Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Happy Christmas!


I've completely lost track of the last few weeks - there was a boy's birthday, swine flu, Christmas shows from the small people, and then the snow. There's been baking - a Christmas cake marzipanned last night, a chocolate banana cake for the boy's 4th birthday (requested, but not eaten - this boy does not do cake, but the rest of us loved it!).

The presents are all but wrapped, children are excited, and I'm looking forward to listening to Driving Home for Christmas in the car (I make no apology for the cheesiness - I balance it out with The Darkness's Christmas Time; got to love a singing robot).

Hope you all have a lovely Christmas! I'm taking a break for a bit, but promise to be a better blogger and blog-visitor in the new year!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

We Make Craft fair

our stall

Well we're back, we survived, we sold some handmade things, and best of all I got to spend the whole day in the company of Joanne and Florence, chatting, giggling and eating cake (though standing well back from the handmade goods!). It was so lovely to see everyone who popped in on the day, like Lisa and Al, Mary and her little girl, my sister, so many etsy friends and the Reading outcasts. We also got to meet the lovely Mr Joleo and, more importantly (sorry Mr Joleo), baby Fitz, who beamed at everyone and made a number of new friends!

My husband also came along in the guise of fetcher, carrier, and official photographer. I was so amused to flick through all the photos on my camera when I got home to see the flavour of the day from Mr Angharad's point of view. Here we are presenting our 'public face' to the world behind our stall:

our public face

I have to admit that my 'public face' does border on the lunatic, but I was high on lavender fumes. I did manage to keep the lunacy mostly under wraps, I hope, not counting bursting into tears on a very overcrowded tube on the way home, but I can blame the pregnancy hormones and post craft-fair exhaustion for that.

And this is the one that really made me laugh - the 'before' shot, a few minutes before opening, which I think really captures how all three of us had been feeling in the run up to the fair - more than a little harassed!

before opening time

It turns out our worries were unfounded - we had made more than enough between us to cover 2 stalls, fitting it all in was the main problem!

Here are some of the things I made for the fair -

There were stacks of lavender sachets

lavender sachet stacks

tissue holders

tissue holders

pencil cases

pencil cases

make up bags

Make up bags r us!

and coin purses

coin purses in Japanese prints

Back home, I'm busy updating the shop with the things that came home with me and it's nice to see it filling up after being so badly neglected for the last couple of months. And talking of neglected, I'm also trying to give my children a bit more of my time now that I'm not permanently attached to my sewing machine. This week, we'll be mostly being Christmassy, with plenty of make and do, and having a lot of fun in the process.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

We Making

Thanks so much for all the lovely comments and good wishes on my last post. I'm almost behaving like a normal person now that the morning sickness has passed and am back to sewing, fuelled by double deckers and monster munch. I do seem to be suffering from a touch of pregnancy brain though - this week's highlight was dropping my mobile phone down the toilet, I know not how, so I am now without phone or any means of telling the time while out and about. That's really going to help with making me more organised ...

The We Make Christmas fair is now looming large, taking place in Chelsea Town Hall next Saturday, 5th December. Please do pop in and say hello if you're in the area. I'll be sharing a stall with Florence and Joanne in the ante room, in proximity to the Cadogan suite, where there'll be tea and cake, which I must say is an added bonus.

I've been trying to work production-line style and make batches of different things for the stall. Last week was pencil case and coin purse week. Although I have to say cutting out hundreds of rectangles of interfacing, fabric and linings was rather tedious, it was good to get it all done in one go and immensely satisfying to end up with a stack of finished items.

Purses and pencil cases for We Make

This week it's make up bags, and I have a pile of fabric pieces and zips awaiting my attention tomorrow. I've been slightly distracted today by the need to whip up a last-minute king costume for my daughter's nativity play next week. It's all finished now, and my girl is delighted with it, in spite of it being a little hastily thrown together! I'm so looking forward to being a proud mum and watching her singing on stage next week.

Friday, 20 November 2009

plus one

From late Summer sunshine to the edge of Winter without a blog post. Not like me to be so quiet! I have had good reason, though:

expecting baby no. 3!!

I am expecting baby no. 3, due at the beginning of May next year. I couldn't be more excited, but have had to take a bit of a blog break due to chronic morning sickness for the past couple of months. I'll spare you the details!

My boy and girl are beside themselves with the anticipation of having a new little brother or sister. The girl wants a girl called Lily or Milly and the boy wants a boy called Frank or Toto! I'm looking forward to doing a bit of small-scale sewing, naturally.

In the meantime, I have a lot of catching up to do. Hundreds of unread blog posts, reopening the shop and sorting out some new stock, plus the small matter of preparing for the wemake craft fair on 5th December. To say I am behind is something of an understatement!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Late Summer sunshine food

We're enjoying a last blast of sunshine here with Autumn fast approaching. Last week we harvested the first of the vegetables we've been growing in our small raised bed, a good crop of beetroot and some lovely sweet carrots.

harvesting our first veg

The carrots were served Peter Rabbit-style, just pulled from the earth, rinsed and eaten with the green leaves still attached. The beetroot was made into a delicious beetroot relish with capers and balsamic vinegar and eaten with salad and cold meats.

making red pesto

Today I picked great handfuls of the basil flourishing in pots on the decking and made some homemade red pesto. It was so simple to make, but 100 times nicer than the shop bought jars. My 'recipe' involved throwing a few handfuls of basil, half a clove of garlic and 50g or so of toasted pinenuts into a mini blender with 7 or 8 sundried tomatoes and whizzing them for a bit, then I added parmesan, salt and pepper to taste and some extra virgin olive oil till it looked like it had the right consistency. I served it with my new favourite De Cecco Mafaldine pasta and some extra pinenuts and basil leaves strewn over the top and it was demolished by adults and small people alike.

homemade pesto

I've also been spending some time lounging in the garden watching the plum tomatoes ripen, mostly drinking this, my attempt to recreate the amazingly refreshing citrus fizz I had at Wahaca with my friend Sarah last weekend:

Officially the most thirst-quenching drink ever

I bashed up some mint leaves in a glass with a couple of lime quarters, added lots of ice and topped up with sparkling mineral water. It doesn't quite measure up to the Wahaca version, but it'll do until I go back.

Much as I'm enjoying the end of the Summer, I'm looking forward to Autumn, definitely my favourite season of all. The pumpkins are showing great promise.

Giant pumpkin

Pumpkin soup and apple crumbles are just around the corner!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Back to school

What a slack blogger I've been this Summer! We spent the last week of the school holidays in Devon with my family - a party of 8 adults, 2 children and 1 dog staying in a vast 16th century manor house. In spite of the rain, we managed beach days, barbecues, croquet and garden chess. It was also nice to just relax in our lovely holiday home and read, bash out hymns and suchlike on the piano (I play like Les Dawson, only without the humorous intent), and cook lovely meals in the Aga (I'm now a convert, and sad that I can't shoehorn one into my galley kitchen). There was also one very entertaining morning spent doing some whole family face painting.

Now it's back to school for the other three members of the family, and back to housekeeping (haha!) and sewing for me. I have a major catchupathon due on everyone's blogging over the Summer - my google reader is showing a scarily high number of unread posts!

Friday, 21 August 2009

holiday snaps

Portscatho august 09

Back from a relaxing week in Cornwall, staying in the pretty village of Portscatho. We couldn't have wished for nicer weather. It was lovely to be able to walk to the beach and enjoy daily (sometimes twice daily) swims - why is it that I live so far from the sea?

Portscatho august 09

The children enjoyed paddling, playing with their cousin and building sand cities (we've graduated from the plain old sandcastles of last year).

In view of the fact that my sewing machine isn't that portable, and that I'm incapable of sitting doing nothing, I took my knitting with me and managed to finish my icarus shawl in the iridescent 2ply silk yarn I bought from Skein Queen. I'm not altogether sure that I'm a shawly kind of person, but it really is very pretty.

finished icarus shawl (crafting 365/3-16)

Last week of the holidays now, and as ever it seems to have gone really quickly. I barely seem to have ticked anything off my to-do list, but never mind, it's been nice to be bone idle after a busy term!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Dress surgery

Thanks for all the comments on my last post. Revisiting the Metropolitan Good Times dress today, as I'm cross with myself for my mistake in the sizing. I looked at the hot patterns site which suggests that the sizings equate to ready to wear, so whilst I made up the size closest to my measurements, if I was making the size I'd normally buy it would have been a full 2 sizes smaller! I'm loathe to give up on it, as I really like the styling, and a quick search on the internet shows how this pattern should look when made by a competent dressmaker - not at all like my own boxy effort.

This afternoon I set to work with the scissors and sewing machine and took a couple of inches off the sides, removed the single cap sleeve, stitched a belt and set to work with some pins on the yoke.


the one-sleeved sack


salvage attempt on overlarge dress

Already 100 times better. The problem with the boxy yoke and sleeves is probably down to the fact that the knit I chose is quite thick, so it's never going to drape nicely as a double thickness. Still undecided about whether to try and draft a sleeve pattern myself (a bit scary!) or maybe trim the yoke to how it's pinned in the second pic and bind it. Getting there slowly. I'm hopeful of having a wearable dress at the end of it.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Good sewing, bad sewing

Yesterday was very much a day of two halves. I decided to hack up the nice drapey knit I had bought for my Hot Patterns Metropolitan Good Times dress, expecting to have a lovely finished wardrobe staple at the end of my sewing session.

how the dress is meant to look

I've done a bit of dressmaking in my time, but have to say I found the instructions a bit sketchy, assuming a bit more competence and experience than I have! I ended up making a tiny version of the yoke as I just couldn't see how it was possible to do it the way the pattern seemed to show. I also had to resort to my trusty Dorling Kindersley sewing bible to clarify some of the steps (like understitching the yoke facing and inserting in-seam pockets) which weren't described in the pattern. In spite of this, though, the dress was relatively straightforward to put together as there's not much shaping, and not too many pattern pieces. Therein lies the problem though, as far as I can see.

the one-sleeved sack
pose adopted for the sake of comparison with the pattern envelope
I cut my head off to avoid further comparisons!

I tried it on after attaching one of the cap sleeves and found it was a bit boxy to say the least! I seem to have American footballer shoulders, and a lot of spare fabric around the middle - space to hide a multitude of sins (or a multitude of tins if I ever decide to embark on a career in shoplifting).

I know it's not hemmed, only has one sleeve, and I haven't made the belt yet, but this one is being put to one side for the moment until my mum comes up. I'm hoping she'll be able to help me with some radical dress surgery. I'm thinking that I definitely need to take a bit of the very square yoke at the shoulders, and probably either go sleevless or draw up a different sleeve. And no, I didn't make a muslin, so I only have myself to blame!

So needing to lay the ghost of horrible sewing and wasted time to rest, I thought I'd play around and make a rag doll just for fun, recycling the stuffing from an old failed attempt at a soft toy that had been malingering in the scrap heap. My boy came in whilst I was doing it and asked for it to be a boy doll for him, so I happily obliged.

Tom the boy doll

Meet Tom - likes messing around on the computer, running around in the nude, and cutting his own hair with the kitchen scissors, apparently.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Family day out

day out in Bristol

This week the four of us took a train to Bristol for a family day out, meeting with my mum and my brother and his girlfriend to go to the Banksy exhibition in the City Museum. We thought the children would be receptive as they're not averse to creating their own art installations in the living room with whatever materials come to hand (though thankfully we've never had the graffiti on walls problem to date!).

working on the art installation

artists don't always have time to brush their hair, or even change out of their pyjamas when inspiration stikes

We'd chosen the rainiest day of the week for our visit, though a handily located ice cream van provided a good distraction as we queued for an hour and a half in the downpour to get our hands stamped in order to join the next queue to actually get in.

day out in Bristol

stamping a 3 year old's hand provides ample entertainment for 20 mins of queuing

There was something for everyone inside. The boy's favourite was this one:

banksy exhibition

His reading of it: 'some naughty boys are fiddling with Thomas's controls'.

The girl was very taken with this:

banksy exhibition

She was also fascinated by the baby chicken nuggets pecking at some ketchup.

I'm glad we took the children to the exhibition as it was a great day out, and gave us lots to talk about. And last night my girl told me that when she's finding it hard to get off to sleep she likes to just 'think of something nice like Banksy', so it obviously went down well!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

the quilting bug

I think quilting is going to be my new obsession this Summer. Yesterday I set to work piecing the backing fabric for the coin quilt sew along I started thinking about back in March.

coin quilt backing

I made a very mini stacked coin square from the last remnants of the scraps I used for the quilt, along with a few blocks of freshcut and a solid pink, all against a lovely sea of white. Then it was downstairs to tape it to the living room floor (just enough space between our 2 sofas) and make and pin my quilt sandwich while stopping the small boy from running across it periodically!

The quilting was much more swearword-inducing this time around. I don't know whether it was the different batting or just me, but it was a b****r! I kept on finding it was tending to bunch at the back whilst I was merrily free-motioning along on the top.

free motion quilting

I'm thinking that it might be due to the fact the hobbs heirloom has more loft than the warm and natural I used for the boy's quilt. It also seemed to stick the sandwich together less effectively, so that there was a lot more movement, in spite of copious pinning. Oh well, I got there in the end, and the loftiness will probably be really lovely when it's been washed. It's certainly a lot more 'pouffy' than the boy quilt already.

free motion quilting

Next step is to bind it in the pink freshcut I finally decided on. Strips are cut and waiting to be stitched up and pressed. I think the binding is my favourite bit of the whole project, not just because it means the quilt is nearly finished, but also because the handstitching feels like a real labour of love.

binding strips

I'm not finished with the quilting yet. Next is a doll quilt, the aqua and red coins pieced on a whim yesterday evening after seeing some amazing work in this flickr group.

another coin quilt begun

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


in time for bed tonight!

boy quilt trial run

finished boy quilt

finished boy quilt

Thanks for the lovely comments on my last post!

Operation handmade home


The boy's quilt is nearly finished, and operation handmade home has been born. As I was quilting this week and the quilt was starting to look a bit more finished, I realised that I want to get a lot more handmade into my own home - and by that I don't mean all the shop items that are stashed in various boxes, drawers and cupboards, but rather making more things for my own family. I'm hideously pleased with myself over this little boy quilt and it's just made me want to make more. I think I may have caught the quilting bug (altogether preferable to swine flu).


I went for free motion quilting on this one. I'd hesitate to call it stippling, as I don't know whether or not it qualifies! I really like the all-over randomly quilted look though rather than the straight lines I've tended to use before. I made 1 practice quilt sandwich, didn't become very expert, but decided to launch into the full quilt all the same as I am impatient.

The trick seems to be going really quite fast on the foot pedal, but moving the quilt around slowly and deliberately. I set my stitch size to '0', put on a darning/embroidery foot, lowered the feed dogs and had to up my top thread tension a bit. Then it was away! I do have a quilting extension table that came free with my machine, but I found that really inhibited the manoeuvreability of the quilt with my hands laid flat on top (I didn't buy quilting gloves). Having the quilt draped over the edge of the smaller sewing area without the extension table seemed to give me much more control and grip on the fabric. I did have some quilters roll clips, which were good as I got to the very left edge of the quilt with so much bulk on the right under the machine arm.

the quilt, before bindingAlign Centre
The happy boy has been toting his quilt around the house (after a brief moment of insisting he has asked for a quilt that was blue all over with numbers on it) in its unfinished state. I'm just in the process of handsewing on the binding, then I'll machine wash it and see what happens. Hoping it won't disintegrate!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Friday evening

End of the week and end of the Summer term for us here. I can't believe how quickly the children are growing up - it'll be year 1 for the girl and nursery for the boy in September. Really shocking - where did that year go? Tomorrow is the first day of the Summer holidays, and with a teacher husband, that means lots of skiving off and sewing time for me.

I went to Ikea last Sunday with my crafty partner in crime (also shopping for a sewing table!) and have now set up my little sewing corner courtesy of Vika and Bertil, my two new friends. I also have designs on Billy the bookcase (just out of shot to the side of the sewing table) who would look perfect stacked with fabrics with a new glass door fitted to the front, but that will have to wait for a future trip. I did take a picture of the room in all its glory, but ducked out of posting it as it revealed too much clutter (as well as a glass of white wine on the ironing board :D), but here's a view of the new table:

my new workspace

I want to give that corkboard a makeover with some paper or fabric, then find some wooden spool racks to hang up, but it's a start.

I've already found that a dedicated work area leads to greater efficiency - it's great to have everything set up and ready to go so that I can take advantage of those spare 5 minutes in the day to sew the odd seam. This batch of bags that had been lurking half-sewn have now been finished and added to the shop.

A batch of new bags

I also made some tote bags as teacher gifts for my daughter to take into school.

teacher totes

We did have a small debacle when she declared that she wanted to take wine and chocolates instead, but we reached a compromise with the bags taken in and a box of chocolates for the staff to share.

The house is strangely quiet this evening apart from the snores of the small boy in the room next door, so I suspect the husband may be catching 40 winks at the end of a busy term (oh and maybe the fact it was his work night out last night might have something to do with it). Looks like I'm on dinner duty, so I'm off to investigate the contents of the fridge.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Busy week

Just about to kick back with a glass of wine and a film at the end of a busy week. When I'm tired, I tend to just ramble on incoherently, which doesn't bode too well for this post, so I'm aiming for lots of pictures and not too many words!

We're approaching the end of term here, with all the sports days, visits to new schools and events that entails. I'm still holding on to the possibly unrealistic idea that I will be making all the teacher gifts this year - that will happen tomorrow, or not at all. It doesn't help that I'm procrastinating over whether to make tote bags, make up bags or lavender bags, never mind the choice of fabrics.

Bag week never quite happened, so I still have a pile of bag innards, zips and handles sitting half-finished. I've made some progress on the quilts though. Having finally located a bright white cotton to match the one I'd started with (amazing how many shades of 'white' there are!), I added the last pieces of sashing to the coin quilt. I also finished piecing the boy's quilt top.

Batting has been purchased - I have both warm and natural and hobbs heirloom, so I'll be interested to see how they compare.

I've also been making birthday gifts of the last minute and belated variety. A little tote bag for a little girl aged 2 in two prints from Tanya Whelan's Darla collection, and a pear pincushion in freshcut and Amy Butler greens (from the fantastic tutorial at UK lass in US).

There was also a custom order for a notebook laptop case, now on its way to its new owner.

Tomorrow holds in store a trip to ikea - I've finally made the decision to set up a little sewing area in the bedroom. Hoping this will lead to greater productivity and a tidier living area as my sewing machine moves upstairs, though probably it will just lead to a messier bedroom.
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