Thursday, 25 February 2010

A Good Idea

So there I was, packing up my sewing bag to go to sewing class last night and I suddenly decided that I didn't really feel in the mood for cutting out a blouse. Instead, I had an idea in my head to transform a T-shirt for my son to wear to a birthday party on Friday. Unfortunately, he has decided that he doesn't like buttons - which makes it pointless trying to get him into a shirt for smart occasions. I like him to wear something smart because all the little girls are in their lovely party dresses, looking like princesses, and I just think it's a shame that boys don't really have an equivalent party outfit. Not that they care, of course :)

So I grabbed my dinosaur curtain material that I bought last week in John Lewis (thinking in terms of a book back or PE kit bag) and a stripey T-shirt and off I went.

I bondawebbed the dinosaur to the T-shirt first, then just zig-zagged round the edges! Simples!
I think what makes it work, more than anything, is the fact that I happened to have the exact shades of cottons to match the design. We only thought of putting the tail on the back, after I'd finished the front - it was there to be used, so I put it on. Am mighty pleased with it, I can tell you. The word 'Boden' was being bandied about at the class, which was very satisfying.

The party in question is for a little girl in his class at school. For some reason (don't ask me why) I got her some pink sunglasses (yes - just the weather for them) and some 'matching' Peppa Pig hair clips. I was thinking that girls love hair stuff and kids love sunglasses. Anyway. It isn't really a big present, as such, so I decided to run up a little sunglasses case, just to make it look a bit more like I'd made an effort. You can see the tinsy amount of material I had to play with.
But you don't need much. If I'd had more I may have made a little bag. Possibly even with some applique on the front, as it is now my new best friend.

I didn't put one of my little labels on to say I made it, because I thought it smacked a bit of showing off. I always get terribly embarrassed when someone asks if I made something because I automatically assume it looks 'homemade', if you know what I mean. I doubt the girl in question will care either way!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Nearly there

Okay, so the cable cardi is nearly finished. Just needs a seam sewing, collar and the buttons. 12 buttons! That's 12 bottonHOLES which I find a bit tricky. The pattern always says to slightly stretch the button band when you measure it against the finished work, but that's a bit hard to do when you've got to place buttonholes as you go along.

The other tricky bit was sewing the cable piece onto the bottom of the (short) sleeve. It is worked separately, in a length, to fit around the bottom of the sleeve - therefore, you're left with a cast-on stocking stitch edge (of the sleeve) and a side of the cable piece to try to sew together. Not easy.

I don't know if you can see too well on this picture, but here is the finished seam. I hate it when you end up with a line where the seem is - much prefer a sort of seam-less finish, if you know what I mean. Am quite happy with this now.

Tonight I'm going to start on this blouse at my sewing class. It has a little ruffle down the button band, which you can't quite see here, as well as the sleeves. Think I'll make my sleeves a bit longer (to hide the bingo wings :)

I was very good this morning and forced myself to do my Davina DVD. I really, really didn't want to do it, but my inner 'nag' got the better of me and now I feel much better. Mind you, it's only the 30-minute one, so nothing too strenuous (perish the thought).

Monday, 22 February 2010

And breathe out ...

Phew! Half Term over! Here is a quick summary of events:

Pancake Day

Learning to fly


Piccadilly Arcade

Lunch at Fornum & Mason (and yes, I think it was solid silver
because it weighed a ton!)

A Trip to my brother's house - he lives near the Olympic 2012 location, and here
is a building in progress

A good time was had by all, but we are now safely back home. I must say, I find it hard being away from home, even when it's a 'home from home' at my parent's house. I need my bits and pieces around me so that if I suddenly get the urge to make a bag, I can just do it. I need my books, my bits of material, my machine, my magazines and really, my SPACE! The creative brain does not like to be restricted, I'm sure you will agree. Well, mine doesn't anyway.
So now, onto the more interesting stuff. Firstly, I did confess in my last post that I had indulged in a spot of retail therapy. And here is the cheeky little monkey that caught my eye:

It's a beautiful cord coat - I doubt you can get the full glory of the colour on this photo, but the reason I fell in love with it was because it really is the most beautiful shade of blue. A nice little spring number, I thought.

And this is the scarf I have started to crochet to go with it, in some lovely supersoft DK. It's inspired by Do You Mind If I Knit's Little Squares Scarf.

Talking of wool. Yes, I did get some rather expensive Rowan wool, but when you see the pattern, I think you will probably think (as I did) that it is justified:

Oh Yum! Yum, Yum! As you can see, it is a cable design. I am currently finishing off my first attempt at a cable number and really it's been very enjoyable. I just love the effect of the cross-over with cables. So, I'm hoping the cardi will be a nice challenge. I figured it wasn't too hard because all the shaping happens at the sides, which is just stocking stitch, so doesn't interfere with the cabling bit. I absolutely cannot weight to get started, but I am being a good girl and finishing off my other cardi first. I have chosen pretty much the same colour wool as the photo, as I figured it was a good 'neutral' for summer wear (it's knitted in cotton).

I also got some material - an Amy Butler print (gorge-ous) and some light denim chambray:

I think these will make some summer blouses or tops.

So my brain is full at the moment. Full of ideas and projects I want to get started on. Hee Hee! Love it!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Half Term

I made a bit of a last minute decision to head down south to Granny and Grandad's for Half Term week, hence the lack of posts, for which I apologise. Also, lack of photos today as I am on my mother's computer and bless her, although she has a state-of-the-art laptop, if I were to download some pics and they popped up somewhere she wouldn't know what to do with them! (Oh dear - that sounds a bit rude!).

Anyhow. My first stop when I visit is to the mega John Lewis, heading straight to the fabric department of course. However, pretty disappointed this time. I was looking for some nice heavy-weight cottons to make some dresses but they had nothing but winter corduroys, or flimsy shiffons. I did manage to pick up an Amy Butler print which is rather pretty, and some cotton chambray to make a couple of little blouses though. I had to console myself at my second destination - the wool department. Of course, they sell Rowan wool which is just sooooo beautiful. However, was rather disconcerted to find that all my Cashsoft cotton books are now out of date as they no longer do the Cashsoft range. Boo hoo. Bit of a swizz, that. However, I got some lovely Milk Cotton, which I am hoping will knit up to my Cashsoft pattern - it's standard DK tension. Will show you all my purchases next week when I am safely back home.

Tomorrow, dad and I are heading into London. Even though I lived and worked there for more years than I care to remember, I haven't visited the capital since before even I was pregnant (5 years at least). Am hoping to come back bursting with ideas and inspiration ... and of course, one or two purchases.

Ooh, and that reminds me. I have made one rather lovely purchase already - it's a beautiful cord 3/4 length jacket, in a lovely shade of blue. Again, sadly lacking in photos here, but it's really lovely. I am envisaging making a nice colourful bag and scarf to go with it.

Am finding it rather difficult being away from my sewing machine, but am cracking on with the cable cardi - especially now as I have new wool to crack open when I get home! Is there anything nicer?!!

Ciao for now xoxo

Friday, 12 February 2010

Holey Moley

So there I was happily working on tunic no. 2 - this time in a light, woollen suiting-weight material when, out of nowhere, a gaping hole was spotted in the skirt section! (nb: this is not the actual hole - I was too traumatised to take a photo of the real thing - but it's the same size and rough shape). Disaster! I had already attached the top part of the tunic and was just pressing my side seams. Of course, I couldn't believe I'd missed this when I cut it out. It was an actual flaw in the fabric because the edges of the hole were sort of felted. Weird. Anyhow, my sewing teacher heard my cries (I was at my Weds night class, thankfully) and offered to come to my rescue the next morning with her Embellisher.

What's an Embellisher, I hear you cry? Well, it looks like this:

or, at least, hers did, and it's really meant for - wait for it - embellishing, i.e. you place one piece of material on top of another (say, a nice felt flower onto a skirt) and the machine magically bonds them together. But how? Well, instead of a regular needle, the machine has 6 needles in a circle, each with little tiny hooks up and down them:

Unfortunately, you can't really see the needles here, but all the machine does is pump the needles up and down through your fabrics (no thread involved) and the little barbs pull the fibres and sort of felt it all together. So we thought we'd give it a try on my tunic, as there was very little other option. And this is the result:
Can you see the dark circle (above the middle flower)? That's where the Embellisher worked its magic. When pressed, it completely disappeared and is now totally invisible to the naked eye! Flaming Marvellous!
My lovely teacher also brought her wonderful hemming gadget, which I mentioned previously. As you can see, it's a stick ...
... which you stand next to, with the hem of your garment caught in the top. Then, you slowly turn round whilst a friend pins the hem at exactly the same spot on the stick. The stick has a guide for placing your pins.
This means that your skirt will be the same distance from the floor, all the way round. When you take off your skirt/dress you will no doubt find one side longer than the other (e.g. in my case, back is always longer as I have a big bum!). But the skirt is totally level, once on! It really makes hemming so easy.
You will be pleased to know that I added a ruffle to the bottom of this dress:
as I would not inflict my fat knees on the unsuspecting public at large. So, the finished item:
And then I remembered about my little cardi I made a couple of summers ago and hey presto, it was in the same wool as my Dahlia:

So an outfit was born! Am really very pleased with it.
That was yesterday. Today I won the Bad Mother award. You see, the school were celebrating Chinese New Year and the children were asked to either dress up in Chinese costumes (eh?), or bring in something Chinese. Call me clueless, but I really had no idea what sort of costume I could possibly make a 4-year old boy for this. I pondered and pondered and could only really think of a Chinese working man's outfit which I thought would be 3/4 wide-leg trousers, a tunic top and a flat straw hat. But was it really worth all the effort of making such an outfit, just for one day, when there is very little chance of him wearing it ever again? I thought not. And then I remembered a book about a Zen Panda my brother had given my son a few Christmases ago and I thought right, that'll do. So this morning, up the hill we went to school and ... EVERY child was dress Chinese! EVERY CHILD! Apart from my son, who just run around clutching his panda book. I was already a bit traumatised when a little girl came up to me and said "why isn't **** wearing a costume?" Arggggh! Because his mother couldn't be bothered, is the correct answer.
All the way home, I felt absolutely dreadful. So much so, that I ran upstairs and frantically rummaged through his drawers to find SOMETHING vaguely Chinese looking. 10 minutes later (we live within spitting distance of the school, luckily) I was knocking on the door of the school, all apologetic and red-faced (from puffing up the hill). So now my son is wearing a pair of black pyjama bottoms, a white top and a black waistcoat with a belt round it and a polystyrene sword tucked in it. Kung-Fu style. And on the way home I wondered why a Kung-Fu martial arts warrior would need a sword. But it was black and white and sort of Samurai looking, to match his outfit. OH GOD! Note to self - BEWARE the dressing up days!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Makeover Magic

Oh dear - I've been bitten by the Tidy-Up bug. Don't worry, it's happened before, and on the whole it's a good thing. The only bad thing about the Tidy-Up bug is that is takes a good grip of you for a mad 24/48 hours before it gradually wears off. But in those hours, anything can happen. Watch out dustbin men, charity shops and skips - because I'M COMING. With armfulls of rubbish and tat that has, until now, happily been hidden away in my house, safely out of view. But it festers you see, because I know it's there. And I can't rest. Because I have an inner Bree Van Der Kampf (Desperate Housewives) just itching to get out and proclaim herself. So, here goes. Firstly, the sewing area. Before:

And After:

Granted, before it was probably just a bit untidy, but now I have brought my books onto the work space because they were beginning to redistribute themselves all over the house and it was confusing me. This little corner is in fact in the spare bedroom, so I can't really have as many things 'out' as I'd like because otherwise I'd be constantly having to find somewhere to put things whilst the grandparents stay (which they do, often). So I have to be (what I consider to be) ultra tidy.

Secondly, the Utility Room. Before:






Much better - but not perfect. I made the mistake of reading through my Martha Stewart book last night on the subject of tidying up. This woman has a Boot Room, a Utility Room, a Laundry Room, a Garage and no doubt a potting shed and a greenhouse. I, on the other hand, have just one, SMALL, utility room which more or less has to house all the things that Martha puts in her 6 rooms. I know, I know, I shouldn't complain. What I'm struggling with here is not just the space issue, but the ugly and mundane nature of the stuff you have to accomodate. I just want to pretty it up a bit - which Martha does so brilliantly by have matching boxes and baskets and labels and pretty walls and fabrics everywhere. I did manage to make my little shelf cover, to match my existing curtain (see above). Bizarely, the pom-pom trim that you can see is one that I bought last year and, lo and behold, it was the EXACT length of the shelf!! Can you believe it? I was saving it for a cushion or something, but I will see it every day here, and anyway, it was obviously fate.

So there we are. Just call me Bree.

NB: If you recognise the material, it's because it's a very old Ikea duvet cover, circa 1994. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!!

Monday, 8 February 2010

The Perfect Weekend

We took a drive on Saturday, into the Lakes and up to Penrith. As you can see, the weather was absolutely perfect - very bright sunshine, creating fabulous views wherever you looked. This is a shot of Ullswater - the water is like glass, as you can see. We went through the mountains towards Ambleside and there was still deep snow by the sides of the road, right on the tops. A truly magnificent day. It was our first trip to Penrith and I found a few crafty shops and a couple of wool shops - always a sign of a good town, don't you think? I didn't buy anything, but a very nice lady in a wool shop told me how to go about knitting with this

... a ball of bobbly wool that I picked up last year at the Knitting and Stiching Show in Harrogate. The guy (yes, that's a man) who sold it to me told me to just knit normally and I would get a bobbly scarf. I tried, and ended up in a right old pickle (not surprisingly). However, this kind lady in the Penrith shop told me to knit 2 stitches between each bobble, finishing each end of the knitting with a single stitch, so that when you turn at the end of the row you put the bobble there. Hopefully, it will become a lot clearer when I try it myself. Then I felt a bit guilty for not buying any bobbly wool from her and instead browsed around her shop for ages, before bolting out of her door empty-handed.

Anyhow, as hubby was out on Saturday, I had a rather nice evening catching up on Desperate Housewives - I can only watch it when I've recorded it because it seems to have sooooo many Ad breaks in it - and slopping about in my pygamas.

Sunday turned out perfectly - a whole day of knitting! I started by casting off my poncho

As you can see, it needs tassles, but I had to wash it first because it had a certain 'wool' smell to it - I don't know if it's lanolin or something they use on heavy-weight aran yarns. Anyhow, once washed it looks even better and came out of the machine as if I'd spent hours blocking and ironing it! Marvellous! It was a bit tricky deciding when to stop knitting with this poncho, as it was knitted on circular needles and the longer it got, the more bunched up it became (see my last post!). In the end, I measured from my neck to the length I wanted - 58cm - then measured my poncho - 68cm!! Ooops. So I thought well I'll just cast off anyway and if it's too long I can always pull it back a bit. But it turned out to be the perfect length - I guess when it's on, your shoulders pull it up a bit. I really should count the stitches at the bottom, just to see how many there were in the end. My last 100g ball of wool only did about 2 inches of poncho!

Anyway, next I decided it would definitely need some sort of corsage, so I consulted my new little book - 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet. This is my Dahlia!

It looks exactly as it does in the picture, which is always a good sign, I feel, helped by the fact that I had exactly the same shade of yarn. So now I must tassle away so that I can sport it at the school gates this week! I still have lots of wool left over - do you think a matching bag would be naff? A bit overkill perhaps? Not that I've ever knitted a bag before. We'll see.
So last night it was back to the cotton cardi and those lovely cables. Talk about a knitting frenzy! But this is me all over - I just go from one little obsession to the next, on the creative front. When I was younger, my obsessions would range from joining a rowing club to doing a photography class. Nowadays, I stick to what I know - sewing, knitting, cooking - pretty much anything that can be done either in a comfy chair or a warm kitchen! You don't think I'm getting old, do you?

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Freak Snow!

Well the snow did arrive yesterday - this was the scene at 4 o'clock, from the bedroom window. What you can't see is the actual snow falling. It came down thick and fast - just long enough to cover the ground, and then it all melted and left everything soggy! Unfortunately, my sewing class was cancelled as my sewing teacher lives on a farm, half way up a Cumbrian moorside. It snowed during those crucial decision-making hours (4-6pm) and, no doubt frightened by all the snow we've had recently and understandably so, she decided to be on the safe side and cancel. However, this did not deter me from finishing the red tunic!

I'm quite pleased with it now and I'm sure I'll make some more for the summer months. I've also got some nice black woollen material that I'm going to make it up in, to wear over jumpers.

It does still need hemming, but my sewing teacher has the most amazing gadget for hemming - I'll try and get a picture of it next week at the class. Basically, it's a stick that stands on the floor with a marker that you can move up and down it. You stand up next to it, with the stick on the floor and then move the marker to the desired hem level. Then, wearing your garment, just turn around whilst someone else pins the hem using the marker. This means that if you have a sticky-out bottom or tummy, the actual length of the dress will always be the same distance from the floor even though when you take it off and lay it flat it will look longer at the back or the front. It's hard to explain - but it works a treat.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


Woke up to a blanket of frost today - we are forecast snow, but so far no show on the snow front. This is a picture from my morning walk along the country lanes - brrrrr! It was certainly bracing today.
You know that saying about the black sheep of the family? Well here is a family of black sheep (hee hee!).
And here is Lionel. Lionel is my son's my favourite cuddly toy in the whole wide world. He sleeps with him every night and is very well loved. So well loved in fact that I'm afraid he's going to have to go to cuddly toy hospital today
Don't worry - it's not the first time he's been to hospital and I promise to be very gentle with him.
Sewing class tonight and I am hoping to finish myred tunic. Stay tuned for a reveal tomorrow!