil tips (apart from the dark blue, which was troublesome!). x

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  8. Absolutely wonderful. I too have days when I awake with a feeling of free-floating gloom. Seems like you and your daughter have figured out the best prescription!

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    1. They're horrible aren't they. But yes, in future I'll know to absorb myself in a self-indulgent for-no-particular-reason project :)

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  9. Absolutely beautiful Florence, I'm just flabbergasted by how perfect your work is! x

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    1. That's really flattering, Jane, especially coming from one who makes such perfect stitches. Thank you! x

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  10. Wow, what a gorgeous pencil case!

    Alison
    x

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  11. This is the cutest pencil case I have ever seen!

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  12. graciegirlsews9 May 2012 07:57

    what beautiful work - how lovely

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  13. It's gorgeous. Maybe you need one too for, um, just because.

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    1. Nina prompted me to think of that too...but I'll have to wait until she's stopped using it so that I don't cramp her style, I think.

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  14. So sweet! What a lovely gift! :)

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  15. It's gorgeous. You can't beat a bit of unnecessary sewing to brighten up a day!

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    1. Yes, I think sewing when it's unnecessary is very liberating, isn't it.

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  16. Oh, I love, love, love it. I remember you mentioned that childhood memory to me when I made my daughter's pot o gold skirt a couple of years ago. The pencil case is so wonderfu.

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    1. Amy, what a memory! I'd forgotten I'd told you about that - those pencils are obviously lodged in my head! I've just been back to look at the Pot o Gold skirt too - beautiful - is she still able to wear it? x

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  17. oooooh it is just the cutest thing. I'm sure she will come home saying that her friends would like one but she has a lucky mummy that can do things like this just for her x

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    1. Yes, I am lucky - I sudddenly feel I should make more time to do this as it's lovely to have my stitching wanted by her.

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  18. Oh, Florence! How beautiful! Isn't it fabulous how it's usually the smallest things that swing an attitude from dismal to delightful?! That lovely is sure to brighten many a day.

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    1. Yes, I marvelled at that at the end of the day - it offered a complete transformation.

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  19. Oh how beautiful! I am quite in awe of your wonderful ideas Florence, no wonder your daughter was so thrilled with this. She is one lucky little girl:)

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    1. Oh that's really kind, thank you, Kezia! x

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  20. Oh it's absolutely gorgeous, I want to be one of your kids!

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    1. I'd make you unload the dishwasher too though...

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  21. Oh this is just perfect! I know she loves it!

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    1. Thank you, Nova! Do you see what you started in our house? The scrap challenge could just run and run...

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  23. Just beautiful! Your daughter is a lucky girl. I have been well and truly bitten by the Liberty bug too. Just came home today with some more when I was just supposed to be buying elastic ;)

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    1. Lucky you to have Liberty fabric in the same location as more utilitarian elastic. What a lovely shopping trip!

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  24. This may possibly be the BESTEST EVER pencil case!!...

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    1. Oooh, thank you! I'm very flattered you think so.

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  25. Love your work, so cute - great idea.

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  26. Love this.....so awesome

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    1. Thank you, Little Blue Mouse, Lisa & Tonya! x

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  27. Stunningly gorgeous pencil case. Such a great way to beat that gloom which does it's best to mess up anything you force yourself to do when it has descended. Taking the day off and immersing in something else entirely seems to confuse it into submission

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    1. Isn't it odd how the times when you don't have a purpose for your sewing are often the times when it comes together best. I'm not sure it's possible to intentionally do non-purposeful sewing though, is it...

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  28. Beautiful work. You've inspired me to do a bit of frivolous sewing today to combat stress and eeyoreishness, I decidedly don't have time for it but I will MAKE time! Boom.

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    1. Oh, I'm so pleased! I hope you have a lovely day.

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  29. What a clever Mum & lucky daughter. So good to hear that Eeyore days can get better. XX

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  30. I absolutely love this! Such a clever idea, and beautifully executed. Really lovely. I'm so tempted now to have a go myself, but there are so many other things on my list already! One day...

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  31. This is my first visit to your lovely blog and I have a severe case of the wanties! That pencil case is fabulous"

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  32. What a gorgeous thing of beauty and great way to show off all your liberty prints. Your daughter will be the envy of her class. Love it.

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  33. it is so nice to make something with time and love devoted to it. a great post thank you.

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  34. Florence, this is an adorable project. you are such a clever bean! inspired!! GX

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  35. what a wonderful project, inspired! you are such a clever bean! xx

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  36. see i love it so much i commented twice!

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  37. I wish you were my mummy!!

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  38. It is beautiful, so perfect!
    your satin stitch is amazing, I need to keep practicing mine. I also have a love of linen and Liberty.
    Your work is a true inspiration

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  39. This is absolutely genius! And so satisfying to see the co-ordinated Liberty "scraps" lined up like that. You can really see the work and skill that has gone into this - very effective indeed.

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  40. Oh Florence. I just can't get over how cute this is! You have such amazing patience to stitch the tiny details so carefully like that. You wouldn't mind just whipping another one up for me, would you? ;)

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  41. Beautiful!!! What an inspiration!

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  42. Im in love! This is thee most adorable thing i have ever seen! I absolutely loved reading your story, such a small item but a huge meaning behind it. Im so happy to have read the behind the scenes story. Im so chuffed i bought the homemaker magazine to have got the opportunity of reading your story and getting to see this stunning creation. I shared the link to your blog on my facebook page. I want the whole world to see this x i hope sometime in the future i can buy one! X

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x