Aggravated Arm!

A major contributing factor to my recent arm problems have been using a computer mouse at work.  Admittedly, my mouse technique may have some room for improvement but a quick Google search for “computer elbow pain” reveals that ‘computer elbow’ is a thing.  Symptoms are the same as tennis or golfer’s elbow, or if you’re really unfortunate, both simultaneously.  I’m really unfortunate!  I had heard of these two conditions but had no idea how painful they are – until now.  The problem is typically caused by the repeated small, gripping movements needed when holding the mouse coupled with holding the arm in a fixed position for extended periods, often quite unconsciously.  Adding to the problem is that using a conventional mouse twists the arm 90° from its natural resting position which puts further strain on the muscles and tendons in the forearm. 

I am in no way a medical professional but I have read a lot recently in an attempt to help myself to a) understand what’s going on inside my arm, b) recover and c) prevent a repeat of the problem.  I’ve also started using my left hand for ‘mousing’ so I’m keen not to replicate the problems of my right arm in my left.  An ergonomic vertical mouse seems to be the recommendation to alleviate this problem as but this isn’t a possibility at work as our mice and software in the Ops Room are not straightforward to change.  This prompted me to get my thinking cap on for how to make my own portable ergonomic mouse station.  More on that project next week.

My other problem was flexing my wrist to use the mouse.  Many mouse mats come with an elevated wrist support so I thought I’d make a support to see if it helps.  There seems to be mixed opinions regarding whether they cause more harm than good but I thought I’d try one out anyway.  The main advantage I could see was that my hand would be naturally positioned over the top of the mouse and keep my wrist straight. 

I started with a rectangle of fabric, folded it in half and sewed around the cut edges, leaving a gap on the long edge for stuffing.

The wrist home-made wrist supports I saw online were more of a flat cushion but as I wanted some height, I boxed the corners.

I filled it with polystyrene beads rather than rice to make it less hard as that appeared to be one of the main negative points relating to wrist supports.

If you’ve ever used polystyrene beads, you’ll know the challenge they present.  They are massively affected by static so stick to EVERYTHING!!!

Once I’d wrestled enough beads into the cushion, I pinned the gap and closed with a ladder stitch.

The finished cushion elevates my wrist by about one inch and I’ve found it to be the perfect height for me.  It keeps my wrist straight and it’s very comfortable.

 

Crafty As Mr L!

My right arm has continued to be troublesome and achy so I’ve still been unable to craft this week.  It has been driving me crazy not being able to create!!  The physio has given me different exercises this week and I think they are slowly starting to make a difference. Instead of crafting, I’ve been focused on ‘eating clean’ and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise every day (spurred on by my latest read, The Exercise Cure by Jordan Metzl, MD).  I have an auto-immune based arthritis and changing to a Paleo diet a few years ago put my symptoms into remission.  You know what it’s like though – I started to feel better so being as strict with my diet slipped a little…. then a little more.  The physio has determined that the pain in my wrist is arthritic so that’s made me focus on what I can do to help myself again.  We’ve upped our fruit and vegetable intake to about 8-9 portions a day and I’ve been very strict about no dairy as I know that my body doesn’t tolerate it very well.  Mr L has been doing a modified Paleo diet; his includes bread, peanuts and beer!

Focusing more on veg has meant making the most of the tail end of the growing season in our veg patch.  We’ve not been quite so organised with successional sowing this year, so we’re down to beetroot, tomatoes, chillies and cucumber now.  And the squashes!  They are currently sunbathing on the swing seat to harden their skins to improve their storage time.

We’ve tried storing the squashes in the garage but I think it was too warm and lots rotted.  Last year we stored them in the cold frame but since it was down the bottom of the garden, it was harder to keep an eye out for rotting fruits and we also forgot to use them.  We’ve done a lot of work in our garden in the 5 years we’ve been here and had many deliveries which arrived on pallets, which got stacked up on the front lawn.  I think our record was 27 at one time!!  Mr L has been using them to build compost heaps and he made a very study log store with them a few years ago so I asked if he’d be able to make a pumpkin storage rack that we could keep by the back door.  He was up for the challenge!

He began with the sturdiest pallet for the base and cut it to size using his chain saw.  Boys and their toys!!

Next, he removed some long slats from another pallet for the uprights.

These were joined lengthways in readiness for the roof.

He cut sections from other pallets to make the roof.

Next, he added some shelves….

…and a coat of timber preservative.

The sides and back were lined with some sacking, some damp-proof membrane was stapled onto the roof and a piece of scaffold netting was secured to the top to keep out the worst of the rain.  Here’s the finished rack.

Top job, Mr L!

 

One Armed Crafter

Unfortunately, this week I have found myself needing a sling.  I’ve had pain in my wrist for some time but now have pain in my elbow and muscle soreness in my upper arm too.  The arm in question is my right which my dominant side so it’s quite a challenge to rest it.  Whilst I await further medical treatment, I figured the best way to stop me using the arm and causing more pain was to put it in a sling.  I tried the basic triangle sling out of the first aid kit but it was very uncomfortable so I decided to make my own.  Fingers crossed you won’t need this but should you ever be in need of a sling, here’s how I made mine.

Disclaimer: I have no medical training – use at your own discretion!

First, I measured from the outside of my bent elbow to the middle of my little finger and added 4” onto this measurement.  I don’t think there’s any rule about how high to have the sling so I went for about 6½”  and added on 1½” for seam allowance and boxing the elbow area.

I cut out 2 rectangles of the correct size, one for the outer fabric and one for the lining.  I also used some fusible fleece to give my sling a bit more strength but still be soft – I cut it out about ½” smaller all round than the outer fabric.  The rectangles were folded in half along the long side before cutting a curve through both sides at the top corner (I used a Pyrex bowl to trace my curve) on one short side.  On the other short side, mark 1” in from the edge along the fold and cut from there to the corner.  My pieces looked like this.

The fleece was adhered to the back of the outer fabric as per manufacturer’s instructions.  Both the outer and lining fabrics were then folded in half along the long side, right sides together and stitched down the short straight side (without the curve) using a ½” seam allowance.

To make some elbow room (!), I decided to ‘box’ the seam.  To do this, fold the seam back so that it lays on top of the centre crease.  Mark a line at 90˚ to the seam/crease that is 2” long.

Sew along this line and trim off the excess.

The boxed corner should look like this.

I had a broken luggage strap that I was planning to use for my support strap but I didn’t have any strap sliders 2” wide.  To overcome this slight problem, I stitched some 25mm wide webbing strap onto one end as I had 25mm plastic D-rings that would support the front of the sling.  I sewed some fluffy Velcro onto the wide section on the strap and the hooky Velcro onto the same side of the thin end of the strap.  It’s not easy to see as it’s black Velcro on black strapping!

Cut two 4” lengths of 25mm webbing and fold in half.  Place a D-ring onto each piece and position one on each side of the top edge of the sling, just as the curve begins, and pin in place. Match the edges of the webbing to the edge of the fabric.  Pin the long strap to the back of the sling, roughly about 2” from the seam.  Test for a good fit before sewing in place using a ¼” seam allowance.

Next, with right sides together, pin the outer to the lining, ensuring that all the straps are between the layers and away from the edges.  Sew all around the edge using a ½” seam allowance but leaving a 3”opening on the back edge for turning.  This method is called “Bagging out” in case you’re interested!

Clip the curved corners so that they will lie flat when turned out.

Turn the sling right side out through the hole in the back seam.  It probably won’t look very sling-like at this stage!

Press the seams flat, turning in the seam allowance at the opening.  Close the opening with a slip stitch or ladder stitch.

Top stitch all the way around approximately ¼” from the edge.  This will keep the outer and lining fabrics in place and provide additional support across the straps.

Lastly, I found that the strap dug into my neck a little so I made a padded cover for the strap.  This involved 2 pieces of fabric, one with fleece attached, sewn all the way around minus the hole for turning.

Once turned and pressed, the piece was folded in half and sewn close to the edge, securing the ends well.   This formed a tube that the strap could be fed though.

And here’s the finished article!  This is my Mark 2 version.  The first one wasn’t quite long enough and finished half way down my hand.  I felt that with my hand dangling, there wasn’t enough support for my arm to completely relax.  The Mk2 version is much better but I’m hoping I won’t be needing it for very much longer.

 

 

 

Wonderful Writing Workshop

Last Sunday, I attended a taster workshop to learn about dip pen and brush pen styles of modern calligraphy.  The course was hosted by the The Modern Calligraphy Co. and is one of Kirsten Burke’s range of classes.  I chose it after being inspired by Kirsten’s YouTube videos and trying out one of her books.   The workshop itself is set in an idyllic location in the West Sussex countryside and, despite looking a little austere from the outside (it’s a converted Victorian sub-station), the interior is stunning; bright and airy and adorned with inspirational artwork.

The welcome was warm and friendly and was accompanied with mugs of tea, coffee and biscuits. Each of the wannabe calligraphers had a work area complete with hand lettered name tag, tools and worksheets.  I was on a table with two lovely ladies, Hilary and Barbara, and we managed to do a lot of nattering in addition to our calligraphy!

Our fab instructor was Maisie and she had a relaxed, informative and entertaining style of tuition which I very much enjoyed.  We were also lucky enough to have a guest instructor, Sophia, who was veryhelpful,  encouraging and supportive throughout.  The day started with a demo from Maisie and then we were straight onto guided exercises learning how to use a dip pen and ink.  The first of these exercises were drills, so practicing downstrokes with heavy pressure and upstrokes with light pressure to get the hang of the thick and thin lines and how often to dip the pen.  These exercises, whilst not appearing to be very interesting, are essential to building muscle memory to enable one to produce beautiful calligraphy.

During these exercises, we also had a go at blending different colour inks to create ombre writing – very cool!

We then moved onto letters and were taught how to use metallic paints with the dip pens instead of ink.  This produced absolutely stunning results, even on my beginner attempts!

Next was a demo on brush pens showing the variety of types of pen and ways to use them and then we were back to our drills again, trying out a multitude of pens.  Again, we were shown the different ways to blend the colours and were encouraged to play around.

Next stop was a scrummy lunch.  And it was HUGE!  There was a massive buffet style selection of cold meats, cheeses, warm quiches, breads, olives, salads, dips, fruit and cake, plus hot and cold drinks.  It was a lovely day too so we were able to sit in the garden to eat our lunch and be refreshed ready for the next task.

In the booking confirmation email from Maisie, we had been asked to think of a 4-8 word phrase which we would turn into our own art work.  Kirsten herself gave us a demo on how to structure the word art, and then we started off sketching.  It was a really interesting exercise; working out which words to put where, what style of lettering to use, whether to use capitals or lower case, what colours etc.  Once again, all the instructors were on hand to offer advice and encouragement.

The phrase I chose was a quote from my Dad, which he often utters after explaining (once only) how to do some D-I-Y job that he could do in his sleep, and either me, my sister, Mum, Mr L (or anyone else for that matter) is currently messing up and will require the explanation repeating!  I thought it would make a great Father’s Day card.

Once the design was finalised, I went over to the light box to trace the design onto the card.  I was using the dip pen since it was a small project so I decided to have a little practice on my scrap piece, trying out different colours for the ‘shout’.

After completing the writing, I added some tiny splatters of ink and gold paint and left it to dry, mounting it onto a black card base when I returned home.

There’s a small shop at the workshop selling the products we used so I bought myself a dip pen starter kit, an inspirational book and some of those gorgeous metallic paints.

Mr L requested a card for his Dad for Father’s Day so I had a go with my metallic marker pens and dropping inks from great heights for this card!

Lastly, for a bit of fun, I made this for Mr L from the cats!

I enjoyed the workshop immensely and am currently trying to persuade Mr L that he’d enjoy it too as it’d be great fun to do together.  There are full day and half day sessions, evening sessions (with wine and canapes – how civilised!) and family friendly workshops.

If you’re interested in attending a workshop, you can find out more at

www.themoderncalligraphyco.co.uk

Sophia can be found at

www.thehanddrawnbean.co.uk

 

p.s. If you’re reading this on 16th June 2019 and fancy a go, you can get the ultimate beginner’s guide to modern calligraphy free in the Mail on Sunday.  Yes, you will have to be seen buying the Mail but you can always wear a disguise! 😉

 

 

 

12 Days of Christmas Ornaments

You may recall my post back in February when I had started my set of the 12 Days of Christmas felt ornaments stating that I had started early in the hope that I might get them all finished in time for Christmas?  Well, I’ve finished them already – shock, horror!!  I’m completely amazed myself to be honest.  I think the main reason for this success is because the pattern is so well written it makes it easy and the ornaments are sooooo cute that as soon as one was finished, I immediately wanted to move on to making the next!  Whilst it’s the 12 days, there are actually 15 ornaments as the partridge has a pear, the goose has an egg and Mr. Leaping has a heart, bless him!  Well, the song is about true love after all.  In case you’re thinking I’ve gone completely doolally and numbered the last 4 wrongly, there are several variations of the carol; these ornaments are based on the original carol from 1780.

Firstly, and unusually for me, I did what the pattern said and purchased wool blend felt.  I have a stash of acrylic felt but the pattern specifically said that you wouldn’t get good results without using wool or wool blend felt.  I can see now how that might happen as the edges are whip stitched with a tiny seam so the acrylic felt probably wouldn’t have held.  The absolute most important step was to preshrink the felt which was done by soaking each sheet in cold water for a few minutes then placing on a towel, lightly pressing to remove excess water then leaving to dry naturally.  Each 12” piece shrunk by at least an inch so the pieces would have been all sorts of shapes had I skipped this step.

My drying rainbow tree of felt

The designer recommends using the catchily titled Sulky™ Printable Sticky Fabri-Solvy, now renamed to Sulky™ Printable Stick ‘n’ Stitch.  I got mine from Amazon from a US craft shop but there are craft shops in the UK selling it now.  This stuff is absolute GENIUS! After printing out the pattern on normal paper and checking that the print was scaled properly by using the handy measure guide on the pattern, you just put in the sheet of Sulky™ and print.  All of the pieces required are printed and it’s simply a case of rough cutting around them and removing the backing to adhere them to the felt colour of your choice.

The embroidery is designed to be the star of the show so the pattern encourages you to choose contrasting floss that really stands out.  I found choosing the felt and floss colours to be one of the hardest jobs.  My threads were a bit of a mess, all bundled up together in an old wash bag so I treated myself to a floss organiser, complete with thread bobbins.  This made my floss selection process a lot easier I can tell you.

Next job was to sew the embroidery.  It’s mainly back stitch, a bit of running stitch and lots of French knots.  I used to hate French knots and did substitute some with seed beads for the first few but I guess I became better at them with all that practice and I don’t mind them at all now.  Once the embroidery was complete, the pieces were carefully cut out…

…then soaked for 15-20 minutes in cold water to dissolve the stabiliser and then left to dry face up on a dry towel.

One day, when I was feeling particularly brave and artistic(!) I decided to try my hand at making the heads for days 8-12.  The pattern offers great tips for eye and mouth placement.  After lightly drawing the features with a pencil, I then coloured them in with fabric marker pens.  These were great as they didn’t bleed into the wooden beads at all so the images are really crisp.

Shrunken heads!

The construction is largely the same in that all pieces are sewn with wrong sides together using a whip stitch and matching floss.  Depending on the ornament, interfacing, cardboard, pipe cleaners, wooden beads, fabric markers and cocktail sticks may be needed in addition to fibre stuffing and fabric glue.  The instructions for constructing the ornaments are really clear and easy to follow.

So, a mere 2½ months after I began, the whole gang is finished.  Woohoo! And here they are…

A closer look at Days 1-4…

Days 5-8…

Days 9-12…

Even the backs look  great too!

I’m now working on a storage box for the ornaments as they are too precious to be thrown in with the rest of the Christmas decs.  Watch this space for that post!

These ornaments are a bit fiddly to make at times but not so much so that it put me off finishing.  In fact, I’ve enjoyed making them so much, I’m going to make another set in a more limited colour palette.

If you like the look of these you can find out more on Larissa’s website, where there are links to her shop to buy the patterns together with lots of tips, techniques and colour scheme ideas.  There are also lots of inspiring colour palettes on Instagram at #twelvedaysornaments and #mmmcrafts.

www.mmmcrafts.blogspot.com