Monday, 13 December 2010

Blog giveaway - the sewing calendar 2011

Roll up, roll up! I'm having a Christmas blog giveaway to thank anyone who's still here reading after my part-time blogging stint, and also for any lurkers or newcomers, the more the merrier!

Back in the mists of time (well, last December), I was contacted by Megan Smith to see whether I'd like to contribute two of my tutorials to the Sewing Calendar 2011. Naturally, I jumped at the chance, so you'll find my jewellery roll and napkin set tutorials alongside some beautiful and useful projects by other sewing bloggers. Projects include pintuck cushions by Ellen Luckett Baker from thelongthread, a chick finger puppet by Amy Adams of lucykatecrafts, felt bauble decorations by Laura Howard of lupinhandmade and bugsandfishes, a bag by Autumn Hall of creativelittledaisy, toe separators by Julia Bremble of marmaladekiss and a coffee cup sleeve by Kyoko Nakayoshi of cottonandcloud. All in all there are over 100 sewing projects including home decor items, bags and pouches, aprons and decorative items.


If you'd like to enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post by midnight GMT on Tuesday 21st December telling me what you'll be sewing in 2011. I'll pick a winner from all the entries and post here, so please check back to see if you've won (blogger doesn't always give me people's email addresses to get in touch directly). Once the winner has emailed their address to me I'll get the calendar in the post for lots of sewing inspiration in 2011.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

You can have too much of a good thing

Buoyed by the purchase of the loveliest red hat in accessorize on a day out with my friend a couple of weeks ago, I had the fantastic idea that I would knit a pair of red gloves to match. After all, you can never have enough red, right? Well, as it turns out that would be wrong ...


Hmmm it seems I've knitted an enormous, industrial-looking knitted red rubber glove! Suffice to say I won't be wearing my comedy glove (I will definitely not be knitting the pair) so what shall I do with it? Cast your votes now:


for hands that do dishes?




unblocking the toilet?




murderin'?


hawking? jousting? clearing hazardous waste?
(sorry I lacked the resources to illustrate these)


Watching Wallace and Gromit's The Wrong Trousers with the children this week, it also dawned on me that if I put the glove on my head I'd bear more than a passing resemblance to Feathers McGraw (yes, I know, it's the beak ...).


The glove is soon to be no more as I shall have to repurpose the wool. Now it's back to worrying about my beret making me look like Che Guevara (yes, I know, it's the facial hair ...).

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Back on the blogging wagon

No, not dead, just busy baby-gazing (read constant breastfeeding!) and child-raising. It's been so long I don't quite know where to start. Probably with a long-overdue thank you for all the good wishes and comments on my last post - I'm not sure where the weeks have gone since the baby sister was born.

We had an idyllic Summer of visits to relatives, day trips, picnics, teeth falling out left right and centre (the big sister), conquering a fear of slides (the boy), and first smiles and laughter (the baby sister). Also, let's be honest, a little bit of squabbling (the big sister and the brother) and much vomiting and screaming (the baby sister), but we'll gloss over that.

We did castles (Castell Coch and Conwy), gardens (Bodnant) beaches (Lyme Regis), archery (Old Sarum), crabbing (the quay in Conwy), ancient monuments (Stonehenge) and much more besides, and the children had a whale of a time.

IMGP0408001
photo by my dad, hence higher standard of photography than usual!

Whilst I often bemoan the fact that we live so far from all our relatives, it does give us lots of lovely places to visit come holiday time from Wiltshire to Dorset, South Wales and North Wales.

There was also a 10 year wedding anniversary - obviously I was a child bride, I'm not just an aged old crone. We celebrated with a ready meal from M&S, talk about a glamorous lifestyle! Last weekend we also christened the brother (long overdue) and the baby sister. Cue a bit of stash-busting of my yarn hoard - this baby bonnet and cardigan.

Christening022
another pic courtesy of my dad

Now if only I'd had the foresight to start knitting more than 3 days before the christening I'd probably be able to uncurl my fingers by now.

Life is somewhat hectic around here these days, and I'm not yet sure where I'm going to carve out some serious sewing time, but I'm enjoying all the mother stuff in the meantime. I've contemplated getting one of those mummy calenders of the many columns but I fear that's only one step from being the kind of person who does all her ironing the minute it's brought in from the line, remembers to polish the school shoes and gets all the lunches made the night before, so I've resisted so far - I wouldn't want to wreck my well-earned slummy mummy image!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

It's a girl!

It's been a while since I last blogged, but I have the best excuse; my little girl finally arrived 10 days late last month, with a mop of dark brown hair, weighing in at a respectable 8lb 4 1/2 oz and off the scale at 57cm long. So not the tiny baby predicted, in spite of being referred for growth scans due to my compact bump.

my new baby girl :)

09/06/2010

09/06/2010

044

She is as sweet as can be, has a fondness for being cuddled (and is not so keen on being put down). She has a cry that can be heard for miles around and is a proper drama queen when having her nappy changed. We're being rewarded with some beautiful smiles and cooing, especially the big sister and brother. The boy has been thrown into some confusion now that he is both a big brother and a little brother to his two sisters, and we've had some comical moments when asked 'are your sister's eyes open', for example, he'll often run up to the eldest to check instead of the baby.

There's been not much else going on around here other than feeding, changing and baby gazing. It feels as if we've always been a family of five now - yikes I'm a mother of three! I'm astounded that the older two have got to school and nursery on time every day, with ironed uniforms and brushed hair - I'm sure it can't last.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Oliver + s birthday party dress

Have you popped over to Backstitch yet? It's Alice of Fancy Elastic's new venture, her online shop filled with gorgeous fabrics and patterns. When Alice got in touch to ask me if I'd be willing to do a pattern review, I jumped at the chance, as I've had my eye on some of the lovely Oliver + S patterns for ages (had I not been endowed with a 9-month bump, I would have been sorely tempted by the Colette patterns, but I think I'll wait until my body is back to its normal shape!).

oliver + s birthday party dress - front

I chose the birthday party dress for the big sister, making it in a pretty purple and green polka dot fabric with her choice of buttons from my stash (a self cover button with a teacup motif cut from some Japanese fabric and some green and white polka dot buttons for the back). If you'd like to see the full review, pop over to the Backstitch website. I'd love to make another of these dresses for the baby and have matchy matchy sisters, but as the smallest size is 6months, that at least gives me a bit of time to get thinking about it!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Dereliction of duties

I'm finding it ever so tempting to just hide away now and do nothing until the new baby is born (I'm increasingly thinking that the Victorians had the right idea about confinement). This week I have weathered a full moon, a birthday and a bank holiday, none of which have triggered labour as I so confidently predicted!

My husband, with some amusement, reported to me that the boy had suggested my birthday cake be hidden in the kitchen 'because mummy doesn't often go in there'. Clearly, my children have noticed that mummy is not her usual self - I can't say that I'm feeling a surge of domestic energy at the moment! I did think that it would be nice this weekend to do something with them though, before life gets hectic, so we got out the fabric paints kindly sent to me by dylon a while ago to decorate some t-shirts (my April destashing make).

paints

The t-shirts are some plain organic cotton ones from H&M (thanks, Florence for the tip-off), cheap enough to justify painting on, but nice enough quality to stand up to a bit of washing. I then got the children to come up with a design for their t-shirts, which we finalised after a bit of negotiation out of the more complicated elements! The girl went for a series of freehand hearts, whereas the boy wanted to design a teddyland flag. The designs were drawn onto the reverse, non-shiny side, of some Reynolds freezer paper (from Cottonpatch) then cut out on my cutting mat with a craft knife.

The place where I wished I hadn't scrimped was with the 45p craft knife I bought, which wasn't keen on cutting curves into the freezer paper without leaving a jagged edge, but even so the stencils came out nice and crisply once the shiny side of the freezer paper was fused to the t-shirts with a hot dry iron.

painting

Next on to the fun bit, cracking open the brightly coloured paints. A little bit really does go a long way and the paints really do seem to be superior quality to others I've tried, so worth the money even at £2.99 a pot in my local craft shop, they'll last for ages. The go on smoothly and evenly, then you just have to fix them in place with a hot iron once dry.

painting

I definitely think stencils are the way to go for small people, as I can only imagine the mess we would have got ourselves in with a free-for-all approach! The most satisfying bit is peeling away the freezer paper for the final reveal.

before the final reveal
can you tell what it is yet?


Ta da!

boy t-shirt - teddyland flag
girl t-shirt - hearts

They can't wait to wear their creations. The girl is thinking of adding a necklace of buttons stitched around the neckline of the t-shirt, and maybe some sequins for a bit of razzle dazzle. The boy is planning his next t-shirt, teddy-themed once more, this time with a teddy on bicycle shooting a bow and arrow in space. Might be needing a better craft knife for that one!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Still here

Well, only a couple of weeks to go till d-day (I am not even entertaining the thought of going overdue as I did with my little boy. If needs be, I shall start making a Christmas cake to speed things up!). I'm rattling through my to-do list, attempting to get the house in order and reduced to swigging gaviscon from the bottle. The cat, who has always liked to sit next to people rather than on them, has become my shadow and likes nothing better than to curl up with her head on my bump.

I've been doing some last ditch catching up with friends over the Easter holidays before the small person slows me down. I had a lovely day out in London with Florence, Joanne and Lisa for sewing chat and anthropologie browsing, and even got to see the proofs of Lisa's amazing new bag making bible - I can't wait to get my hands on the real thing, which can be pre-ordered from amazon. And because I always like to share, here's a link to a very cute animated London bus map I found online (due to my anxiety about giving birth on the tube, I decided to remain above ground on this occasion).

Sewing has become strictly recreational for the last week or so and I've just taken delivery of a lovely new stack of fabrics for my latest projects, some for baby makes, some just because (is there a better reason for buying fabric?).

new fabric

I was also lucky enough to win Florence's giveaway of these gorgeous Rosalie Quinlan charm squares, which I am busy hatching up plans for - maybe a very special blanket for the new baby.

Hoping to be back soon, but if I do go quiet, you'll know where I am ...!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Easter holidays

022

As usual I am reaping the rewards of being married to a teacher in school holiday time, with an extra pair of hands at home to help with the children when I feel like a bit of sewing (the perks are few otherwise, though he did let me have a small piece of graph paper the other day so that I could draw a hexagon template!). I finally got started on this babushka bunny kit from areathriftyone that's been sitting in my stash for 6 months or so. I came across the kit when researching a blog post on sewing kits that I wrote for UK handmade a while back and had to buy one for myself. I love the idea of pre-printed fabric kits to cut out and sew and this one is really sweet! She's for the new baby, due within the next few weeks, and is the perfect size for tiny hands.

Not wanting my older two to be left out, I've now got my eye on the girl and boy doll kits from Clothkits. I still have my clothkits doll, made for me by my mother, with a whole array of outfits which I see has now been reprinted (though she doesn't have quite as extensive a wardrobe as the original). I like the idea of having some hassle free sewing kits like this for when I've lost my mind during the first months after having the baby and feel like doing some sewing which is not going to require precision measuring! Maybe I might even work up to one of the lovely robots from WeeWonderfuls, though I'm worried I may be floored by fabric selection left to my own devices (you see I've done this twice before, and remember what a wreck I was for the first few months!).

Other than the sewing, we've been having plenty of Easter holiday fun. I bought a couple of second hand bikes on ebay for my children recently, thinking that now would be an ideal time to learn in preparation for leisurely rides alongside the pram come the Summer. I can't believe how quickly these two were off when we took them up to Burnham Beeches for a first ride - helmets are definitely a must for next time round!

cycle ride

That's me scurrying ahead (well, waddling) so that I could try and take a photo of them riding towards me on my mobile, but they were too fast!

We've lots of plans for the remaining week and a half of holidays, including plenty of crafting for the children. Next project is to be making freezer paper stencils and using fabric paints to design a t-shirt each - I will have to reign in their creativity just a tiny bit as it'll be me who has to precision cut out their complex drawings.

Hope you're enjoying the Easter holidays and Springtime sunshine!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Spring sort-out

New fabric
Springtime stash additions

We're up to our eyes in clutter this week. Trying to have a bit of a sort out as Spring-cleaning season will be somewhat curtailed this year due to the arrival of our newest family member. As a result, our bedroom is full of piles destined for various places - charity shops, handmedowns for friends, outgrown clothes to be bagged and put in the attic, sewing stash in need of a home.

In spite of the general chaos which surrounds me, I have had a fairly productive week. On Friday I sent off a finished pattern and sample for a magazine (which has to remain under wraps until publication, so more on that another time). I'm also fine tuning and perfecting a couple of patterns which I hope to have on sale soon - for a wallet and a bag. I did have a small setback in my pledge to destash before re-stashing in the form of an order from Gone to Earth, but I don't think it counts as I've already cut into the fabric. This must represent a record-breaking turnaround from acquisition to use for me (I normally average about 12 months by the time I've finished admiring my neatly folded, yet-to-be-cut fabric). What's more, my March make-a-month is in the works - a pair of aprons for my two small people in their choice of fabrics.

I'm now daydreaming of pretty matching outfits for my girls for a party we'll be going to in July - a Summer dress for the baby and a tiered skirt for the big sister in some combination of these three fabrics, and perhaps the boy might be persuaded to a tie in the red and pink apples - this free pattern looks perfect. It may seem like madness to be adding all these things to the to-do list when I only have 6 weeks to go before all hell breaks loose in this household, but I'm taking advantage of a burst of Springtime energy - I even cleaned by windows the other day, and goodness knows that's out of character!

Giveaway winner

Thanks for all the entries to the Natural Nursery Knits giveaway. In total, there were 24 comments, one of which wasn't an entry to the draw, so numbering the remaining comments from 1-23, I used a random number to pick a winner, no. 18, which is ClareBears.


Clare, if you'd like to get in touch with your address, I'll pop the book in the post to you.

For those who didn't win, you can find the pattern for the hat as a free download here if you'd like to try one of the patterns from the book. Good luck to all the other expectant mums/aunts/godmothers!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Polka dots and appliques

Last week saw me on a drive to make up some new stock for my etsy shop with the only fabric purchase I've made this year (I'm serious about using up the stash before buying more!). I bought these gorgeous Japanese linen/cotton mix polka dots in this etsy shop (and must add what lovely customer service I received) with this specific project in mind (you see, no more buying just in case!).

work in progress

This was such fun sewing, making tiny applique patches from my hoarded scraps of Japanese kawaii prints and adding pretty polka dot buttons. The result is a shop choc-full of spotty pencil cases and change purses which I listed at the beginning of this week.

pencil cases

coin purses

I always like to have a stack of finished items, no matter how great the pain of cutting out in bulk, it makes me feel as if I've achieved something with my week!

The other thing I've been working on is a custom iphone case request from my brother's girlfriend. These are the fabrics she chose, and here is the finished article.



As I am sadly not an i-phone owner myself, I had to rely on my mathematical skills (haha!) to make sure it would fit. If you're of a mind to make your own, then Florence has just written a lovely pattern, which will save you doing the sums! I am happy to report that the case was a success, and I even made a smaller version for my own not-an-iphone in the process of drafting the pattern.

mobile phone case

Looking forward to a quiet weekend now, and thinking about what to sew next week. Have a lovely weekend!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Natural Nursery Knits by Erika Knight - giveaway!

The nice people at Quadrille kindly sent me some craft books to review recently, one of which was Erika Knight's Natural Nursery Knits (Quadrille publishing ltd, ISBN: 1844007073).

The book features 20 projects for babies including hats and bootees, soaker pants for real nappy users, blankets, toys and my personal favourite, the knitted papoose (pictured below). The emphasis is very much on simple designs with a definite heirloom feel, showcasing the natural yarns suggested.

The book is beautifully photographed by Kristin Perrers, making much of vintage accessories as a backdrop for the finished items, and is very reminiscent of the muted tones and soft focus of a Toast catalogue.

This is not really a book for complete beginners as it's not going to teach you to knit, but with a few basic stitches under your belt, it is easy to recreate these simple designs. I made the bonnet and bootees set for my imminent arrival in the recommended Rowan fine milk cotton (you can see the project details on my ravelry page and photos of the finished items in my last post). As the book suggested, the yarn is beautifully soft and I loved the simplicity of the garter stitch hat with scalloped cast on edge (very simple to achieve provided you can count - I, apparently, cannot, and it took a couple of attempts ripping back each time before I managed it!). The bootees have a sweet shaped sole knitted with a double thickness of yarn and a pretty detail on the toe.

(As a small footnote I did need more than the single ball of yarn stated in the instructions to make the set, using a few yards of a second ball to complete the bootees, though I must confess to not having checked my gauge before setting to work).

I'm giving away my review copy of Natural Nursery Knits, so if you'd like to be in with a chance of winning, just comment on this post by Sunday 28th March, and I'll draw a winner on the following Monday. Please be aware that blogger doesn't always provide me with email addresses for comments, so you may need to check back to see if you've won.

**the winner is ClareBears if you'd like to get in touch with your address**

Monday, 1 March 2010

Baby Makes

Baby dress with fawn applique

Yesterday, in between ferrying a small girl to her first ballet exam (she got honours!) and a celebratory trip to the cinema, I put the finishing touches to my make-a-month for February. Buttonholes were stitched, buttons sewed on, and the floral facings hand-hemmed into place. This pattern is from Ottobre kids design, January 2008 and is full of those pretty little details that always make Ottobre patterns stand out, like the cute fawn applique and piping and facings in pretty floral cottons.

baby dress detail
Dress detail

The Japanese fabric Joanne gave me is perfect for a project like this too, as it's double-sided, so it's nice to get a glimpse of the checked side on the inside of the dress instead of it being hidden behind a lining. I loved the Japanese feel of the original design, so tried to replicate this with the polka dot linen/cotton mix fabric and floral cotton for the details and facings.

I had the tiniest remnant of the fabric left after finishing the dress so I decided to make a pair of baby shoes from Cotton Time magazine (January 2009, no. 82).

matching baby shoes

As I neither speak nor read Japanese, I had to rely on the illustrations of the steps, but as I've always found with Japanese patterns, these were really clear.

Japanese pattern from Cotton Time

The one thing that I couldn't work out just from the pictures was seam allowances - so a quick google of 'Japanese sewing terms translated into English' and I came across this really useful list over at Moving Hands now bookmarked for future use!

All in all, this was a good bit of stash busting - hoarded fabric and buttons - and using of purchased but neglected pattern books! Hoping to carry on the good work in March with some makes for my boy and girl.

There was also a bit of baby knitting this week. Having had to abandon my ravelympic Veyla gloves as the yarn I had chosen was just too fuzzy to show the pretty lace, I cast on instead for a baby hat and bootees (junior category). I was sent some craft books to review by Quadrille, one of which was the beautiful Natural Nursery Knits by Erika Knight. I immediately fell in love with the garter stitch bonnet and matching bootees and cast on hastily a couple of days ahead of the finish line.

baby set

This make involved acquiring stash (Rowan fine milk cotton yarn) but also allowed me to delve into my haberdashery collection for the pretty vintage embossed buttons. I made it to the finish line just in time to collect my ravelympic medal!

I'm planning to review Natural Nursery Knits in my next post and give away my copy, so do pop back if you're interested in winning.

It's as if I've turned a psychological corner in making these little baby things - suddenly I'm calling the baby 'she' instead of 'it'! It's taken a while - I've known since our scan back in December, but somehow making these things has made it a bit more real.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Annual bonus

27/02/2010

Half term seemed to vanish in the blink of an eye this time. There was me saying with some confidence in my last post that I'd have my February make-a-month finished by the end of the week, little knowing that the week would be gone without me once sitting down at my machine. First of all there was the delightful Winter vomiting bug that struck the boy at the beginning of the week and the girl at the very end of the week (that's some incubation period!), then there was the somewhat nicer surprise of a getaway sprung on me by my husband!

I've blogged before about my husband's invention of an annual bonus scheme to reward me for my full-time job parenting our two children. Little did I know that he had had to cancel his plans for 2009's bonus due to my being in the throes of a 16 week, 24/7 bout of morning sickness last Autumn. I was completely in the dark when I received a letter purporting to be from HM Revenue and Customs informing me of an error in taxing my income, all the more so as I've had headaches dealing with such errors in the past.

annual bonus letter

Of course, had I been in any way observant I might have spotted that the letter was signed by Ms Sandy Beach straight away, or noticed that whilst my NI number and date of birth were correct, 'Our ref' was actually the due date of our new arrival, and the codes for the tax deductions were 'mrningsck247' and 'glwngtrimstr3'. I was too busy being irate that I'd been apparently taxed a whole £4500 erroneously!! (but thanks, Mr Angharad for the wholly inaccurate but complimentary 'glwingtrimstr3' - for the record, my 3rd trimester is more grey and drawn than glowing!)

27/02/2010

As it transpired, there was a footnote in the tiniest of small print telling me that I was being whisked away to Brighton for a night, with my mum kindly babysitting our two children (who didn't seem to bat an eyelid that we were disappearing). We stayed in this lovely hotel just inside the lanes and a stone's throw from the sea. My personal highlight was the bathroom where I luxuriated in the lovely deep claw-footed bath, having achieved full bump coverage for once (just not possible in our normal-sized bath at home where the baby sister protrudes from the water like an island!). There was also a walk-in storm headed shower which I could have spent hours in. At this stage in my pregnancy, I'm all about the relaxing rather than 5 course meals, but we did wander out into the Lanes and had a lovely meal with a bellini as an aperitif for me - quite possibly the most luscious thing I have ever tasted, all the more so for the fact that I have been off alcohol for the last 6 months!

Surprises are great, especially when such a lot of thought has been put into them (and I did marry a mathematician, so surprises were never really part of the deal).

So other than the vomiting, it was a lovely half term. This week it's been back to work finishing up some orders, and my February make-a-month is finally done. More of that in my next post as I've rambled on for long enough, but here's a sneak preview of the unfinished dress:

February make a month

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Knitting and such

I'm just limbering up for my rather late start in the WinterRavelympics - that's ravelry's knitterly version of the Winter olympics. I missed the opening ceremony cast-on due to being asleep at 2am, and have lost a few days start, so I'm going for the 'wips dancing' category and resurrecting my long-abandoned veyla fingerless mitts. Christmas gift knitting took over somewhat this year, leaving my own fingers cold, so I'll be glad to finish these at last! The pattern is gorgeous, with a lovely vintagey feel, and I'm very excited by the opportunity to use pretty buttons to finish the project too.

In other knitting-related news, I'm also working on some knitting needle rolls for the shop. These have been on the to-do list for a long while, but put on the back burner due to procrastinating about the ideal number of pockets needed (this kind of indecision so often results in me leaving projects on the back burner indefinitely!). First off the production line is this case for dpns and circular needles in fresh green and blue prints by Anna Maria Horner and Amy Butler.

Needle roll for dpns/circulars
Needle roll for dpns/circulars

Next, I'm planning on making some small project bags for sock knitting, and some larger knitting bags (which will necessitate much chin scratching on the optimum number and variety of internal compartments, no doubt). This year I intend to get on with things rather than just endlessly thinking about the possibilities, which is just as well as my sewing days will be numbered come May.

May's new arrival is going to be the eventual recipient of my make-a-month for February. Friends keep on commenting on the fact that I am still referring to the baby as 'it', in spite of the fact that our scan before Christmas confirmed that 'it' is in fact a girl. I'm wondering whether this is because I haven't yet bought anything for the baby, so I'm thinking that making a pretty baby dress will make things seem a bit more real. I've chosen a pattern from the January 2008 issue of Ottobre Design and I'll be using this Japanese linen cotton mix fabric from Joanne for the body of the dress, and a floral poplin bought around a year ago in John Lewis for the fawn applique and piping.

February make-a-month

Pattern pieces have been traced and cut out, so the most tedious part has already been done leaving me with every intention of finishing this one this week.
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