Saturday, 30 August 2008

Cake Off!

Well I do like a good swap and I also like cake, so the Cake-Off organised by yumptatious seemed like the ideal package. Cake by post - what a truly inspired concept! I was partnered with Maggz, who sent me a package choc-full of different kinds of cake. Just look at that plateful, which just shows a couple of pieces of each of the four cakes - a ginger and date cake, chocolate brownies, tablet and a fruit cake. Mmmm. Needless to say, my crack team of cake testers, consisting of my husband, my 4 year old daughter and 2 year old son, were happy to take on the task of helping me to eat all the cake! Thanks, Maggz, you are a truly excellent baker!

Above, you an see what I sent Maggz in return - a honey-glazed bara brith, and a syrupy lemon cake loaf. It was quite amusing to be posting a huge parcel, still warm from the oven! If the post office lady was surprised, she said nothing - maybe a lot of people post warm parcels?

I've now resolved to do a bit more baking around here - apart from anything else, I feel it's my duty as an expat Welsh girl bringing up my children in England to make sure that 'bara brith' is part of my children's cultural vocabulary. The recipe I linked to above is a classic one - though I would personally ignore the bit about the Cheddar (maybe it's a North Walian thing - I'm a South Wales valleys girl!). You just slice it as thinly as possible and butter it with salted butter. Yum. My children should definitely grow up eating this!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Pleated plum flower bag dilemma

I love this plum flower fabric - lovely colour combination, and a nice raised weave. I bought it from Kyoko a while back, and as usual I've procrastinated for ages before deciding what to use it for. Have a look at her shop - she has some gorgeous fabrics and handmade bags for sale. (I've also only just realised that Kyoko has another shop for her handknits - look at this gorgeous cabled baby jacket).

I've also had these beautiful carbonised bamboo handles and super-shiny o-rings (and not o'rings as I typed at first!) that I bought from Lisa in my stash for ages, again waiting for the 'right' project as they're too nice to just use willy-nilly.

So finally, after draping and arranging and folding and unfolding for many weeks, I finally got out my scissors and cut into the fabric yesterday to make this pleated-front bag.

pleated front and bright orange flat lining

So the dilemma is whether or not I keep it! I did have this fabric earmarked for a bag for myself, and it's lovely and roomy for stashing lots of mum things inside (my primary requirement in a bag!). My only worry is that I'm too scruffy for it. I'm just going to admire it on the back of my bedroom door for the moment and decide at a later date!

Monday, 25 August 2008

A doll called strawberry

It was my friend's little girl's 4th birthday recently, and I had such fun putting together a birthday gift for her. She has a baby doll called Strawberry, who was in need of some new clothes, so I dug out my booklet of dolly knitting patterns, Sirdar 244, which features some corking retro patterns! Luckily plastic dolls aren't known for their fussiness! Also, it's probably a good thing the recipient is too young to remember Crossroads, as the hat rather puts me in mind of Benny.

I searched high and low round London for some little white buttons with strawberries on them for the cardigan to no avail, but I did find the large red strawberry button for the front of the denim tote at All the Fun of the Fair. I had a whole reel of the waxed ribbon with a strawberry print sitting in my stash to prettify the bag. I also embroidered 'Strawberry' in a running stitch at the behest of my very own 4 year old (she had a lot of other clothing ideas, but sadly these were a little difficult to execute!).

Next up I have a 5 year old boy's birthday to buy for - a superhero fan, by all accounts. I'm a little dubious, however, of my ability to make any batman or spiderman themed goodies that would pass muster, so I think I'll be going to the shops this time!

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Tutankhamun exhibition

Thanks for the comments and suggestions for my boy's pirate jumper. I'm thinking I might try Kyoko's tubular cast off suggestion to get a bit more stretch - she's written a tutorial here which looks really good.

We're still on holiday here, and this week we had a most exciting excursion into London to see the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibition at the O2. I cannot recommend this exhibition enough - it simply blew us all away (maybe with the exception of my 2 year old who was a little young to appreciate it all!). We went as a party of 5 - me, my mum, my husband and the two children.

We were amazed by the quality and quantity of the artefacts on display (no photos allowed, sorry, so I can't share, other than to link to the videos below). My 4 year old daughter has been obsessed with Tutankhamun for some time, since seeing an image on the side of a Sky TV van! She was a prime candidate for a children's audio guide, and just took in all the commentaries on the various items on display, announcing various details with some confidence, much to the amusement of the other adults! We wandered the exhibition for over two hours, with my daughter utterly absorbed, and only the odd complaint from my son, who mainly wanted to talk about Thomas the Tank Engine. For my boy, the highlight was the section which dealt with the archaeologists (or explorers as he called them) and the documentation of their discoveries. We wondered whether it was all going totally over his head until he turned round and pointed to a coffin and announced 'there's dead person in there'!. My girl was more interested in the artefacts themselves and the stories behind them.

The section on Tutankhamun gave an amazing sense of the scale of the tomb. As you entered, a National Geographic animation was playing, showing the arrangement of the multiple shrines, coffins and sarcophogus. I must have stopped to watch this 10 times over as the scale is just breathtaking. You can see the video clip here in the section on King Tut- do go and have a look - it is simply amazing, I really had no idea.

The exhibition was totally overwhelming, and I would really recommend seeing it before it ends on 30th August - it's the first time the artefacts have been brought to Britain since 1972, and who knows when they'll be back.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

All but finished

Well my little pirate now has his very own skull and crossbones jumper. All that remains is to finish the left shoulder seam and neck ribbing. You would think that he would be very happy, after choosing the pattern himself, getting very excited about the motif, and asking me every five minutes 'is it finished, mummy?'. But no, he's decided to be contrary, and keeps on telling me 'I want you to give it to someone else, mummy'.

I'm undaunted though - I think his loathing of the jumper was brought on by me trying to jam it over his head to check how much stretch was in the neckline ribbing (not enough, it transpires, for my boy's head!). Now I'm toying with various solutions - maybe knitting a placket and using a button fastening, or just leaving the ribbed part open to fasten with a couple of press studs. If anyone has any brilliant ideas, please do shout out! I'm really pleased with the jumper, having laid my fear of intarsia to rest, and I'd hate to ruin it at this stage.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Top of my to-do list ...

... or Why I am a Very Bad Mother

I thought it was high time I got myself a new pincushion, as this is the one I've had since childhood, and frankly, it's getting a bit decrepit - the strawberry has long since disappeared. On finding my abandoned pincushion, my little girl was thrilled and asked could she have it for her own sewing box, so naturally I let her have it.

She'd been playing around with it for some time before she piped up 'mummy I can feel a sharp bit'. Oh dear - look at what I found inside - a whole twelve needles!! I was definitely not expecting so many, and the tapestry needle and sewing machine needle came as a big surprise. What a terrible mother I am, to pass on such a lethal item to my 4 year old (my guilt has deepened since I spotted a needlebook full of needles on sale in Liberty on Saturday with a warning saying that it was unsuitable for children under the age of 14!).

So moving to the top of my to-do list for this week is a new needle book - I thought this could be a nice one that my little girl and I could work on together, as she's always keen on making little bits and pieces. A quick search for needlebooks has brought up a wealth of inspiration -

Grandma's Needlebook from Vintage Threads

Felt bird needlebook from Day to Day
Pinkie bird needlebook by misseskwittys
Embroidered needlebook by magicjessnrach
Cottage needlebook by Charm & Whimsy

Not sure what kind of designs we'll attempt yet, but I know my girl will have very definite ideas on how she wants hers to look. I've definitely resolved to stop storing my needles in my pincushion at any rate!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Craft talk and cocktails

Back from a restful week with the in-laws, and what nicer way to spend a Saturday than a London jaunt in the company of Florence, Jo and Lisa. This was a return visit after the lovely day we had back in May. We kept to the same tried and trusted format - wandering the streets in search of the best fabric and haberdashery London has to offer, a good deal of giggling and chatting over a long lunch, finishing up with a round of cocktails and mocktails in the 5th floor bar of Waterstone's Piccadilly (where we even had the pleasure of meeting Mr Teacakes, who braved the possibility of fabric and interfacing talk to join us).

We were relatively restrained in our shopping (though not so restrained in the giggling, as the staff in Cloth House would no doubt bear witness, overheard by Florence watching us all in stitches in the basement on the CCTV!). I came away with a modest haul consisting of an offcut of pinstriping from the Cloth House, and some novelty buttons from All the Fun of the Fair.

The pinstriping is destined to become more moleskine cozies like these, I think, whilst the buttons were bought for a few children's projects I'm planning, hopefully to be completed before I lose sight of the buttons in amongst the various bags and boxes of haberdashery items in our house.

The 5th floor bar was a lovely place to end the day over more chatting, cocktails or mocktails, and doing our best toothy grins as we photographed each other for our blog posts. I had just the one cocktail - an ignorance is bliss, chosen more by luck that judgement from the vast menu.

One was apparently enough for me though as, much to my husband's amusement, I woke with an achingly sore head this morning (most likely the cocktail rather than the giggling, I think!).

Thanks again, ladies, for a great day!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Catching up

Well, back from holidays and starting to catch up with everything. I've just worked my way through my bloglist in google reader today - well over 200 posts to read! Thanks to everyone who's popped in and commented on my blog while I've been away. Also, thanks to Méri, who nominated me for the 'brillante weblog' award. Do pop over to have a look at her blog - I really like these embroidered bags she's been working on recently.

The rules state that I should pass the award on to 7 inspiring blogs, though I notice from all my catch up reading that a lot of the blogs I read seem to have done this one already. So I'll just point you in the direction of the blog list in my sidebar - all fantastic and inspiring crafty blogs! (on my to-do list for the Summer is updating this list to add in some other great blogs I've started reading lately).

I've been keeping myself busy, in spite of a lack of internet access during our holiday. Lots of knitting (the sewing machine was never going to fit in the car!) to while away the evenings in the caravan. I thought I'd give some socks a go - the pattern (International Sock of Doom) chosen to use up some RYC cashsoft DK I had in my stash.

I've only ever knitted socks on tiny needles before, so it was such a pleasure to race through these on 3.75 mm dpns! These will be a Christmas gift for one of the male members of my family (as yet undecided), in fact, I may make more for all the male members of my family. Would that be strange? The rib pattern is nice and easy to do, and I liked the fact that it alternated between two different rows to stop the monotony of plain rib.

I also got to work on this beret. After the disaster of my giant Gretel, which I still haven't summoned up the energy to rip back and alter, I saw this hat on Florence's blog a while ago and added it to my ravelry queue. This is also worked in RYC cashsoft, 4ply this time. It's knitted on two needles, rather than in the round, and is a nice slouchy (though not too slouchy!) shape. I omitted the bobble from the top on the grounds that I didn't think I could carry it off!

In spite of the best efforts of the nice lady from John Lewis, my Debbie Bliss cotton didn't get here before I left, though I did come back to find it waiting for me, along with the 2 balls originally ordered from another online supplier. So straight back to work today, and I've completed the intarsia panel on the front of my boy's jumper, after wrangling with several bobbins and balls of yarn.

Can you tell what it is yet?

I'm saving the rest of this one for when we visit my in-laws next week - though being a natural speed-merchant, I am finding it hard to put it aside now it's almost finished!

Summer holidays

We're just back from a lovely week in Tenby (on the Pembrokeshire coastline in South Wales). Proof positive that it doesn't always rain in Wales...

...and even when it does, Welsh rain is of course superior

small boy in yellow mac to indicate scale

Top of the list of priorities was visiting some castles for my girl, Manorbier (above) and Carew (below), where there were lots of themed activities for the children, as well as a sword fight in full armour

painting shields - we had to convert our sterling into groats to pay for the activities.
shield painting was a bargain at 1 groat (50p!)

Lots of lovely days on the beach

and evenings on the beach

this particular boy slept for 2 hours, missing the whole beach experience, then woke up as we put him back in the car to say 'I don't want to go to the beach'!

A boat trip to Caldey Island

on a boat flying a Jolly Roger

All in all a lovely holiday!
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