Sunday, 6 November 2011

pattern: interested owls

i recently found myself in need of an owl cross stitch pattern. i looked around on etsy, but couldn’t find one that suited my purposes (small, cute, simple), so i decided to design my own.

it was very quick to whip up so i thought i’d make it a free pattern to share here on the blog.

as you may be able to see, i used some variegated thread on the owls wings and tummies. as these are not as accessible as dmc threads, i’ve substituted dmc alternates into the pattern.

where the pattern uses dmc 3858, i used cottage garden threads‘ “blackwood”, and where the pattern uses dmc 422, i used cottage garden threads‘ “wheat”.

you should, of course, use whatever colours tickle your fancy.

for a larger version of the pattern, click here.

i always love to see the results when people stitch up my patterns, so if you sew your own little pair of owls, do consider adding a photo to the ‘penelope waits designs’ flickr group.

happy stitching!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

tutorial: little button wreaths

until recently, i haven’t really been that into christmas. it’s a time of year that i tend to find stressful and overwhelming, not least because i live in the southern hemisphere and it’s always very hot and uncomfortable on december 25th.

but my grinchy heart has been softening of late, and i can’t put my finger on the exact reason. maybe it’s because i’m pregnant looking forward to celebrating the occasion with my own child. maybe i’m a sucker for any reason to make cute and interesting crafts. maybe i’m just mellowing out in my old age. whatever the reason, i’ve decided to get behind christmas this year, and to enjoy it - chaos, stress, mess and all. and i’m starting by making some decorations.

i saw these cute button wreath ornaments on, and thought i’d give them a try.

her instructions are very brief, so i’ve made a slightly more detailed tutorial with more pictures, just to make things a little easier for anyone else who might like to make them. they’re really easy, and could be a fun activity to share with kids.

what you need:

  • 20 gauge copper wire
  • a whole lot of buttons in varying sizes (you can buy bags of “seconds” buttons from craft stores, and they are much cheaper than buying buttons individually)
  • roll of 3mm craft ribbon in complimentary colour
  • roll of 10mm craft ribbon in complimentary colour
  • wire cutters 
  • scissors


using your wire cutters, cut a piece of wire 9″ long.

with your fingers (copper wire is very malleable), make a loop at one end of this piece of wire, making sure to flatten a portion of it alongside the longer end of the wire as pictured:

start to thread buttons onto the wire.

make sure that your first button has holes that are too small for two widths of wire to pass through, so that your loop stays button-free, as pictured below:

here are some more button-threading tips:
- try to vary the sizes of your buttons as you go. that way, when you bend the wire into a loop there will be a little bit of room for movement.
- try not to bend the wire around too much as you work. the copper will weaken quickly and may break.
- if your button has multiple holes, don’t worry about which one to thread the wire through. gravity will ensure that the buttons hang nicely in the end.
- using several smaller buttons at each end will make the process of securing your wreath into a loop much easier.

continue threading buttons until you have approximately 1″ of wire left:

bring this end around to your looped end, forming your wreath-shape. don’t worry about making it perfectly round at this stage, you can do that once you have secured it.

wrap your tail-end around the stem of the loop you made earlier, being careful to keep your buttons from sliding around too much and leaving gaps in your wreath:

cut a 12″ piece of your 10mm ribbon, and tie it in a bow around the place where you have wrapped your wire. this not only conceals the join, but it adds another decorative element to your ornament.

finally, make a hanging loop from a piece of your 3mm ribbon, at a length that you feel is appropriate (i don’t like my ornaments too dangly, but you might prefer them that way!)

and there you have it! a bright and cheerful christmas wreath to hang on your tree.

you’ll find that you get into quite a rhythm with making these. my first took a little while to get right, but i got more efficient as i went along and ended up making quite a few in just an hour or so.

i hope this was a helpful tutorial!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

pattern: hardly bear

it seems like ages since i’ve had a new pattern to share with you, and i am excited to say, that the time has finally come! may i present, ‘hardly bear’:

this pattern is a little different - it’s customizable. where the example says “sweet” is left blank on the chart, and i’ve included charts for a whole bunch of useful adjectives, such as awesome, silly, clever, cute, pretty, etc. so you can make the most appropriate crafty message for the recipient of your masterpiece.

i’ve also included an alphabet chart, so that you can put your own adjective in there if it’s one i didn’t think of.

you can download this pattern as a pdf from my etsy shop
i hope you love it! 

Friday, 12 August 2011

finishing things...

it turns out that i am great at blogging about works in progress, but when i finish a project, i’m so keen to move on to the next one that i forget to show it off.
remember the ‘marriage of the minds’ sampler i was working on earlier this year? i finished it ages ago, and was going to wait til i’d had it all nicely framed before taking proper pictures of it. and then i forgot! it’s been hanging on the wall here in our new house for weeks!

there’s a lot of great detail in this one, so can i suggest clicking here to see an enlarged version?

i loved every moment of working on this piece, and have now become completely obsessed with the drawn thread’s beautiful, timeless designs. i’m currently working on the birth band (with important details left blank til january!), and modifying the colours so it tones in better with this sampler.

as i said in my previous post about this, my favourite part of this sampler is the bit i modified - in the original pattern the two figures at the top were a man and a woman, but i changed them to make them look like my partner and i on our not-quite-wedding day. that little change makes it all the more personal, which a sampler like this should be. the whole reason i decided to stitch this (apart from it’s general beauty) is that it features the sonnet i read to my partner on that very day.

i also love that, while most of the piece is cross stitched, it includes a range of other pretty stitches, and they add variety and texture to the overall look.

there’s a lot of symbolism incorporated in the sampler too - the two houses join through love to make one house, the rabbits are for fertility, the bluebirds for happiness, the owls for wisdom, and so on. so much love and thought has been put into every aspect of it, and that makes me so happy.

i’m pretty proud of this one, i must say…

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

tutorial: 'bear paw' quilt block

i really like this block – it’s traditional, and it has character. 


red fabric:
eight 2-7/8” squares

yellow fabric:
four 4-1/2” squares

background fabric:
eight 2-7/8” squares,
four 2-1/2″ squares,
four 2-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ rectangles

green fabric:
one 2-1/2” square


take one of your 2-7/8” squares of background fabric, and one of your 2-7/8” squares of red fabric, and place them right-sides together on your cutting mat.

using a fabric pen, rule a diagonal line from one corner to the opposite corner.
then draw a parallel line on either side of this, 1/4” from the central line.

sew alone each of these outer lines, then cut down the central line.

open out and press, then repeat this process with all of your 2-7/8” squares.

take these squares and sew pairs of them together side be side. press.

IMPORTANT: half of your pairs should have the diagonals going in one direction, and the other half should have them going in the opposite direction, as pictured below:

take one of your 4-1/2” squares of yellow fabric, and sew one of your ‘paired triangles’ pieces to an edge of the square. 

repeat for all four yellow squares, ensuring that the triangles are pointing in the right direction, as pictured below. press.

take another one of your ‘paired triangles’ pieces, and sew one of your 2-1/2″ squares to the end of it in a way that will completes the bear-paw shape. 
laying the pieces out on your cutting mat to make sure everything is pointing in the right direction before sewing is a good idea.

sew this longer piece to the appropriate side of the yellow square as suggested in the above image. 

repeat this process so that you have four completed bear-paw shapes. press.

take one of your four 2-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ rectangles of background fabric, and lay a bear-paw on either side of it, pointing upwards and outwards. 

sew the bear paws to the long edges of the rectangle in this configuration. press.

take one of your four 2-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ rectangles of background fabric, and lay a bear-paw on either side of it, this time pointing downwards and outwards. 

sew the bear paws to the long edges of the rectangle in this configuration. press.

take your remaining two 2-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ rectangles of background fabric, and sew them to opposite edges of your 2-1/2” square of green fabric. press.

use this long skinny piece to connect your two pairs of bear-paws, then, you guessed it, press.

now you have a completed bear-paw block!

i think i’ll make a full quilt in this style one day. there's an old fashioned charm to it that i find very appealing.

i hope you find this tutorial very useful. do drop back and show me if you use it to create something!

Monday, 7 February 2011

tutorial: 'square in a star' quilt block

i thought i's share the odd quilt block tutorial here on the blog. it's so useful to have a few up your sleeve for making a cushion, a trivet, a mini wall quilt, or to make en masse and turn into a full quilt.

here’s how to make a traditional “square in a star” quilt block:

for the purposes of this tutorial, i’ll refer to the fabrics as follows:
white = fabric 1
grey = fabric 2
orange = fabric 3
aqua = fabric 4


from fabric 1, cut 12 rectangles measuring 2.5″ x 4.5″, and 4 squares measuring 2.5″ x 2.5″

from fabric 2, cut 8 squares measuring 2.5″ x 2.5″

from fabric 3, cut 4 squares measuring 2.5″ x 2.5″

from fabric 4, cut 1 square, measuring 4.5″ x 4.5″

take one of your fabric 1 rectangles and lay it right side up on your cutting mat.

place a piece of fabric 2, right side down on top of it, so that one of it’s edges lines up exactly with the end of the rectangle.

mark a line bisecting the piece of fabric 2 diagonally as shown below:

sew along that line, then cut off excess fabric, leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance.

press open.

repeat this process for the other end of the rectangle.

you will end up with a rectangle that looks like a pointy pair of cat’s ears:

take another white rectangle, and sew a square of fabric 3 to each short end. press.
repeat so that you have two of these.

take another fabric 1 rectangle, and sew the long edge to the side of your piece of fabric 4. press.

repeat with the opposite side of the same piece of fabric 4.

sew the strips made up of fabric 1 and fabric 3 to the top and bottom of your piece made up of fabric 1 and 4, creating a square.

take two squares of fabric 1, and sew one to each short end of one of your “cat’s ears” rectangles. press.

repeat, so that you have two identical pieces.

sew these to the top and bottom of your pieced square.

take a rectangle of fabric 1, and sew it’s short end to a short end of one of your “cat’s ears” rectangles.

sew another rectangle to the opposite end in the same way. press.

repeat with your final “cat’s ears” rectangle.

sew these to either side of your block, completing the star shape.

your block is now complete!

there are many variations you can make to this block.

for example, for a simpler look, you could use more of fabric 2 in place of fabric 3, creating a more cohesive star shape.

you could make the block look more ‘filled in’ by substituting another coloured fabric for the white rectangles surrounding the central square.

whatever you choose to do with it, i hope you find this a very useful block.

if you end up using it to make your own quilted creations, i’d love to see pictures!
have fun!

Monday, 3 January 2011

happy new year

these days after christmas are so lovely. all the big events are over, and there is time to rest, regroup, and gear up for the new year.
we’ve been taking it very easy here, and i’ve been fully immersed in an embroidery project that i’ve been working on for some time…

the pattern is by the drawn thread, and it’s called “the marriage of minds”. i’ve made a few alterations, the main one being to make both of the figures women, and to make their dresses resemble the ones we wore at our not-quite-wedding.
i hope you’ve had a wonderful festive season - and happy new year!