Got to start (again) somewhere 

On a Saturday in March I lugged many bags into a secondary school Maths classroom and wondered how my day was going to go. I’d signed up for a day-long machine patchwork course after far too long not doing any sewing. The skills I once had had atrophied. Funnily enough I’d done a cushion making workshop with the same tutor many years ago. I remembered her as very funny and straight talking. She hasn’t changed at all and is a superb teacher. I even got told off for nearly being silly, she’s that good at anticipating bad behaviour. It appears I haven’t changed at all since I was really in a secondary school Maths lesson.
I baggsied a nice spot at a table for six by the sunny window and waited for others to arrive. The room started filling quite quickly. A very quiet elderly woman set up along from me, this was fine but I fancied a fun day with lots of chat and maybe even some laugher, reasoning that even if the patchwork went badly it could still be enjoyable. I quite liked the professional-sewer look of one woman, who was settling herself at a table across the room. She seemed to have all the kit and a swish sewing machine, plus very cool coloured Liberty fabric. Then another woman came in a few minutes before the start, all of a fluster and panic: “Are you sure I should be here? You have told the others I’m a complete beginner? I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing!” Well this decided it for me; I didn’t have to be the only rusty sewer or novice there, she seemed like she’d be good fun too. So I approached her and turned to Anne-Marie too, saying they should join me at my table. I think I actually said “You can sit there, and you can sit there.” I might even have pointed to their appointed places. This is a bit embarrassing! But I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it again.

By mid-afternoon Anne-Marie was saying to Tracy that she was amazed they both did exactly what they were told, she’d even moved all her stuff from her table to mine! It was a fab day, I picked wisely. At the end we all said we wished we could spend every Saturday sewing. Tracy suggested we set up a WhatsApp group and by bedtime we’d shared photos of things we’d made, more things we were trying to make and discussing when we’d get together to sew again.

I did kick myself for not getting my machine out beforehand to refamiliarise myself with how to thread it and fill the bobbin. Things could have started a little more swiftly, but it was ok in the end. I’ve noticed that whatever the course I’m always the last to finish each step, be it making polymer beads, jewellery making, intarsia or Fair Isle knitting (that was the following Tuesday. I might tell you about that another time.) It’s the perfectionist tendencies I have, whereas others throw themselves at something new, sensibly accepting their first try isn’t going to be the best. Mine certainly isn’t either, but at least I’ve tried very, very hard!

I wish I hadn’t tried quilting my piece (we had time at the end of the day to play) as my patchwork isn’t exactly enhanced by the dodgy stitching around the outside to attach the wadding. I could undo it all, but the thought is rather painful.

From that day sewing in streaming Spring sunshine, laughing, chatting and unpicking stray stitches I’ve made two new friends. They’re great fun and we are all pretty keen on sewing and, it turns out, crochet. Anne-Marie is making a cooked breakfast crochet blanket for her son, freeform style, and when we’ve met for crochet in cafes asks me random (and quite challenging!) questions about how I would crochet a baked bean, or a button mushroom? Tracy has two little grand-daughters aged 5 and 7 months, she’s aiming to make them both a patchwork quilt by Christmas. Yes, she is the flustered “I’m not sure I should be here” novice sewer! But that’s Tracy, she throws herself into things. Why waste time panicking that you don’t know what to do? You just try and get on with it! I’ve just dropped off my blocking mats so she can have a go at blocking her deceased ex-mother in law’s crochet pieces to make up an heirloom blanket for her daughter. She’s You Tubing various joining methods as I type I expect.

Anne-Marie belongs to an exclusive Sewing Group, which started about 20 years ago as the tutor found people attending her workshops said they just wanted and needed time and space to sew. Space physically, rather than clearing off the dining room table to set up (then planning meals the family could eat on trays for a few days), and time as in an allotted time where it couldn’t be put off. She asked if I could join the group and I asked if my fellow novice sewer Tracy could come too. As I told her, I didn’t want to be the only idiot there. This made her laugh and didn’t offend in the slightest. This is why I like her so much. We really are honoured as I think it’s usually by invitation from the tutor only.

We’ve been twice so far and I’m hooked. There’s no teaching, it’s in a village hall like the equivalent of a Knit and Natter group. You take whatever you’re making and get on with it. You can ask questions, and the tutor will come round to each table asking if you’re ok, but you need to be fairly low maintenance. It’s really well organised. There’s a quick meal of quiche or pizza at the beginning, for those coming famished straight from work, and a cake break in the middle. I’ve subverted this by taking grapes and Tracy’s taken strawberries, as we’re trying to walk the healthy eating road. We’re both usually trying to make up for the eating and drinking of the weekend!

I already seem to be the joke of the group as I took along a Rowan Amy Butler jelly roll I got from Mollie Makes magazine (I’ve googled my own blog to find out when and where I got this!) I was thinking that I wouldn’t have to do lots of faffy cutting out and could actually sew at sewing club. Plus I knew it would help me practice sewing straight lines. The issue comes when the others naturally ask me what I’m making? I have no idea, truly. I’m just joining the strips and then again and again, as the tutor has instructed. I reply that it could be a bag, cushion, a thing or skirt. A ‘thing’ looks most likely right now…

The funniest moment so far was when the tutor asked how long me, Anne-Marie and Tracy have known each other. She was visibly shocked when we laughingly said we’d only met on that Saturday in March…

I’m going to try to join in with the Blog Every Day in May plan that knitting designer Vikki has mentioned on Instagram. I’ve never tried that before. It’s quite exciting. They won’t all be as long as this post, I promise!

Six things


My first sweetpea! I planted these late this year, and then because of the recent weeks of dry weather they got covered with  aphids. I thought the chance of flowers was zero to none. But I got rid of the aphids, carried on watering every day and now look at this beauty. There are plenty more buds too.

On Tuesday we met up with Trish of Made by Patch blog and her family, including Grandma and Grandpa Patch.  We’ve been in touch through our blogs since 2012, but have only met once before, last Spring. It doesn’t seem to matter; when you’ve been the 21st Century equivalent of pen pals for nearly five years you do feel like you know each other. We all had a lovely meal together and I had birthday presents! Birthday presents made by Trish’s clever father. I’ve been wishing for one of his yarn bowls since she posted a picture of hers. I now need to learn how to use the nostepinne, to wind centre pull yarn cakes, apparently there are videos on You Tube. I’ll show you my efforts when I’ve tried. (If they’re not too embarrassing!)

The time for my annual cross stitch has come. Oh, but if you’re a purist and check each stitch as you go for perfection, use a laying tool or trolley needle for ensuring the threads lie perfectly flat side by side or anything half as professional, please look away now. I’ve been googling tips for cross stitch, I really wish I hadn’t. Sometimes the truly professional take away all in the fun in something, don’t they?! I find summertime cross stitching so absorbing and relaxing to do, when the daylight is good and it’s not as hot as knitting or crocheting. My enjoyment is definitely in the process, not so much in having a perfectly perfect outcome.

A long weekend away in Lincolnshire and another BBQ in the field with friends and family. Just look at that sky! When it was truly dark we stood by the chiminea and just looked up at the stars. I think I need a guide to the constellations since I can only really pick out The Plough aka The Big Dipper.

Lincoln Castle and The Wave. I’ve now seen the commemorative poppies when they were at The Tower of London, The Yorkshire Sculpture Park (after Yarndale last year) and now, unexpectedly, in Lincolnshire. 

A visit to Waterperry Gardens yesterday and another bee on another thistle. I often seem to take a photo of these at gardens. I’ve just enjoyed looking back at posts of previous visits in August 2013, September 2014 and last March. The next time I go it will be for Apple Weekend in October, that’s a lot of fun; sampling so many types of Waterperry grown apples and trying to decide which bag(s) to buy. Then there’s the added choice of whether to buy juice too, cheese and maybe a pie…it’s a nice trip out.

If you fancy writing a post about five or six things you’ve done in the last week, then please leave a link in the comments below. I always like to know what you’ve been up to.

Thank you very much for all your likes and compliments on my Baby Hexagon Blanket, here, on Facebook and Instagram. They made my day.

16 for 2016

*~*~*Happy New Year!*~*~*

It’s 2nd January, 2016 is all brand new and shiny! I love the sense of possibility and brand-new-notebook-and-pen feeling the first few days always bring.

As I wrote my 2015 gallery post on New Year’s Eve, I realised that there were lots of planned crafty things I hadn’t done during the year. I’m going to write down a list of 16 goals for 2016. This is mainly to make sure the ideas and plans I have don’t get left aside. I’ll maybe revisit the list as the year goes on, or just sum up how it went at the end.image

1: Re-edge my Rhubarb Ripple blanket properly

2: Learn how to tat lace.

I bought a tatting shutting in the end of summer sale in John Lewis (£1!) the packet hasn’t even been opened.

3: Do something with my blocks from my 200 Blocks CAL

There are roughly 125 as we quickly realised the book’s title is slightly misleading. But 125 are plenty and I’m quite embarrassed that as the organiser of the CAL I never did get around to joining any, or all.

4: Knit socks, or have a go

5: Dye some yarn

For Christmas I received a dyeing kit and some extra undyed merino sock and DK yarns.

6: Use my sewing machine again.

7: Attend a workshop or class (any)

8: Join a Knit & Natter group for a session

9: Knit something with one or more of my new skeins of yarn

10: Finish the ‘My Designs’ link page I started a while ago

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11: Turn the failed hexagon a day blanket project into something else

12: Make another small cotton pot-holder

New saucepans with metal handles mean pot holders are necessary, not purely decorative.

13: Embroider something again

14: Make up the finished X stitch things

15: Decide about the Yorkshire blanket….redo? Undo and recycle? Give away?

16: Use up a good chunk of my yarn stash

It’s mostly leftovers from all those blankets.

If you also fancy writing 16 for 2016 please add a link in the comments below, so we can read your list too.

Have a very happy New Year all.

 

Small things 

   

  

 I seem to be in a bit of a cross stitch phase again. I usually do an annual cross stitch in the summer, just a little one, but it’s continuing at the moment. I have another little kit lined up too. It’s the better light levels, and the fact it’s not a hot, heavy wooly thing during warm weather.

The last is a pot holder in progress, from Hook, Stitch and Crochet by clever clogs Kat Goldin. I watched Bridesmaids (again) and chortled away while I stitched last night. It’s a bit homespun but fun to do.

I’ve found out why WordPress seemed to take against Mum’s William Morris curtains so…after nearly four years I’ve finally used up all the free capacity and had to pay to go premium. I quite like having the shorter domain, TheLittleRoomofRachell.com sounds snazzy, but I might sell a blanket or few to go towards the cost. 

I’m off to rejig that blanket post. I can now add all the photos I wanted to include the first time, before it kept telling me I’d failed.

2014

Have you had a good Christmas? I’m sitting here with the fairy lights twinkling, presents in piles around the sofa, cards on the mantlepiece along with the stub of the seemingly everlasting Advent candle which finally spluttered to an end last night during Harry Potter. I love Crimbo-limbo, that special time between Christmas and New Year when life seems to go in slow motion.

Looking back at my blog photo archive I’ve found so many projects I started and then unravelled for different reasons. It seems to have been the year of procrastination, trial and error. I hadn’t realised until now. But I have gathered some highlights and favourite makes from my crafting year…

Looking back at my end of year galleries from 2012 and 2013 I’m amazed at the number of things I’ve crocheted, knitted and sewn which I’ve forgotten about! Lots has been given to family and friends and so it must be a case of out of sight, out of mind.

Today it’s my blog birthday, 3 years old! It was originally a way to record my progress as I practiced my fledgling crochet skills online diary styley. I always thought that to be mentioned in a crochet magazine one day would be the icing on the cake, although that was obviously never going to happen. Wrong! This blog and my crochet have now been featured in Inside Crochet as part of their Our Favourite Blogger feature, and earlier this year Simply Crochet paid me to design a Springtime brooch for an issue of the magazine. Also, I’m still delighted that photos I posted after a birthday lunch were used in Decanter magazine. Ca-ching!

So where do I go from here? I carry on making, of course. This is what’s happening on and off between slabs of Christmas cake and hot chocolate after hikes in the freezing cold: the what-I-call William Morris motif blanket has regenerated, and I’m busy darning in ends as I make each stack of motifs, but more about that next year…

The Zesty Raspberry Ripple was received with great praise for the colour choices “they’re really me, I love the raspberry and greys together, and lime green is my favourite colour.” It barely left my sister in law’s side after she unwrapped it. Excellent.

Thank you for all your likes, comments, emails and messages on social media this year. It’s been fun. Let’s do it again in 2015.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

On the bright side

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I really fancied doing some more embroidery but thought I’d only do a little Thursday evening so as not to aggravate my elbow. I really enjoyed semi watching, mostly listening, to an episode of Lewis (the psychology student/psychics/elephant tranquilliser one) using stem stitch to sew the letters of my personalised tea towel which is to be a gift.

The arm was indeed a bit iffy Friday but hey ho, it was still a great day. A great week in fact, and generally all is going swimmingly. That is until 11:14 pm when the most ginormous spider hurried across the lounge from under a sofa to behind the TV. There was some wine or beer fuelled discussion along the lines of: “But he’s happy, let him be.” “He’s not leaving cobwebs all over my house.” “Don’t kill him.” “Don’t be ridiculous, you know I never kill them…” All this while I’m tipping a nightlight out of a holder and grabbing a postcard (flower fairies – such a pretty card that I carry it downstairs to recycle then end up propping it on the mantelpiece.) This spider is big and aggressive, he’s sassy and won’t be caught in a tea light holder and trapped by a flower fairy postcard. But we both know who’s going to win…

…in the end after a skirmish behind the TV stand it’s actually neither of us. He gets half trapped under the holder after I execute a niffy half turn when he tries to fox me, and head back to sofa-land, and I feel a muscle at the back of my knee go POP!

OMG THE PAIN.

Actually the spider was ok, no broken legs and I’m sure he enjoyed his flight out of the window to the garden.

Today instead of a super day out nerding with one of my favourite friends I’ve been sat on the bed with an ice pack and haven’t gone downstairs once; as I had to semi crawl upstairs last night and can’t bear the awfulness of needing the littlest room and the slow hurry. It’s best to rest it as much as possible too.

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This app is great! Although after quietly downloading it and trying it out with a few good dings, then testing the ring-a-ding-ding function with a good shake Someone marched into the bedroom with a grin and said, “You can get rid of that app for a start.” “But it was my nerdy friend who suggested I get it, to help you know when I need something!”

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The bright side is I’ve listened to a little more of The Goldfinch audio book, watched the first ever few episodes of The IT Crowd, the inflating boobies episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys (thank you free catch up TV and ipad magic) and downloaded some interesting looking free Kindle novels. There have also been a few homegrown strawberries, YUM, some cheer up surprises: mini Reeces, ice cold 7Up and as requested; a yummy Greek salad with pitta for lunch. The service is pretty good, the bedside chat could be improved but it’s tricky to provide uplifting banter when an important rugby match is on in the other room.

So, it’s after 5pm and I’m feeling a bit restless. Can you tell me something interesting, a story, a fact about yourself, a snippet from your weekend, whatever? A good link? Please. Chances are I’ll still be up here tomorrow so anything will be gratefully received.

Because it made me smile the other day when I noticed how tidy the Rhubarb Ripple looks amongst the other unruly blankets in The Little Room…

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Easter weekend

 

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Beautiful apple blossom on the tree
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Strawberry flowers gradually opening
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Little Easter giftbags filled with chocolate goodies
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Embroidered birdy tea towels. They would look sweet in a country kitchen hanging from the rail of an Aga but will also do the job of drying crockery (sweet old fashioned word alert!) and covering food nicely. I look at them and remember how much I’ve enjoyed doing a bit of embroidery again (split stitch and feather stitch) but do wonder how they’d rate on a very naff to super cool scale. Tea towels are very handy at least, as opposed to putting decorative things in embroidery hoops and hanging them on the wall, which is not really my style at all. My gin loving bears are currently covering a bowl containing Herman the German friendship sourdough cake batter. I need to bake the cake tomorrow after I come home from my (weird) day out.

Do you know this traditional rhyme? I always sing it at Easter. Loudly in the car this morning to Someone’s joy (not.)

“Hot cross buns,

Hot cross buns,

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns

If you have no daughters give them to your sons,

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.”

Have a super Easter whatever you plan to do.

 

 

Not quite 10 Random Things

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Oooh I thought when I saw this shepherd’s hut a while back. I parked and walked back to have a peer at it. Actually it’s only got that tiny little window so wouldn’t be a great craft hideaway, which is probably a good thing as in a nanosecond I was already planning where to park it in the back garden and musing about taking it to the seaside. Mad. And no, that’s not expensive at all. Is it? Ha!
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I went to a food and craft fair a few weeks ago with a friend. We were a bit disappointed to find the craft part was really just a few tables with jewellery, homemade cards, decoupage kits although one had these rather lovely vintage fabric owl cushions and things. The food part was redundant as we’d already eaten mystery sausage baps at mine before leaving. Mystery for her as I made her guess the flavours as I chose them from my super local butchers (homemade meaty sausages. Yum) This time they were pork, celery and Stilton. She liked them too.

Tiny confession: The food wasn’t 100% redundant as I bought homemade fudge and I think my friend chose pick ‘n mix. I can’t be sure as my eyes were firmly fixed on my slices of fudge.

We each bought raffle tickets to support the local cause and later she had a call to say there was an arty raffle prize on the way! Lucky duck…not really as it turned out to be an Usborne book on Modern Art, for children. I’m going to give it to my nieces.

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Six rainbow trout freshly caught in a Wiltshire lake. One bartered for cider at the local shop, one to a neighbour, two smoked to be eaten as potted trout or just as they are with salad. Yum. I bought a Fladen home smoker so the fisherman’s experimenting with whisky, hickory and applewood smoking chips. I like the whisky (cask) chips best so far. The other fishes are in the freezer getting in my way as they are solid slightly curled forms so hinder neatly stacking tubs. (Before you leave ‘Urgh’ comments on my behalf about finding trout in the sink, I don’t mind at all. I vacate the kitchen, after opening the window and door then let the cleaning begin. The only issue last Autumn was the windows being left open during the first home smoker test. The house stank of hickory smoke!)
A few days ago the shopkeeper gave us a leg of pork as another thank you for the (unbartered) trout he’s had over the last few years, and the neighbour bought some German Friendship Cake batter around. I love this type of thing!

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My Bondaweb finally arrived so I could have a second go at applique. The blue bird was my first go, then I adjusted the stitch and felt happier with the other, though went a bit off track on his head.
This bag is all ready to applique. I fixed the petals on with Bondaweb, at the same time as I prepared the birdie tea towels, but it doesn’t entirely like the canvas. They’re pinned as well now; just in case I find petals on the floor. I might applique them by hand, it depends how I find the thickness of the canvas. The fabric is from a pack of fat quarters I bought from Amazon. It turns out not to be a good idea to buy fabric online, unless it’s a brand you know. It’s very thin.

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Here’s my unplanned and unexpected find from yesterday. We were mooching around a smallish and not particularly lovely little town we once lived for a year. It was a stick a pin in a map at a halfway point kind of decision then, and it worked. There are so many charity shops now. The vintage style flowers caught my eye, then the 100% cotton label. I bought it purely for the fabric. How about a flowery tote bag for the Summer? It’s thin enough to sew with my little machine, thick enough for shopping or carrying books. It cost £2.95!
I’ve spent several years reading blogs where someone’s visited their local op, thift or charity shop and picked up a real find. Well I think this is mine!

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This morning’s crochet for a few minutes. It’s the final edging row, I’m halfway around and then another blanket bites the dust!
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The tomato plants getting some sun toughening up outside, jogging on the spot and doing crunches (whatever they are?!) before they go into grow bags. Hopefully we’ll have bowlfuls of red Gardener’s Delight cherry tomatoes and some yellow Golden Sunrise. I need a really good crop as I’m competing with a friend this year. Greenhouses are for sissy tomatoes!!!!

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I hope you’ve had a restful Sunday too. If you plan to post your own 10ish Random Things please leave a comment or link below, I’d like to read yours.

The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett – The American Museum, Bath (part 3)

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Even when the stunning Kaffe Fassett exhibition is no longer at The American Museum, Bath, (after 2nd November) it’s really worth visiting. As you see I wasn’t exaggerating when I described the beautiful Wiltshire countryside. What a stunning location.

The museum has a collection of over 250 American quilts. A large proportion are displayed in impressive racks which you can flick through like you used to be able to do in The Poster Shops of the 1980s and 90s, albeit on a huge scale. The last three quilts are hanging at the top of the house and were created by Kaffe Fassett, aren’t they beautiful? There are also his sketches and swatches too, dotted around the main museum building. So if you visit the exhibition don’t pass the main house by; it’s full of interesting American folk and decorative arts, as well as furniture and original interiors bought by the museum’s founders before demolition in the States.

I bought a few treats from the shop too. Some edible (naughty naughty Reeces which I grew up eating courtesy of American rellies and friends, and some of those OTT flavoured Snyder’s of Hanover honey mustard pretzel pieces – love ’em), a sweet patchwork log cabin patterned tin and a few cards which will be posted to friends in the future. The shop is always a really fun last thing to do on a special day out isn’t it?

 

Sewing & crochet: needle roll

I’ll admit that I’m feeling pretty pleased about my latest make. I wanted to try the merino that DMC Creative World recently sent me to try after my cheeky request. It’s definitely a nice yarn to crochet, the colours are delicious too. I’d say that although it’s labelled as DK weight it’s more of a baby cashmerino thickness; slightly thinner than other double knit yarns, but that wasn’t an issue.

It’s the first time, I can think of, that I’ve combined machine and hand sewing with crochet. It’s been fun to use several different skills on one item.
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I really like incorporating ribbon into things at the mo. What can I make next with some?
I changed the browny pinky ribbon back to the Mollie Makes chevron ribbon by the way, it just coordinated better I decided on the drawstring bag. (Just in case anyone was awake fretting about it. Tee hee.)
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This challenged my mathematical brain, which is the size of a peanut, as I worked out how large the separate pieces needed to be. The success is part luck and part crossing my fingers and toes.
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I gave the roll a good shake just to see if all the needle tips would fall out, but only the shiny metal Nova tips slipped out. So that’s fine.
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All the lovely sunny days have brought the tulips to the brink of opening. They are so close. The yellow tulips are last year’s pot and look like they’ll be just as pretty. I do love my seasonal pots which are a pretty sight at the front door.

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Thank you very much for all your likes and lovely comments about my sewing on my last post, they really made my day. It’s such basic stuff (especially after watching about Great British Sewing Bee last night – I get sweaty hands just watching them do the most incredibly tricky tasks in a short time!) and I’m grateful for your encouragement.

Sewing Again

After a bit of a break I gathered all my kit together yesterday and set up the dining room as a sewing oasis. This morning I got the inevitable “Your craft is all over the house!” I’ve been lucky not to hear this before I guess. It’s untrue anyway; last time I looked there was no craft in the bathroom, kitchen or smallest room of the house.

I have my pre-sew rituals now; one, before I even choose the fabric is to find the latest radio show by Paul O’Grady, Graham Norton or Liza Tarbuck on the BBC iplayer and I’m set. If it’s Liza or Paul I know I’ve got 2 hours sewing time, 3 for Graham. That tends to be enough in one go before I need to walk around a bit more and stretch. (I might be running in a minute; I’ve got a line of washing out and the sky is looking greyer and greyer.)

I’ve been sewing Easter thingymbobs so am not showing those….yet. The other make I can flourish a bit. It’s a simple pattern for a drawstring bag, made from only one fat quarter. You can find the pattern on U Create blog. I sent the link to my crafty buddy who replied asking if I’ve seen the fat quarters skirt. I sense a social sewing bee session coming on.

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It took me a while to sew because I undid the side tiny seams twice because it was a little rucked up after turning the fabric to go across and back a stitch or so. If you make it you’ll see what I’m trying to describe; basically look at the third tutorial photo. I tacked it then, old school styley, and got it sorted in a third time lucky kind of way.

All the Spring showers and sunshine (19 degree high this weekend) have made the grass grow like crazy. It’s definitely time to dust off the lawnmower. This is not my job. In light of this morning’s comment perhaps I should yarn-bomb it????! *evil laugher*

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Then because it irritated me a bit that the ribbon twists a bit when you draw it up and shows the white underside, (a Mollie Makes giveaway with the mag one month) I changed it. I’ve got several brand new rolls of Jane Means ribbon I won in a giveaway a while back. This is double-sided, thicker too and looks better. I’ll save the pretty chevron ribbon for something else.

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It’s a longish bag: 10″ W by 15″ L (someone please tell me which measurement conventionally comes first, or is it always the shortest one or the width or…? I forget.) Mine’s a little longer because of the size of my fat quarter. It’s the perfect size for an adult’s shoe bag or keeping a current knitting project in, especially if you’re using long needles. I’ll probably pop my crochet into it when I take it out and about. You can obviously play about with the size and also adjust the gussets, which make it sit flat. I was tempted to make another but think I’ll play around with some other drawstring bag patterns, it’s all good experience. If you find any good ones please send them to me via pinterest. You can never have too many bags, right?

Oh lordy apparently it’s also the perfect sized gift bag for a bottle of whisky.

The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show 2014, London

I can’t believe it’s that time again already! Last year I had such a good time at the show that I just had to go back again.
When I was thinking about the show I decided my iPhone would stay firmly in my bag, and I’d just wander without taking photos. Then I saw the skeins of wool and knew that you’d enjoy seeing some pics again. So here goes, prepare yourself for much loveliness. I really enjoyed this feast of colour.

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I missed Mr X Stitch again. One day I will catch up with him to say hello!
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I was really tempted to do this and hung about the table for a little while watching a few women stitch, but time was ticking and I wanted a good look around before my sewing workshop. It was £5 to have a go at this embroidery kit. The flower design was printed on the fabric, then a piece of gauzy material is placed on top which you stitch through. What a lovely prettifying technique!
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The quilts are always a wow. There are women who are available to chat about the techniques which have been used. I noticed they wear gloves so they can show people the backs of quilts and handle them without leaving marks. I like this level of respect and care.
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I spent some time in the Wilderness! It was the same last year; I got intensely itchy fingers to craft after the profusion of colour, texture and sheer inspiration. I hadn’t taken any crochet and there were 40 minutes before the workshop, so I joined a table and started to crochet a strip to add to the chains to gradually decorate the area. A textile artist who goes to festivals and teaches knitting was running the project, along with an intern or two from Toft.
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I chatted a novice knitter from Leighton Buzzard who told me about the forthcoming Canal Festival she and her knitting group from Nutmeg Needlecrafts will be involved in. They have a canal boat which is to be yarn bombed and are currently searching for squid patterns. Excellent! I love this kind of thing.
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That plastic crochet hook was the worst I’ve ever used. I looked such a beginner struggling with all its bendyness that someone asked if I was just learning to crochet. It took every ounce of self-control not to say about Simply Crochet. You can imagine!  It was a relief to switch to what seemed like super-long knitting needles, after my recent circular knitting.

The grandmas who came on a coach trip from Stratford Upon Avon looked sidelong at me as I started knitting, but without comment. You do, I do; we all love to watch people knit and note how they hold the needles and wrap the yarn. And the loud Essex ladies (I’m sure they were knitting bunting with me last year) settled down to knit alongside us too. I do enjoy social crafting and meeting new people.
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I like to do my own thing, so rather than knit a tiny row and turn, turn, turn I went for a longer row for my chain. It’s smaller than others but the lovely intern from Toft said she always likes different and going against the grain. Hurrah! So do I.
Here she is crocheting mine to join it above the yellow.
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Time to sew! Last year I hadn’t signed up to any of the workshops and because I went at the weekend they were fully booked. As I’d got a half-price ticket to the show (from an Amazon Local deal following a quick Google for discounted tickets) I felt I could definitely sign up for one. It’s funny how we justify our treats, isn’t it?
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Janome seems to be the machine of choice for sewing classes and workshops.
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I was the only one who took off their boot/shoe. Ah well. Like Patch who commented last post about this, we are also a shoes-off house and so I’m not wearing them when I sew anyway. I do take slippers off though too. I just think I can feel the pedal and control it better.
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This sew a mini storage basket hour-long workshop was for any level of sewer. Ho-hum. I’m not sure how a complete beginner would have managed. It was fast and furious with experienced sewers racing far ahead of us less speedy ones, so the next step (or two steps ahead) were demonstrated before we were ready to take it in. My slower timing wasn’t helped by the fact I hadn’t realised there were pins so I had to take my first bit of spotty fabric off the interfacing and resew a section as it was skew-whiff. Still, I was pleased that I re-threaded an unfamiliar machine without an issue. I also used interfacing for the first time (the experienced “I’ve been sewing since I was 10”) helpful lady next to me said mine was much thicker than hers which maybe didn’t help. I’m not sure I could have put the teeny dressmaking pins through it and the fabric, let alone taken them out.
It’s a fun way to make a storage basket and very ingenious. I want to make another. However I will NOT be using the same materials. The hessian frays and moves around. You can see where it’s not sewn properly on the bottom left. But I liked the shaping where we sewed the corners so they flare it at the bottom and the basket sits flat. I can’t remember the term. Oh, we also ‘nested’ our seams. That’s another new thing.
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Here’s mine. It’s not bad for the speed of the making. During the sewing I had a text from Someone asking if I was having fun.
‘Wasn’t when you text. Was furiously sewing a storage basket, argggh never sewing hessian again!’
‘Bet you never thought you’d write that sentence. :-)’

That is very true. All in all it was fun, albeit slightly stressful. When the tutor Sandra Togher, from the Bowery Gallery in Leeds, said “You have five minutes left” I thought of the stress experienced by the GBSB contestants, with the cameras and pressure of competiton etc! But I’ve learnt some new skills which I can practice and refine. Good value for £10, don’t you think?
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Here is my neighbour’s basket. Perfect isn’t it? She’s so good that she altered the way you sew the top and so hers is much neater than anyone’s. The interesting thing was that when Sandra asked if she sews professionally the answer was no; she works with her husband selling cars, doing the accounts, but it’s been a long term dream to teach people to sew. She really should do it. I’d go to a class.
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I stood and watched a machine patchwork demo, and then bought a few sweets from Henleys of Gloucester as a post-hessian stress treat. Any excuse for liquorice comforts.
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I also went back to the Wilderness to check on the chains. Rather than the lone chain there were now a jolly collection hanging from the stand. Can you see mine?
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At 430pm it was so much quieter, I reckon the coach parties had left. I enjoyed another mooch around both halls and did some shopping. The show is huge and there’s something for everyone. Cats Protection were there again (I don’t really get why, is it that crafters are often cat lovers? Mad knitting women with cats? I do know one or two, or six of those actually…) Interestingly there were arthritis relief and massage stands too. That’s the shape of the things to come, maybe.
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The fabrics are what were making me swoon. I loved them last year but wasn’t sewing. This time I just had to buy a few half metres and some fat quarters. Yippee!
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Here are my buys. I keep being attracted to chicken fabrics, this is my second lot.

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There were a few amusing events on the tube home, but I’ve waffled enough now. If you’re near enough to London why don’t you go to the last day of the show tomorrow? It’s a lovely day out, and even if you go alone people are so friendly and chatty that you won’t be silent for long at all. You can play my shopping bag weebles game too (you remember? Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down?) At the end of the day you’re constantly bumping into, or swinging around and hitting, each other’s bags; bouncing off their packs of yarn and fabric. It’s funny and all good natured.

Are there similar shows where you live? Have you been to one and if so, what makes you swoon?

Spring birdies

Another make from my Cath Kidson Sew! book. It’s not my best, or coolest make, so far…
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…so I’m not altogether sure about blogging this, but they are what my friend and I have pootled about making this afternoon. She’s the friend I made a tote bag with in January. I’m aware that The Great British Sewing Bee are still advertising for participants for the third series -woo hoo! – but don’t think we’re quite ready to apply…
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If I hadn’t been too lazy to get my iphone, before turning it out the right way, I could have shown you how much my machine stitching has improved. It follows the line of the bird template really well, apart from slightly wiggle on the beak but that doesn’t show much. See the gold stitching on my raw edge applique on the wing? I reckon sewing is about getting used to operating the foot pedal at a good speed, unless you’ve got a fancy speed-limited machine which frankly is a bit of a cheat, and being able to stop in time to turn the material.  I can’t sew in shoes though, I see GBSB keep showing Chinelo’s shoeless foot on the pedal, is it that unusual to sew barefoot? I did take my right boot off at the Mystery Workshop, now I’m thinking about it, I guess no one else seemed to dive under the table. Does that make me eccentric?!

My bird’s head looks slightly rooster-like. I reckon that could be my violent stabbing of the toy filling with a chopstick!
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They’re meant to be lavender bags but it’s not the season for it, also they seem a little big, so we filled them with toy stuffing for pincushions. I’ve got to stop making pincushions now – that’s three this year alone. I guess I’ve used a range of techniques at least. Here are some others I’ve made, all crocheted apart from the cactus, if you fancy going pincushion crazy as well: knitted cactus pincushion, Springtime hat pincushion, flower pincushion and floating pincushion (written on the 16th day of my newly hatched blog I see!)

Who’s going to the Knitting and Stitch Show this week/end? Hands up please!

Small make medicine & The Great British Sewing Bee

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Feeling like a quick crochet make would refresh and revitalise, after hiccups with a bigger project, I decided to start a little something. It’s so satisfying a way to banish the crafty blues; starting and finishing an item in a few hours.

On another tack, did you watch The Great British Sewing Bee last night? I’m loving it. Absolutely enthralled. It’s so good to have a crafty series on peak time tv, twitter and Facebook were buzzing about the episode until late last night. My friend and I were chatting about our faves well into the early hours. This usually turns out to be my reading time, despite knowing I should sleep I end up reading just one more chapter.
Another, replying to my “OMG wish I could alleviate clothes woes by whipping up a top for a do hours before!” (like GBSB contestant Heather) gave a lovely compliment: ‘I think if you turned your crafty skills and energy towards sewing you’d soon be able to do just that :-)’ It’s just starting isn’t it? I need to find an easy pattern to make an item of clothing, my first since a couple of pencil skirts at school!

Homemade London: Mystery Workshop

A few weeks ago my friend and I had to cancel our long ago booked Mystery Workshop at Homemade London. The tube strike was in full force, the weather was stormy and traffic in Central London was grid-locked. We rescheduled and the evening came around again yesterday.

You book a place, paying £12, and basically have no idea what you’re going to be doing for the hour until you arrive. Apparently they’ve run Mystery Workshops since May and haven’t repeated one yet.

When we arrived I was slightly dismayed to see a table laid with jewellery making pliers and fixings. I’ve enjoyed the jewellery workshops we’ve done, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for an hour last night. Then I popped downstairs to the loo and discovered my idea of heaven set up downstairs; a table lined with posh Janome sewing machines. ‘I guess they’re ready for tomorrow’s classes’ I sighed.

Wrong!

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A dainty glass of something vodka based with several raspberries (only wafted near a vodka bottle it has to be said, but that’s probably not a bad thing before handling jewellery pliers) before we started to make earrings. There were 10 in the workshop in all which was a good number. The girl running the workshop was lovely, bubbly, really helpful and fun.

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The atmosphere was good and great fun as we laughed, groaned and muttered all grappling with jewellery links, trying to open the chain links to make four separate chains (from a choice of silver, rose gold and gold) and affix shells (pearly or blue/black.) The girl opposite forgot to breathe as she concentrated hard, prompting concern from her friend as she turned slightly purple!
Half an hour on each activity of the workshop meant we had a little time to play with those super sewing machines; making little bags for our earrings.

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We shared the machines in pairs. It’s the same as G has, so she cranked up the speed and whizzed along.
My sewing’s definitely getting better. My little seams are pretty straight now.

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We’re getting a bit more cocky now that we’ve sewn a few things and think that the basic little bag design could be better, rather than having raw edges at the end of the ribbon seam. But I did enjoy having the chance to use a sewing machine. Before meeting in the afternoon I’d spent some time chatting to the sewing demonstrator in John Lewis, Oxford Street, discussing buttonholes (last week’s revisited skill along with another friend. I need some practice so I haven’t shown you!) The chat had whet my appetite to do some sewing. Good timing all round. We stayed to chat after the class for a few minutes talking about machine embroidery which I’d really like to try sometime. The book below was recommended…

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And that, was another good day.

A lot of measuring, pressing & pinning

This week I’ve got together with a friend who has a new sewing machine and needed a little jog to use it. It’s like anything; if you don’t use it you can lose your confidence and that fizzy feeling of motivation can fade away.
So, as I’d already started to make a large tote bag (working my way through Sew! Cath Kidson) I suggested she do the same. It’s really good making the same item alongside another. Fun, but also I’m sure I’d make mistakes without the discussion and thinking out loud you do together, especially at this early stage of my beginning to sew again.

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It’s not puckered, it’s just the way it’s hanging off the newel post. Maybe it needs another press too after being bundled up on my way home?

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Pockets inside and out! I’m very pleased with this cotton tote. It’ll make a lovely crochet or knitting bag for summer crafting. My friend’s bag is super too. She used upholstery weight fabric so it’s very strong. Next time I make this tote I’ll use thicker weight fabric so it can be used for carrying heavier items. It could be a posh bag for buying fruit and veg at the market.

What are you planning on doing crafty-wise this weekend? Have a good one!

(I’m blogging on the go, on my way into Central London, so apologies if this post is dodgy in any way!)

2013

A selection of this year’s highlights. (Top of my list for 2014 is to enjoy putting the CAL blocks together, after a refreshing break. You should know I’m basically pre-empting comments here!) I’ve got many, many more photos of craft events, exhibitions and shops I’ve been lucky enough to visit too, probably enough for another gallery times ten. What a fun and creative year.

Meeting other crafty peeps has been a highlight, I see I wrote the same on last year’s gallery 2012.  I’ve always loved meeting new people and not being a shy sort find it all a bit of an adventure. Putting on some music, the radio or an audio book and settling down to make something is one of my favourite ways to relax, apart from reading, cooking or baking. But I have to say that there’s nothing like meeting others – having a good chat and seeing what they’re making. Social crafting seems to be one of the best ways to meet people too. I reckon if you’re shy then joining a crafting group works well as you can always focus on what you’re crocheting, knitting or sewing or whatever to calm your initial nerves. If you’re stuck for conversation just ask what kind of yarn (or whatever) they’re using and generally you’re off!

Have you joined any new crafty groups this year? Taken part in any workshops? Do you enjoy social crafting, or prefer it to be solely during your alone time?

Naff appliqué

I’m not joking!

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Shocking isn’t it? The appliqué  is dreadful – my first ever and on a brand new machine, started before we made the sewing machine cover. The red edged appliqué was the first I did  and as for the rest ummm errr…it was during a mellow weekend afternoon, the kind where you’re feeling relaxed and happy, totally forgetting the beers you had at lunchtime. The tension, alighment – or lack of – Oops!

And the bears?! They were a piece of old fabric in a bag of oddments I’ve been given. Well it’s not a t-towel to give as a present that’s for sure! We think they’re the most unsmiling, serious looking characters ever. Why would you make anything for a child with such miserable looking teddies on it? Give me the Wombles any day – they were definitely smiling under all the fake fur!

It was crying out for something so I added the embroidery. There are stem, split and chain stitches. It’s not my finest make but something about it does make me smile. And wince a little too.

Naff Appliqué music choice: Sloe Gin – Bellowhead.

Really nice shopping

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Supermarket, butchers and fabric shop… I know which was more fun by far!

I’ve bought a few metres of each fabric for my next make. I’m planning to work through my Cath Kidson Sew! book as I like 99.9% of the makes. Of course it might be saved for the next girl’s sewing day as my friend and I have discussed making a different bag every time we get together . You can never have too many bags, right?

On the crochet front I’m still working my way through hooking up mini bunting as a commission from my local shop.

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What crafty items have you bought lately?

Sew Happy Again

Yesterday my friend and I had another day of sewing after the success of our last get together. Another sausage and egg bap for late breakfast and then we sewed until dinnertime.

My friend has a really handy bag which she uses all the time, it was made by a Swedish acquaintance. She asked for the hand-drawn pattern so we could make one. The instructions seemed a little scant, but then when you’ve made 75 bags for a recent event you probably can’t even list the steps, you sew on auto pilot. I was a little fuzzy though, because I hadn’t ever seen the actual bag and my (dozy?) friend forgot to bring hers as a finished sample!

I have to tell you that:

a) it took us about 8 hours of sewing time

b) we were very hungry by dinnertime

c) I suddenly had a light bulb moment 10 minutes before we finished when I realised what the template instructions meant when they said ‘on the fold’. I apologise if by some magic the ear burning sensation was felt by the pattern writer  something along the lines of  “the instructions are a little poor as they were written by someone for whom English is an additional language.”  It really highlighted that anything I ever learnt at school about dress making and reading patterns has vanished into my brain of custard. Also that buying a sewing instruction book is pointless without actually reading the book – the knowledge and skills do not seep into your consciousness

d) next time we’re sure we could make these bags in 4 hours, or much less, as we literally doubled the amount of sewing by having double the quantity of pieces

e) at the end of the day we modelled the bags with an onion in each. It had been a long day by this point…

f) I refused to let my friend take her onion home as I was thinking of the spiced parsnip, ginger & apple soup I’m going to make

g) next time she can have all the onions she wants

Click on a photo if you want to view a larger size. Please don’t judge me on the straightness of my seams.

Mine needs ironing and the gappy part where you put your hand/scissors/moans and sighs (when it came to sorting out the handles) in to pull the whole thing the right way needs to be hand-sewn. That’s going to be the easy part – I will enjoy giving it many admiring looks as it’s the first bag I’ve ever sewn.

Onion anyone?

Sew Happy

I can’t tell you how excited I felt last week about getting together with one of my crafty friends to do some making, rather than go to another craft event to see others’ creations, or buy more pretties which sit and wait to be used.
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I set up the dining room into a sewing paradise, stocked the fridge with ingredients for a late breakfast and chilled the wine in case we wanted a post-sewing reward.

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I decided I’d better stop arranging stuff as I seemed to be heading towards doing a wall display, or an interest table…

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I’ve been saving the Mollie Makes kits for a while now for a social crafting session. My cousin gave me this craft pocket wall organiser, doesn’t it work well?

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She’s arrived! We did a happy dance on the doorstep, then I carried in her kit as she unloaded the car. And yes – I know her swanky sewing machine is backwards! We’re new to sewing, or refreshing our long-lost skills, but not that daft. It was where it landed when I plonked it down with the cover still on.

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The first thing I said was that I’m not very impressed that Brother don’t sell a cover or case for the sewing machine. It’s going to get dusty in no time, and I don’t want to lift it in and out of the box between use. And so my friend suggested that was exactly what we should make, especially as she happened to have pieces of PVC. What a good idea! Plus it’s a total money saver as the s/m bags I’ve seen are hardly cheap.

We couldn’t match the patterns because we had to be extra careful with the piece of PVC so we had enough. I don’t mind – it’s really cute isn’t it? (I think it was bought in a Dunelm store.)

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I had imagined we’d tackle one of the easier projects from Sew! part of my collection of Cath Kidson books but no, we basically made a sewing machine cover from scratch – no pattern! If you’re a sewer (do we have to use ‘sewist’? Where did it come from – is this an American term?) you might be quite unimpressed with this but we’re both fairly inexperienced.

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When I tried to hem the bottom of the nearly completed cover we just couldn’t get either machine to go. The PVC surface was too grippy and held tight. After a bit of head scratching I remembered reading how you can use tissue, or a special tear-able material to sew with flimsy fabric for support and improved tension, I imagine. Something tissue wrapped arrived last week and I’d tucked it away Womble-like ….. “making good use of the things that we find, things that the everyday folks leave behind”…..

The drawback was that in order to get the machine to move the tissue had to be at the front and back of the cover. Ha ha! I’m not only sewing a new material, on a brand new machine, but I’m sewing blind. It’s a bit wobblier than my other pretty even seams, but if you visit and check the straightness of the stitches at the bottom of my cover you just won’t be invited back again.20131028-132523.jpgRipping the tissue off was actually good fun – a bit like when you’re tiny and the wrapping’s not to be admired, it’s all about the present. Of course now I need to look out for more tissue to hoard.

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This is immediately post ripping so I can see little white lumps of tissue under the stitches in this photo. Afterwards I wiped both inside and outside with a damp cloth and it all came off.

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We did a fair bit of woo-hooing and *blushes* high fived ourselves at the end of the making. Chinese, wine and a sweet DVD followed, of course under no circumstance did we sit and sing along to Jolene

but you can if you want to ;-) I just did a practice run to check this vid and heard howling noises coming up the stairs. Soup for dinner tonight it is, despite the earlier look of depression. That’s what you get for mocking my Dolly.

John Lewis Open House Blogger Event

Recently I received an email telling me that I had been ‘hand-selected as an outstanding blogger in the craft sector’ – this is a very promising start to any email, though I have to admit that I scrolled back to the top of the message just to check it hadn’t been sent to me in error! I’d been invited to the John Lewis pop-up shop in Islington, London to attend an exclusive lifestyle, fashion and craft blogger event, with workshops instructing us how to customise and personalise household objects in their new HOUSE range.

The invite included a plus 1, a friend, partner or someone else from the blogging community. I invited Emma from eskimo*rose  as we’ve been in touch for a few years now. It was lovely to meet before the event and have a good chat, something at which we’re both excellent!

Here’s a selection of photos from the afternoon. Because we were seated in an area near one of the shop windows I noticed quite a few members of the public taking our photo – I guess we were a living sewing group window display….eek!

Click on an image to view a larger size….

I had been hoping to meet Lisa Comfort from Sew Over It but she wasn’t able to attend as planned. Freia and Tugba represented the Sewing Cafe instead and showed the group some simple sewing techniques. They chatted and sewed along with us during the afternoon which was nice. It’s amazing how long it takes to sew a strip of ribbon to a cushion cover when you’re chatting, stopping to drink bucks fizz and eat delicious sandwiches and cakes. At the end of the afternoon we were urged to take buttons and ribbon home, so I’m going to carry on adding some more to my cover. In fact I staggered out with 2 bath towels, the customised cushion, and a goodie bag. It really felt like Christmas had come early!

The other bloggers who attended apart from Emma and myself were: Aimee of Clones ‘n’ Clowns blog and Lisette of Lisette Loves. Holly from the online marketing department of John Lewis couldn’t have been sweeter or more helpful in looking after us.

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On Saturday we came across Disney filming scenes for Cinderella at Blenheim Palace. Although Kenneth Branagh (directing), Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham-Carter were there we didn’t spot them, apart from the many costumed extras including riders on highly groomed horses, different carriages and four white horses with golden bridles, we did come across this beauty…

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As weekends go this was a pretty good one.

Doggy paddle

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I’ve just embroidered this bag for my cousin’s birthday.  She loves scotty dogs.  I wasn’t too sure about the Hello design initially. It’s silly but I wondered if it looked like the dog had puffed the hello out of his bottom, like one of those sky-writing aeroplanes. The thing is I probably shouldn’t have said because now you’re either wincing at the bad taste, or thinking ‘OMG it does actually!”

I used some Sublime Stitching embroidery transfers from one of my books for inspiration, though actually traced them onto the bag with a fabric pen because it was one I wanted to test. Here you see the finished bag soaking in a basin to remove traces of the pen.  I was going to call this post ‘Doggy style’ but Someone thought it might be inappropriate. Surely I can’t be held accountable for the state of others’ minds, can I? 

Inspirational

On bank holiday Monday, last week, we visited Winchester. “You mustn’t visit Winchester without going to the cathedral” we were told.

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It’s a truly magnificent building. I can’t even begin to describe its size and features, it’s immense. The Cathedral website is really informative if you want to take a look.

Many people will have visited the Cathedral simply to pay a visit to the last resting place of Jane Austin.

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Interestingly it wasn’t until many years after she was buried that the number of people visiting her grave were noted, as her work gained popularity.

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These lilies were heavenly scented, I love them.

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I really like the Antony Gormley sculpture ‘Sound II’ in the Cathedral crypt.

However it was the tapestry work that really, really, caught my eye, as you shall see. I used to enjoy tapestry, but when my elbow was very painful I gave it up. Plus it was far from cool to be making tapestry cushions. Now I wish I had just taken extra painkillers, had a treble G&T and stuck my fingers up to cool. I bought most of my materials from Liberty of London, they used to have a wide selection of wool, canvas, kits and materials. They really have scaled back the selection but you can still find some nice choices. There was a postal ordering service I used to buy from also, which will now have a website but I just need to remember the company’s name…

What follows are many, many (I seem to be in a repeating the-same-word-twice-mode today, sorry. I can control this mode and hit the delete button, but choose not to, just in case you’re wondering if there’s a compulsive issue going on here) photos of tapestry work. Some are faded from use, sunlight and age, others are newer. I find all beautiful and inspirational.

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Inspirational colours, designs and because of the amount of hours that they took to create.

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Fuzzy, but I don’t want to delete the above. Partly close your eyes and squint to focus?

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A windmill and what I think is a plough, surrounded by the fruit of the land?

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I would also have stitched my initials & the year on the back too!

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When we bought our entry tickets we were told they are also season tickets, so we’re planning to go back to take a tour and find out more about the history, carvings, art, sculpture etc etc of this incredible building. I have a feeling that all photographing devices will be taken from me prior to the tour; I was a long time sighing over and photographing these beauties!

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I’ve always been a huge fan of Kaffe Fassett, particularly when I was first interested in tapestry. I’m going to A Life in Colour, an exhibition celebrating Kaffe’s work, with Natasja of the CrocheTime blog. I can’t wait!

Cabled bag – finished!

IMG_2402IMG_2404Fully lined, machine and hand sewed. IMG_2419

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The pattern is in Let’s Get Crafting Magazine, issue 48 and is designed by Wendy Mould. The yarn was from a stash of fairly old King Cole Denim acrylic DK I was given a few years ago.

Now I have newly refreshed confidence to line something I’m imagining all sorts of little knitted and crochet bags, just because I can.

Embroidery

The embroidery workshop last month was fun. It was a good refresher as I haven’t done any for years. We concentrated on these stitches mainly: running, back, blanket, French knots, satin and chain. There was one stitch I’ve never come across before; split stitch which is what I used for the orange thread. I really like its plaited appearance.

Here’s the t-towel I embroidered during the session.

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For some on the workshop it was all completely new, others were at a similar level to me. I’m hoping they will run a follow-on workshop in the New Year, my friend and I are very keen to go.

The owl & the pussycat

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Owl #3 for Emily. Here are #1 #2 and they all look unique in their own way I see! I must crochet more owls as they can be made into really sweet magnets as well as sewn onto bags etc.

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And a cross-stitched tortoiseshell cat for Gill which I put into a keyring case. It’s teeny really, only about 1″ x 2″. This little pressie is for a cat-obsessed friend who generously gives up her Saturdays to raise money for a cat charity. She has about a dozen of her own who share her and her Mr’s bed! She also talks about them as her ‘babies.’ You get the picture. At least I’ll never be stuck for a theme for presents!
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Have you created any handmade gifts lately?

Blogalicious! #2

I have to share this blog with you, just in case you don’t know about its fabulous-ness!

Cassie is an art teacher in the USA, she is also a stunningly talented sewer with a vintage dress addiction. This is a lady with a great sense of humour, she must surprise and amaze the kids with her outfits on a daily basis. If you think I exaggerate or you don’t believe me take a look at her 1970s Dorky Teacher skirt

Or see the I-See-London-I-See-France dress!

I can’t wait to read her promised future post on her closet space since she admits she never throws away anything, and has clothes she bought and wore in high school!

I think I have a girl crush! :-D

PS: I forgot to mention that Cassie will also introduce you to designers and artists, you will learn lots!

Bit of practice

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Pre-workshop embroidery practice! I saw this Ikea cushion for £7.00, the cover is made of linen and cotton. It’s perfect for trying out stitches. So far I’ve embroidered some back stitches and chains.

It’s very very soothing apart from someone getting irate with tv related questions “What did she see?” “Did he recognise the baddies?” or “Can we rewind so I can watch that bit again? I was going round a corner.”

Rosy bookmark

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I just finished sewing the felt back on this cross stitch bookmark. I thoroughly enjoyed sewing again and so a friend and I have booked a place on an embroidery course. :-)

Yesterday a courier delivered 14 cross stitch magazines (1 with a free fruit and flowers kit still intact) 4 needlework pattern booklets and 2 hard-backed sewing books – a surprise from a friend who is clearing her spare bedrooms ready for decorating. A fantastic surprise gift!

Winner!

I had a delivery at lunchtime and assumed it was a belated birthday present but no – I had won a raffle type competition with Let’s Get Crafting magazine!

When we were away I had an email telling me I had won a blog giveaway. I rarely win anything so the fact that now I have won twice in a fortnight is amazing!

I’m still waiting for my other prize to arrive so I’ll show you my goodies from that another time.

Here’s today’s lovely surprise…

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Crafty treats & birthday presents

>A wander around a new craft superstore20120816-160103.jpg

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20120816-160121.jpg> This is a little different but each to their own! It’s probably more comfortable than being carried in a little handbag…20120816-160134.jpg> A few treats 20120816-160141.jpg> A surprise in the post. But this was a disappointment for the one who collected it from the post office and thought he’d won a fishing reel in a competition! The look was priceless when it turned out to be a subscriber gift from Mollie Makes magazine.  So, I get the magazine for a year of birthday present that keeps on giving, and the Amy Butler fabric! Win, win.

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>Stopping to admire my doorstep20120816-160318.jpg> Greek salad for lunch, not craft or a birthday present but a very tasty meal sitting in the sun listening the Best of David Bowie…..Let’s Dance! We could be Heroes….Little China Girl…..Fashion!….Ashes to Ashes…..20120816-160326.jpg> Trying out one of last week’s birthday pressies – my new slow cooker. I had to use pliers to turn the knob round on my last one and like this red model very much. I’m cooking Malaysian beef and aubergine curry for dinner (smelling good!)

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Sleeping beauty and the kiss of crochet

I’ve started doing some cross stitching for the first time in a very, very  long time and am enjoying it. It’s funny though because I was always a bit down on cross stitching because I thought it relatively skill-less when I was younger. I used to do tapestry and embroidery more in those days. I’m working up to more sewing but have lost confidence through lack of practice and have forgotten lots of techniques. I also need to take a refresher on using a sewing machine since I have forgotten the teeny leetle bit I used to know.

 
 
 
 
I had to drive cross-country to work for about eight years and all the gear changes really aggravated my elbow, and so I actually gave up everything crafty. I just packed my hoops, frames, wools, threads, needles and books away. Then I got into study and stuff which left no time. I feel like sleeping beauty in lots of ways where craft is concerned as I didn’t do any for most of a decade. It seems extreme now, but I really was in pain at the time and used to find that even stirring cooking and cutting out with scissors aggravated it.
 
It’s much better nowadays and learning to crochet, then discovering the world of craft blogs, has awakened a gradual desire to try my hand at different skills again. It’s really exciting!

 
 
 I’d forgotten I had so many threads, fabrics and books tucked away. These books are now on the shelf here in the Little Room with my crochet and knitting ones, it’s becoming a bit of a library. S saw these and exclaimed ‘Una Stubbs?!!’ Well…yes….Una Stubbs. Now playing Mrs Hudson in Sherlock
And there she is going strong playing his landlady, bless her. I originally knew her from Aunt Sally in Worzel Gummidge.  I wonder if she’s still sewing in between filming?
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I’m not sure whether there’s a law of cross stitching (or, x stitching as it’s now known as in the 21st C version of kool crafts) as in all the stitches must universally go in a particular direction, but figure as I’m a leftie the top stitch goes L-R diagonally and as long as all stitches are in the same direction it’s ok. You see; I really have lost my mojo….!
 
 
 
 …Obviously quite  a close-up! The holes aren’t this big I promise…
Back to Crochet
 
On another tack; I was wondering about starting a CAL – a crochet along – here as I’ve owned this superb book for a while now but haven’t used it apart from for referencing stitches and techniques. Would you be interested in making 2-3 squares (or fewer? Is that too many?) with me a week?
 
Obviously you will need to get hold of a copy of the book since I can’t post patterns here as I would be infringing copyright. It seems to be a book that many crochet fans already own, and is very easy to get hold of too. See the book link to the right of this page>>>>
 
I thought I could post links to your blog and photos of the completed squares as we go on a weekly basis, maybe at the beginning of the following week?
 
I’ve run the idea by (clever) Patch who has suggested having a colour theme such as: Sea and Sand, Moonlight and Stars or Autumn Leaves. I love it! I’m drawn to Autumn Leaves since I wanted to make a blanket for my living room which ties in with my favourite rug there. It’s reddy, brownie, yellowy-goldy coours. BUT I can set up a poll for votes and alternative suggestions. I’m all for democracy. Once the theme is decided we would buy our own choice of colours, according to the theme, and type of yarns then compare notes.
 
Would you be interested in doing a CAL with me? I’m enthused by the idea since I haven’t got a social crochet group together yet, and this is a step in the right direction, albeit online. I’ve also never taken part in a CAL before either. pLeAsE sAy YES!
 
It’s holiday season so I reckon the best time to begin would be the first week of September, but that depends on you. It’s a busy going back to school week for many, but then you’ll probably need the meditative power of crochet and the sharing of progress in a social crochet kind of way won’t you?
 
To finish I wanted to show you this beautiful creature. I opened the curtains the other morning and there he was sitting on ‘his’ shed roof enjoying the morning sun. He’s either Ziggy or Spike, I can never remember and can’t ask my neighbour again!

Sunday shopping

Tea, coffee & sugar?

Buttons, threads & ribbons!

One new sewing box?

Three new sewing boxes actually!

Sunny day today hey? ;-p

Well…you can never have too many owls, or too many tins in my opinion…

Download this free really useful guide if you are into making the occasional amigurumi crocheted toy (link to Stacey’s website fresh Stitches in my sidebar.)

Guess what I’m making…?

Made with cotton!

“At last!” I can hear Penny shouting :-)

You can buy the pattern for this cute little owl here. It requires a little bit of brain power to translate the pattern into UK terms. Also the translation is slightly eccentric at times. BUT I’ve made an owl and this is my first attempt, so it can’t be too tricky!

I enjoyed using the cotton to embroider the beak, it will work very well as thick sewing thread too.

Look at my gifts from Hong Kong! (One Chinese, one Japanese…)

Aren’t the gingerbread men gorgeous?!!!!

But oh my goodness; how do I read the charts?

Obviously I start at number 1….?

Then what do the in and out arrows mean?

The stitches are demonstrated in line drawings (very teeny at the back of the book) but with no English translation. However I do enjoy a challenge and am determined to learn how to read these tricky symbols. I actually have a suspicion they might not be as tricky once you get the hang of them either.

One page has a line of scissor motifs joined together in a line – super fiddly but very cute!

And finally, because it’s my blog and I can!

The pile is slowly growing. I’m doing an alternative granny square when I feel like it doing something small. It does seem to mean that I have to play back sections of DVDs again, because I can’t look up at the screen as much as when rippling or granny striping. I miss visual clues as to what’s happening! Life’s hard isn’t it?! ;-p

Those edges :-D

Birdies complete!

Helloo,

Birdies complete! A nice way to spend an icy Saturday afternoon…

I used Nicki Trench’s pattern for the circles (who needs cushions anyway ;-p) Using DK and a size 4mm hook for one circle, then a 3.5mm for the other as I thought it could be tighter.

Beaks, legs and wings were inspired by Lucy  of the Attic 24 blog. See the link at side of my blog if you’d like to see some really amazing crochet and projects she’s done over  several years.

One of the birds is going to fly over to someone who shall remain nameless for now, in case she sees this little blogette.

As a beginner I really do enjoy little projects that are fast, and these were perfect. I really did enjoy putting the finishing touches on and sewing them up. In fact I have a feeling that I need to buy some felt and retrieve an old supply of embroidery threads I’ve had for years; to make something pretty and practise my very rusty sewing.

Anyway, enough waffle – here they are – here’s the reveal….!

A Happy Weekend to you!

Byeeee,

Rachel