Friday, 29 January 2010

Lessons learned

I have a friend who sits next to me in my sewing class who is a complete novice. She constantly makes me laugh because she is always ooohing and aaahing at our projects and proclaiming that she doesn't know how we do it and that she'll never be able to be 'as good' as we are. On Wednesday night she leaned over to me and asked me why I bother to come to the class because there is surely nothing more that I can learn. How wrong she is (!) and Wednesday night proved the point. I took along my red tunic which I had just started to make. It's a pattern I haven't used before, but is really quite simple - Butterick 5363, View C (bottom left).

You basically sew the top half first and then attach the skirt, making a casing for the tie as you do so. As it's a summer item, the top isn't lined, it just has a binding around the neck and arm edges. Now, thinking I was being rather brilliant, I decided to make my own binding from my material (brainwave!). I pieced together a long strip of fabric and set about machine sewing it to the neck edge (right side to right side). Then I could turn it over and hand sew to finish on the wrong side. The result was a very crumpled binding that did not sit flat, but instead stood up and refused to flatten, even with lots of ironing. It looked dreadful (I'm sorry I don't have a photo, but I assure you, it was a real pig's ear of a job). I couldn't understand where I had gone wrong as I had followed the pattern to the letter.

Luckily, my fabulous teacher Margaret knew exactly what to do. Had I cut the binding on the bias? Err, no. And of course in that moment, the penny instantly dropped as to why it is called BIAS binding. Doh! I re-did the entire thing, this time cutting my strips on the bias and hey presto, as you can see above, a perfectly flat neck edge! Absolutely amazing. Of course, cutting on the bias gives the material the little bit of 'give' that is required to ease the binding round the curves. So, my dear classroom friend, there is ALWAYS something to learn in this game!

Speaking of which, did I say that the cable pattern I was doing was quite simple? Um, yes, well ... that is unless you are not concentrating and trying to watch EastEnders at the same time. As I finished a row and glanced down to admire my work, I realised I had 2 unders, instead of an under and an over. Oh dear. At first I thought, don't worry, no-one is going to notice (or care), but the older I get the more of a perfectionist I seem to be becoming and I simply could not continue with a clear conscience. So, 8 rows were frogged and I started again, this time with full concentration!

My other mistake appears to be starting with a front piece, which, ironically, I have never done before, but I wanted to have a crack at the cable. Now that I am past the armhole, the pattern says to continue straight until the front measures 21 rows less than the back. Which is quite hard to do when you haven't done the back yet. Again, doh! Backs are pretty boring though ususally, aren't they, and also big. Ah well, you live and learn, as they say, you live and learn.

So today I think I may get on with the tunic. I am feeling slightly under the weather with a chest cold, so a bit of sewing therapy and lots of hot drinks are in order. Oooh, and I've just remembered that there may be a little Amazon goodness on its way today - hurrah! Of course I shall share it with you when it arrives. Until then, enjoy your day!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The Quilt

You may remember that I mentioned I was making a quilt - my first, in fact. I've always wanted a patchwork quilt, so much so, that I've spent all this time deliberating about what sort and how to make it. And then suddenly, a few weeks ago, I decided to just get on with it (always a good idea). I'd seen Alicia's quilt last summer and thought it look superb, and also pretty straight forward to make. I was right on both scores really, although I hadn't bargained for the amount of time it would take. However, it was totally worth it and I have learned alot about making quilts (her pattern, by the way, is an absolute joy to follow). Here is my attempt at an Alicia-style shot ...

... as you can see, I have a lot to learn about photographing things. To get the lovely rumply, crumply look you have to wash it and then dry it on a high setting so that it all scrunches up. It's quite scarey putting it in the dryer! I had visions of opening the door and finding a little doll's quilt inside. Anyhow, I am quite proud of this first attempt at quilting and I do think I will make another, at some point.

Last week, to make up for my rather crappy birthday, you may remember that I ventured into town and bought some books and some wool. Well, the cardigan I picked to knit is this one ...

... which comes from Rowan's Classic Alpaca Book (13) by Martin Storey. I thought it had a 1940's feel to it and would perhaps look good in the summer with a nice dress, or a pair of wide-leg trousers. The yarn I got is not Alpaca - the tension stated is the usual DK tension ( 22sts and 30 rows to 10cm), so I was able to pick any sort of DK yarn. I wanted a nice light cotton for the summer, so I ended up with Sirdar Calico which is 60% cotton and 40% acrylic, and machine washes at 40 degrees (hurrah). Luckily, the tension was spot on.

The colour is actually a sort of very, very pale lemon, rather than a cream. It's very nice to knit with - it's almost like the yarn has been moisturised - it's sort of creamy to the feel. This is my first attempt at cables and as you can see, the pattern only has one little bit of cable to cope with and is really quite easy once you get going. It's an 8 row pattern, so nothing too taxing, and I'm really enjoying knitting it.

Meanwhile, the boy and I did a spot of baking on Monday. Some delicous Spicey Apple and Prune muffins from Rachel Allen's new book Home Cooking. Yum blinking Yum. And healthy too! (oh dear ... look at the state of those finger nails - boys!!).

Well, it's my weekly Sewing Class tonight, which I love. I'm going to take my red tunic, which I started to make last week (to relieve a little of the tedium of quilting) and, of course, my lovely new machine!!

Monday, 25 January 2010

"The Clouds have fallen down!"

It was such a beautiful day here in the Lakes on Saturday that we decided to take a drive and head to Windermere to one of our favourite spots for lunch. The higher we climbed, the lower the clouds were getting until, magically, we were above the clouds! As we were coming down this hill, we were just emerging from a cloud to this view - not picked up too well on my little camera, but the clouds were very fluffy and white! My son exclaimed "Mummy, the clouds have fallen down!"
Later on, we came across this little lake where the ducks were taking a walk on the ice! Can't believe it was still frozen because it's been warmish here all week (i.e. 5-8 degrees!) and wet. Anyhow, we had a super lunch at the Lakeland shop in Windermere, which is their flagship shop and has a superb cafe. As you can imagine, I was in heaven with all the kitchen gadgetry on offer - I swear they have a gadget for every possible kitchen occurrence! Actually, I was pretty restrained to be honest, although I did splash out £1.99 on this ...
Which can transform this perfectly acceptable cheese sandwich, but which HAS CRUSTS ...

into this ...

two dinosaurs!!!! WITH NO CRUSTS!! You cannot imagine the excitement this caused with my 4 year old son! He has been eating sandwiches all weekend. I hardly dare think about the lunchtime scene today when they make their first appearance at school.

Anyhow, this week I am going to make a final push on my patchwork quilt. As I mentioned before, it's been a lot of work - although enjoyable on my new machine, if a little repetative! Meanwhile I have made a start on my summer cardi, which I will show you tomorrow. I know! Such a tease!

Friday, 22 January 2010


Well I have to say that, despite my best efforts to put on a brave face, my birthday yesterday fell a bit flat. This was in no small part due to the horrible virus I suffered with all day the day before, which left me in bed and feeling blurghhhh. So yesterday, I really wasn't myself - although you'd never of known, would you?

So today I decided I was in need of a little uplift. Plus, I also needed to get some material for the binding on my patchwork quilt - all the excuse I required for a little creative excursion! First stop, the sewing shop for the said material. Like most sewing supply shops there is also a certain amount of yarn available and I managed to pick out a nice DK cotton in a very delicate shade of pale yellow - not even yellow, just sort of devon cream, if you know what I mean. This is intended for a cardigan - more on that another day.

Next shop - book shop. Oh how I love to browse the shelves, hoping to find a nice welcoming book which I can pounce on for brilliant ideas. I was not disappointed.

The above little number is perfect, I thought, for those times when you don't really want a big project, but fancy a bit of knitting. I am also rather in love with corsages at the moment (remember Carry Bradshaw's in Sex in the City? Yes, well I'm only about 5 years behind ...). They are so easy and quick to make and yet can really brighten up a jacket or cardi. Splendid.

And this number is a really beauuuutiful book. I have to admit that of late, I've been rather lacking enthusiasm for cooking and so I thought perhaps Rachel could help me out. There are some really fabulous recipes in this book which I have been drooling over. She has some lovely noodle recipes (I could live off noodles!). Perfect for what looks like a rather drab weekend - a bit of home cooking with the boy. I'm thinking perhaps to just try to make one new dish per week - that sounds manageable, doesn't it?
So a rather successful little visit, I feel. Looks like a weekend of knitting and cooking ahead.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Happy Birthday to Moi!

Hello folks - yes, it's my birthday today and I thought it was about time I got down to a big of blogging. I don't quite know what happened last summer - I was kind of experimenting with the whole of idea of blogging and then got a bit frustrated because I'm not really very computer literate. However. Have now decided that perhaps it's better to just get on with it and learn as I go.
So today I am 43, and I was thinking that there is now absolutely no way I can use the word 'young' in conjunction with my age. It has to be faced - I am quite obvioulsy middle-aged. In some ways this is quite nice because there is no point in trying to keep up with trends in the clothes department (not that I do, really) and there is a certain freeing, a sort of liberation, with age, don't you think? I can just be who I want to be and no one really minds because, at the end of the day, I'm just another middle-aged housewife. Ha! Who would have thought that blending into the background could actually be so liberating? All that effort, as a youth, to stand out and be different and all the time, I just had to shut up and conform and then no one would notice! Talk about live and learn, eh?
Enough of the age-talk. Because I was so utterly remiss on the blogging front for so long, you missed out on all my handmade Chrimbo presents that took so blinking long to make. I tried to make as many as I could. Actually, it feels a bit 'last year' to show you them now - who wants to be bothered with Christmas 2009 anymore? Instead, I shall inform you of my current projects.

No.1 Patchwork quilt, inspired by Posy Gets Cosy's Ollalieberry quilt from last summer. It is a wip at the moment, as it's my first quilt and I had no idea how much work was involved. However, I am very pleased with it so far.

No.2 is this gorgeous tapestry. I have not done a tapestry before, but when I visited the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate last November, I saw this kit for sale on the Historical Sampler Company stand. It was quite expensive and as it was near the end of the day, I'd already run out of pennies, but my big brother was more than happy to get it for me for Christmas. I can't tell you how addictive it is! It's like the perfect mix of knitting and sewing - perfect also for evening telly watching as you just follow the chart.

So these are both consuming my time at the moment. However, I have yet to inform you of my most spendid birthday present from my fabulous husband. After 30 years (eek!) of using a second-hand sewing machine, I finally caved and decided it was time for a new one. Enter the amazing Pfaff Select 4.
I decided on this one because, as you may not know, Pfaff are the only machines (in my price range!) with an integrated walking foot - and let me tell you, it makes all the difference, especially when quilting. I have yet to experience the full delights of the machine as I only got it 2 days ago, but I am looking forward to many hours spent together with my purple princess!
And now I must away as I feel a day of pampering awaits.