Monday, May 28, 2007

Just hanging around

It isn't like me to be quiet for so long. But a combination of half-term, a visit to my folks at the seaside and hubby being away on a 10 day business trip has left me with little blogging time.

The boys and I are just hanging out, dodging the rain and enjoying ourselves in a low key, unblogworthy way. You know how it goes. It's actually a lot of fun.

And given that hubby is in America, with a weekend all to himself, I've armed him with addresses of select fabric shops and lists of desirable prints. I offered to hook him up with a blog-chum shopping partner, but he proved a little too shy for that.

But if you are in a fabric store in the USA this weekend and see a lost looking Brit, give him a kindly smile, you just never know....

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The curtain shop in town was having a remnant sale and I picked up a lovely piece of cotton with a vegetable print. It was crying out to be made into an apron and I know I had seen just the pattern in Amy Butler's In Stitches.

Co-incidentally it was also the assignment from May's In Stitches sew-along. If you own the book and haven't come across this Flickr group yet, I urge you to go over and take a look. Each month a project from the book is nominated and a winner chosen from the pictures submitted. Having won the April prize, I am a big fan of the format!

But seriously, it's a great place for beginner sewers like me to pick up hints on completing the projects, and a chance to see how the choice of fabric influences the outcome. Because, for me, at the end of the day it's all about the fabric.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


If it rains solidly for the next 40 days, you can blame me, because I made a sunhat (from Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing).

Oh yeah, I'm conquering the pattern and garment phobia thing slowly but surely. Each time I make something I learn things. This was the first try at my chum Rachel's hint.

I asked how to preserve paper patterns so they could be used again and again and she told me that she traces hers onto clear plastic. So I bought some vinyl yesterday and it works an absolute treat.

The fabrics are an Alexander Henry 'candy flower' with a red cotton canvas lining (from Ikea). I like Ikea fabrics. They are usually 100% cotton (or linen), come in great designs and colours and are as cheap as chips so I don't mind if I make a mistake. But apart from cutting out twice as many crown pieces as I needed, I managed this one without serious errors.

Do you appreciate how brave it is of me to show this to you, because I am still ill (thanks for the kind, get well wishes), look rough as hell and have a spots from a little cheese binge I went on. Note to self - get to grips with photoshop so you can touch up dodgy self-portraits. Oh, and stop eating cheese - I get a zit for every mouthful, no exaggeration.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sad and snotty

We're all in the firm grasp of some snot laden lurgy and feeling miserable. So just hanging out, doing as little as possible and waiting for it to pass.

On the bright side, the lovely sewing machine repair man came over yesterday to give my little machine a check-up. He really must have been charming to get away with comments like 'rather small isn't it' and 'it runs a bit slowly'. Hell, both those apply to my sewing brain so I'm in good company.

So there should be a spring in my sewing step when I feel up to doing some again. But that's not today. Bleuch.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Roasted trout with thyme for dinner tonight - from The Naked Chef. It's my favourite of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks - honest food that makes you want to eat. No faffing about.

And tonight, the thyme, bay leaves, parsley for new potatoes and salad all came from the garden. Heaven.

I've included a link to the recipe because if nothing else, you need to try the roasted lemons with bay leaves as a fish accompaniment. They were wonderful.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Table for two

In the half hour today when it wasn't drizzling, I went out to do a bit of pruning. All this rain has made my garden go bonkers and I could hardly see out of the kitchen window. The clippings were so pretty I couldn't bear to chuck them on the compost heap, so I popped them in a vase. Now I know it's not exactly Housemartin quality, but they made me smile.

And evidently I'm not the only one. When the boys sat down for their dinner Mark said 'Ooh look, flowers on the table. Can we have candles too?' So why not? Who doesn't like a candlelit dinner every now and again. For my sweet boy, who sometimes really notices the little things.

And my, that was a Charlie and Lola frenzy! Thanks for all the comments - the lucky winner of the C&L giveaway is Louise of Prairie Mouse. I'm so sorry if it wasn't you this time, but don't be too sad. It's a monthly magazine and I'll do another give-away when I see the next issue okay?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Supermarket bounty

I was cruising the aisles today: milk, apples, pasta, washing liquid (2 bottles - potty training seems to have regressed of late), wine, more wine... when what should leap into my trolley, but a new magazine.

Charlie and Lola do crafts! What could be more fun. You can dress Lola, decorate a mermaid,fill your lunchbox, design a dragon, colour and stick on stickers.

So would any of you folks unlikely to find this where you are like a copy? Because I'm kind like that and bought two. Leave me a comment (with an e-mail address attached to it - this is Blogger - you have to help me out a little) and I'll draw a lucky winner to sent it off to early next week.

Now excuse me, because me and the boys have a little cutting, sticking and colouring of our own to attend to.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Barcelona Skirts trial run

Okay, the reveal, prototype one of the Amy Butler Barcelona Skirts tiered skirt pattern. Now before I show you, a few words in my defence...
  1. I've only made one item of clothing before (Lounge Pants) and put in 1 zipper (and that was a very wonky purse) before. Be kind.
  2. I bought el-cheapo cotton for the trial run and it was very very lightweight. Too lightweight.
  3. I haven't washed it, so the tiers haven't taken on that chic frayed look yet.
  4. This is a bad night-time photo with flash (although my shoes are cute).
I've run out of excuses, so I'll just have to show you.

Now taking into account all of the above, I am actually really pleased with it. It's a flattering shape on and it fits well. I can see a few more incarnations of this in my wardrobe for sure.

Being congenitally unable to follow instructions precisely, I made a couple of tweaks to the pattern.

Instead of muslin for the lining, I used a fine cotton lawn. The lady in the fabric shop recommended it as she said their muslin didn't wash too well. My mantra - always listen to the lady in the fabric shop. Unfortunately, I pre-washed the white lining with the brown fabric and the brown released a lot of dye, so the lining looks really mucky. But hey, it's a lining. This was also my thought when I realized I had turned and sewed the lining hem turned the wrong way. Because I don't feel like unpicking it.

I couldn't buy a 7 inch invisible zipper, so I fudged it with an 8 inch and left out the hook and eye from the top of the zip. It hasn't come undone yet!

Actually, the zip part nearly caused me major trauma because Amy's instructions say, "with your invisible zipper foot...." Que? I don't have one. Cue quick Internet search to find out what it is and then phone calls to all local sewing shops. None of them stock invisible zipper feet, in fact one of them thinks I am taking the mickey. Aaaargh. Back to the Internet, where I find a tutorial for putting in an invisible zipper with a regular zipper foot. Hooray.

I also came slightly unstuck with the hem. I discovered it's really tricky to sew a curved hem neatly. All advice welcome. I also need to know what you do to keep the paper pattern in good condition. I was so nervous of messing up, that I actually traced the whole thing onto paper, but it took forever and I think at least one piece is slightly off. I read somewhere that you can iron the pattern onto interfacing. Does this work? Help!

I can thoroughly recommend the pattern to anyone, because if I can sew it, those instructions MUST be good! If you're in the UK, Lisa at U-handbag has Amy's patterns in stock (and delivers fast!) Now all I need is another child-free weekend and I can sew another from a fabric I actually like!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Brownie points for hubby

It wasn't Mother's Day here in England this weekend, but I got the most wonderful gift anyway - a weekend alone! Yup, read it and weep sisters, hubby took the boys off camping for the weekend (luckily with a mate and his caravan because the weather was truly dreadful!). And me, I had a whole weekend home alone -bliss. I owe that man. It is nice to have them back though - tired, damp and hungry with 63 loads of washing!!

I learned several things this weekend:
  1. There's not really very much difference between the things I do normally and the things I choose to do when left to my own devices. The main difference is that I do them without interruption and without feeling that I ought to be doing something else. In the grand scheme of things, I'd say that makes me a pretty lucky person.

  2. If I lived alone, I would hardly cook. I found this quite shocking, because I cook all the time, I like to cook. But for me, cooking is all about showing love - I want to feed you well, make you feel welcome in my home, take care of you. Me alone? I just ate fruit, salami and popcorn! And the kitchen was much cleaner - I've always been deeply suspicious of people with spotless kitchens.

  3. I never really enjoyed my own company until I had children, but the thing I appreciated most this weekend was the silence. No questions to answer, no instructions to issue, no nagging, no negotiating.... Of course, it did also mean no-one to tell when exciting parcels arrived:
From Lisa at U handbag - some Moda fabric and the much awaited Amy Butler Barcelona Skirts pattern!! I have made the prototype-skirt (well, I did have the whole weekend to myself!) which I'll show you soon, now my resident photographer is back home. And now I know the pattern is a good 'un (and it really is!) I can buy the expensive fabric I really wanted for the skirt.

And a totally unexpected goodie parcel from Monica - Amy Butler fabric!

I think she might have noticed that I'm slightly obsessed with Amy Butler at the moment. Is it possible to have a crush on fabric?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lotta fun

So many times, I buy great craft books - read and love them and then utterly fail to make any projects from them. I was in danger of doing that with Amy Butler's In Stitches, when along came the In Stitches sew along group at Flickr.

Every month Finny and Africankelli choose a pattern from the book and folks post their examples of it to the pool. I really like seeing everyone's versions of the same item and there are usually lots of helpful tips on the pattern flying around too. It also motivated me to finish my Lounge Pants.

But look what I've gone and purchased now, and I'm not the only one.

So now I need to justify it, and what better way, than with a Flickr group of it's own.
And sewing a project to put in said Flickr Group.

A picnic placemat, made using an Ikea heavy cotton print. The reverse is the opposite colourway of the same print. But I think using twill tape for the ties may have been a mistake because it creases like crazy.

So if you fancy joining in the Lotta fun, please pop over to Flickr and join. I've never set up or moderated a group before - it's fly by the seat of your pants stuff!

Bag lady

**Edited to include a link to some other pictures from the Japanese craft book - I aim to please!**

I've been trying to do my green bit, but my supermarket 'bag for life' plastic bags are getting a bit holey. As my cucumber tried to escape earlier in the week, I thought 'must go an exchange this one for a new one' but something stopped me. Something fabric-y.

I've had this Japanese craft book (ISBN 4834724549) for a while and I love many of the bags in it. To have a look at the inside, check here.

But the combination of sewing inexperience and inability to actually read the instructions put me off. Until now.

It has this very cunning folding trick going on with the handles which forms a gusset, allowing you to stuff it with odd shaped produce.

I lined it with a heavy calico which gives it a pleasing 'stand up by yourself' quality. And I think I followed most of the instructions, apart from the double turned seam at the bottom. Because my poor little machine fought bravely through 16 layers of fabric, but there was no way it was going to conquer 32. It had to make do with a single seam and zig-zagged edge.

Now I just need a shopping trip to test-drive it...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Something to live up to

I'm panicking - my fear of living up to the expectations of other people rears its head. Julie nominated me for a thinking blogger award.

Now I need to come up with something really insightful to justify it..... Nope, nothing coming. Must be stage fright.

It reminds me of a moment a few years ago, when someone was thanking me for a birthday present she had really enjoyed.

Her: 'You always manage to find the most amazing and thoughtful presents'.

Me: 'Oh, thanks'

Me (thinking): 'Oh s****, no pressure next time then'

What an ungrateful person I am - just can't accept a compliment gracefully!

But sometimes I do get the gift just right. Like this little present I bought our hallway last week.

These wonderful prints (badly framed with no mats yet - sorry) came from A to Z. Their etsy shop has lots of goodies in. And I am getting so much pleasure from the fact that I 'know' the creator.

Now I think I'm meant to nominate 5 other blogs which make me think. But I'm coming to this party a bit late and heaps of you folks I really love have already been nominated. So instead, a challenge. To find 5 new blogs for yourself and see if any of them make you think.

If you're feeling lazy, the 5 newest subscriptions on my bloglines feed are:

cloth paper string

string theory

Finny knits
The Cottage Nest

Cupcakes for Clara

Monday, May 07, 2007

One of the things I love about you blog readers is your ability to get enthusiastic about the things that get me excited. Thank you so much for all the good wishes on the 'birdhouse' day.

But for the record, this is no birdhouse. Oh no, it's a veritable bird palace, a dovecote.

And I am still flabbergasted that I built it from a pile of planks. Although I know I did, because I still ache in places that I didn't know I had muscles. Because that sucker took a lot of hand sawing.

Paulus and his wife Jane run a whole series of courses out of this beautiful sandstone barn. I think I'm going to ask for one for every birthday and Christmas present from now on!

It was amazing to loose myself for a whole day, totally absorbed in the moment. And someone else bustling about bringing me tea, homemade cake and biccies, and serving me a wonderful home-cooked lunch in the garden.

Now I think I am going to paint my dovecote white and I have the perfect spot in the garden planned for it. But any local doves (or pigeons more likely) are going to be sorely disappointed, because my house is cunningly designed to be too narrow for them to roost in.

What? Did you think after all that work that I was going to let some birdie take up residence and crap all over it?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Off on an adventure

I'm not really here, I'm here - off on a little adventure and hopefully returning home with one of these.

Only one that's been made by moi. I've never done any woodwork before, but I'm always up for a challenge!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Today has been a day for tidying up loose ends. I have been feeling really frustrated about my inability to get anything done round here.

I get 4 child-free hours during the week and recently, I've been wasting those grocery shopping, cleaning, doing laundry and a hundred and one other trivial household things. Today I decided to prioritise the things I really wanted to do instead.

So, took some photos of lovely buttons from Paula of Simple me and sent her a thank-you e-mail.

Can you ever imagine wanting to part with a stash like this? But I am so glad she did - thank you Paula. I plan to put them to very good use.

Started (and finished - it's a miracle!) a v
ery overdue bag that my Mum picked the fabric out for months and months ago.

It's a Tiny Happy model. Is there anyone out there left who hasn't made at least one of these? They are just so fabulous.

Got those infernal dice out of my house and into school for the May Ball.

Oh and I managed to sneak out of being on the PTA any more. Yippee - you have no idea how happy I feel about this. It's not that I mind helping out, it's those 3 hour meetings which suck every ounce of good temper out of me that I object to.

And took some gratuitous photos - something I haven't done in a very long time.

So the house is a sty and I've got a mountain of laundry piled up waiting to be put away. But I do feel better, much better. We all need to prioritise 'want-to-do' over 'need-to-do' once in a while.