Wednesday, 29 September 2010

No mojo

My sincere apologies for the lack of posts recently. I'm afraid I've been having a bit of a crisis out here in the country, which has resulted in a complete loss of my creative mojo. And it's all down to this. This is Stanley -

Stanley is my fabulously expensive, as in 'lifetime investment', range cooker. Stanley also provides me with heating and hot water. He is the roasty, toasty focal point of my kitchen. So warm and cosy on cold winter days. In the (nearly) 3 years since I got Stanley, he has become the most popular item of furniture in the house. People gravitate towards him when they enter the kitchen, marvel at him, swoon over him and generally heap praise upon him - he's like a giant magnet. And of course I use him every day.

However, if you take a closer look at him, you will see that something is wrong. Very wrong. He ain't working. He is cold. He is unfixed. He is redundant. And, quite frankly, I'm beginning to fall out of love with him. I am in WEEK FOUR - yes, week 4 - of no cooking facilities, other than the microwave. I have had men coming in and out of my kitchen for the last month, attempting to fix him. In fact it's been longer than that - all summer really - since he first started to show signs of not being quite right. Buttons were pressed. Things re-set. New motors fitted. Twice. He still not working. He still ... dead.

So for the last month I have been through the entire Tesco range of ready meals, had fish and chips too often and paid for expensive Sunday lunches out. All the while staring at Stanley and wishing, just wishing, he was fixed. And the phone calls. To men who say they can fix him. To men who swear they will send me some spare parts by first class post and 4 days later still nothing. To the shop I bought him from. To the people who made him, in Ireland. So far, no one has managed to fix him.

And so yesterday, not knowing whether to break down and cry, or scream myself horse, I had to spend £100 on this piece of kit. It's an electric oven with 2 hobs which you simply plug into the wall. Last night we had Spag Bol and garlic bread and were grateful for every mouthful.
However. When you pay thousands of pounds (roughly 6) for a special item for your home, you do not expect to be in this position, do you? You expect someone to at least care, at least try, at least be on your side. My head is sore from hitting it against that brick wall.
I feel numb. All the joy I usually feel at this time of year - my favourite time, the autumn - has so far eluded me. I am not warm and toasty and cooking up hearty stews and yummy comfort food. I cannot pop a cake in the oven, when I get the urge, or cook a special meal if I feel like it. I can't sew. I can't create. I don't know what to do with myself :-((

Friday, 17 September 2010

Everyone's a Winner

Now you see, because of my Fair Isle obsession, I completely forgot to show you the fabulous fabrics I won recently over on the I'm a Ginger Monkey and Celtic Fusion Fabrics blogs.

As you can see (through the creases - doh - could have ironed them first, eh?), there are some unusual and inspiring fabrics in the bundle.

I absolutely adore this Red Riding Hood one - would surely make a lovely pressie for a little girl.

As would this one, which I think is Snow White

The purple colour on this is really bright (not shown here very well, I'm afraid),

But I do think this Russian Doll one is my fave AND - bonus - there's a matching tape to go with it.All in all a fantastic haul, me thinks. In order to win the prize, I had to say what I'd make with them and I said Christmas pressies - I was thinking in terms of book covers for various people. However, the fabrics are so lovely, I may have to re-think that. Hmmmm.

Meanwhile, I am jumping up and down with anticipation as my Amazon account informs me that my pre-ordered copy of Alicia Paulson's 'Embroidery Companion' will be arriving today! Hurrah! Oh joy. I hope it comes in time for coffee and cake ... perfect, non?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Still obsessed

Yep, as you can see, this is pretty addictive stuff. Once you get the hang of it, you just can't stop yourself seeing how the next colour is going to work out. I think the fact that I'm using aran wool has been a great help for my first Fair Isle project - you can clearly see where you are and there's less stitches to worry about.

The tricky bit is the weaving in of the wool as you go along. If a colour is not being used much in a particular line, then you have to keep catching it in with your working colour, so as not to leave a big loop at the back of the work. This can get a bit tricky when you're using 3 different colours! At the moment, I end up with a great bit tangle of wool at the end of each line, which I then have to untangle before I can carry on. I guess there must be a technique for dealing with this, but I have yet to figure it out.

Despite the fact that I'm loving the actual knitting, the whole cardigan has been slightly tainted by the fact that, when I proudly showed it off to husband last night, he said 'oh, a Christmas jumper'. Eeeuch.

Moving on, you may remember that I started making this felt book for one of the boy's teachers who was having a baby. Well, the baby has been born now (a boy) and the book is finished. Thought I might give you a little peek at it ...

Hope they like it :-)

Monday, 13 September 2010

Uh-oh here comes another obsession

Oh dear. You see this is what happens when I am let loose in a wool shop on my own for an entire Saturday afternoon. It all started last week really when I was sort of casting around for a new project. Once the cushions were finished and with the tapestry nearly finished, I got that slight cold sweat at the thought that I didn't actually have another project ready to go.

And then, as luck would have it, I found myself with an afternoon (child-free) to kill on Saturday and where else could I go, but the wool/sewing shop? I popped into Tesco first and my eyes clapped down upon this little number - have you seen it before? It's quite pricey (£5.99 - yikes!), but unfortunately, as soon as I saw the cardi on the cover I was smitten. A cable cardi, in aran weight, with fairisle - and I am a complete fairisle virgin. Not once have I ever attempted to fairisle. But I have been inspired lately by Vanessa over at Do You Mind if I Knit? and her wonderful fairisle dress.

And this is only my second attempt at cable but it is soooooo addictive! I doubt whether I will ever knit anything in stocking stitch again - this is much more fun! And so easy! It's only an 8 stitch repeat over 6 rows, so even I can remember that.

Of course, my first problemo was picking the colours. I had originally thought I'd go with the grey, as per the pattern, but that was knocked on the head when there was no grey available. Which is a tad annoying when you're itching to get going, so I went for the cream and these lovely colours for the fairisle bit.

There is also a mustard yellow to go in there too - that one I did have to order. I figured it would take me ages to cable my way up to the fairisle bit, but as you can see, I'm pretty much almost there. And I only started it on Saturday night in front of X Factor AND I did a tension square first. I am not using the Artesano wool specified - just a much cheaper wool/acrylic mix because I hope I will be wearing it - and washing it - quite a lot this winter.

Well, wish me luck on the fairisle. Luckily, I have a How to Knit book by Debblie Bliss which goes over the basics, so hopefully I should be okay.
P.S. Apologies for crap nature of pictures - all lights on today as it's hammering it down!

Friday, 10 September 2010

Cushion Accomplished

Okay, so I finally went with the patchwork on cushion no.2.

Am fairly pleased with it. Think the whole seating area needs more cushions, though, but hopefully my cupcakes tapestry will fill the gap. Although then, of course, I'll need another one to balance it out.

I got this tapestry kit from the Historical Sampler Company. It's the first one I've done and I have to say I really enjoy doing it. It's almost a cross between knitting and sewing and is a nice, gentle project to do whilst curled up in front of the fire/tv.

I've done the top row of cupcakes since I took this pic, so I'm on the home straight. It's a dreadful day here today, so I might just do something I never do in the daytime - catch up on some telly :)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Ahh, Sunny September

Oooh, how I love September. And Autumn. And Winter, in fact. But September is so good for ultra sunny mornings, but with that lovely chill in the air. The grass this morning had just a faint hint of white about it and even now still has a thick layer of dew, sparkling in the sunshine (which you would be able to see, had I got a decent camera). My slippers are wet, just from hanging out the washing.
Well, on Monday I achieved one complete cushion cover by the end of school time AND managed to give the house a damn good clean too. Amazing what can be done when there are no interruptions. As you can see, I went for the old favourite of hearts. Can't say it's terribly imaginitive, but I think it works okay.
But now I don't know what to do for the other one. I was thinking the same navy background fabric, but with a different design on the front. I tried it yesterday but it didn't quite look right. Am now thinking perhaps a patchwork design instead. Hopefully, some inspiration will hit me soon. That's how it works, usually. I think and think and think for ages and then suddenly, whilst I'm cooking the tea or hanging out the washing - ping! - a vision appears and I have to rush and try it out. It's just the way it happens with me and I know now that if I don't immediately try it out, then it will just bug me and bug me for ages until I do.

After all that talk of the Great British Bake Off the other day, and what with my lovely new book looking so pristine and unused, I thought perhaps a little baking wouldn't go amiss. The boy selected these - they are a cross between a jammy dodger and a cake, really. Yum! Very easy to make, I must say and only 10 mins in the oven. Super.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Back to normal

Are you sitting comfortably? As you can see, I am. Celebrating the 8.30am walk up the hill to the school gates. God love him. He couldn't wait to get there, he was so excited about being in Year 1! And now, at last, I have time to blog, in peace, with no interruptions. Aaaaaah.

Firstly, I return to my kitchen project. You may remember this one from earlier in the year - I have a window seat area in the dining bit of the kitchen and it's just never been quite right. Earlier in the year I started making new cushion covers, but to be honest, I still wasn't that sure about the direction in which it was headed and only made 2 and then came to a halt. But last week I suddenly got a flash on inspiration from the fabulous programme called The Great British Bake Off. I don't know whether you've caught it (BBC, Tues evenings). It's not the baking, it's the fabulous styling on the set. They have set up a sort of Masterchef-style kitchen where every contestant has their own workspace, except it's in a marquee (in a different location each week) and yet somehow, they have made it like a country kitchen. All Smegs, union jacks, spots, pinks and reds and creams, Cath K, all that stuff. It looks brilliant. And I thought - that's it! This is the look I've been searching for! Then, I realised, that the new cookery book I'd treated myself to in Tesco last week, is in fact the book to accompany the series (doh!).

See what I mean? Then it dawned on me that there are rather a lot of Union Jacks about in soft furnishing at the moment something which, I for one, am very pleased about. I can remember going to the States years ago and being amazed at the amount of flags there were everywhere - not just on flagpoles outside every house, but inside aswell, incorporated into their lovely Shaker/New England style furnishings. I remember thinking what a shame we don't do that here. But - hurrah - at last we seem to have caught on.

And last week, in my blissful 2 solid hours in Dunelm Mill (sans child, avec purse), I came across this lovely cush. Just the job, I thought and I took it as my starting point for the windowseat makeover, part 2.

I got this lovely cherry red spot fabric and quickly got to work making a new seat cover.

I even put proper zips in the back, so that it is fully removable/washable. I also bought 2 more bolster-size cushion pads (same size as union jack cush) to cover. Am tres pleased with the result now. Despite only buying 2 metres of the spot fabic, I still have loads left over, so I'm going to use it in the designs for the new cushions. I'm thinking along the lines of applique designs - maybe even a bit of Poppy Treffry, who knows.

And then - last night, I suddenly remembered this:
This is the tapestry kit my brother got me for Christmas and which I got about 2/3rds of the way through before dropping and forgetting about. Think it could work its way into the new window seat - what do you think? Nobody ever actually sits on the seat, by the way, making it the perfect place to display cushions! I'm not quite sure how you go about making it into a cushion cover - guess I shall have to do a bit of research on that one.
Righty'o. Might as well get on with it then :)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

I'm a Winner!

Well hello everyone, long time no hear (ahem!). We are still hanging on in there with the summer holidays - almost over now - that means almost back to my nice little routines, such as blogging, sewing, knitting, creating - you know, all that stuff that I would really, really like to do instead of playing Buzz Lightyear, or Lightening McQueen ... I know, I know, I shouldn't complain but really - 7 weeks? SEVEN weeks? Please don't get me started on the subject of 'Teachers - how easy do they have it?' ...

Okay. And breathe out. I HAVE WON SOMETHING! Hurrah! Am very excited to be the lucky winner over on I'm a Ginger Monkey's blog, in association with Celtic Fusions Fabrics of a fabulous bundle of fat quarters! They look scrummy, I must say. If you haven't been to Celtic Fusions website then get yourself over there now - it's full of the most inspiring and wonderful fabrics that will get your creative juices flowing straight away. Can't wait for the postie now :)

Unfortunately, the only sewing I've been doing this week is attaching name labels to the new school uniform. Yawn. I've learnt from experience that, even in a school with only 9 pupils in the class (46 in whole school!), you still need to label absolutely everything. 5 year olds can't read, you see, and when the item arrives in some other mum's laundry basket, how does she know whose it is? Precisely.

Ooh, ooh. Tell a lie. I did manage to sew this last week - it's a book cover. My attempt at some Poppy Treffry 'freestyle' machine sewing. This is where you drop the feed dog, put your fabric into an embroidery hoop to keep it nice and flat and then basically you can stitch in any direction you wish, using the hoop to move the fabric around. It takes a bit of practise, but it's very effect, although I admit that I only seem to have done straight lines here - doh!

This is the book I have which shows you how to do it. You may have seen some of her teacosies and things in the shops - they are very expensive because she does them all herself, but she has a unique style which I like. Not sure if I'm going to do too much of this myself though - it was really very fiddly and, unless you practise like a demon, you never know until you're actually stitching whether it's going to come out as you want it to. Plus, every time you put the hoop under the machine you have to take off your presser foot and ... it's just fiddly, believe me. But effective.

Righto - am off to loose myself in the fabric department at Dunelm Mill now. Sans child. Avec purse. Hee.