Wednesday, 25 September 2013

See it, blog it: Wales Coast Path

Severn bridge in the distance
The Severn bridge in the distance

Did you see Rachel's new blogging challenge over at My Life in Knitwear?  It's called See it, Blog it, an invitation to go out and visit somewhere local you've never been before but have always meant to. Well, I was game, as I have a list as long as my arm of places in and around the Wye Valley on the to-see list. So this Sunday, several hours after we had planned to set out, we eventually made our way over to Black Rock for an amble along the Severn estuary.

The route forms part of the Wales Coast Path - I find it truly amazing that you can now walk the whole 870 miles around the coast of this little country.  Black Rock, our destination on the weekend, is just a few miles from the beginning of the path in our home town of Chepstow and is famous for the tradition of lave net fishing, which is still practised and demonstrated here. This spot has always been a crossing point across the estuary, with archaeological finds of coins showing its importance as far back as Roman times

Standing in Black Rock, you have lovely views of the Severn bridge in the distance. It really is awe-inspiring, what a feat of engineering! In spite of the fact that, living as we do in Chepstow, we cross the bridge to England fairly regularly, the children still get genuinely excited at the prospect. What started out as a regular request from my eldest that we put the radio on so that 'the crossing' could be accompanied by music, became, this Summer a firmly entrenched family ritual of queuing up 'Chariots of Fire' on the ipod as our personal family bridge-crossing soundtrack; suitably rousing, I think!

Having walked along the path, through the village of Sudbrook, which grew primarily to house the workers on the Severn tunnel in the nineteenth century, we ended up near the second Severn crossing. You are always conscious of living in a border town in Chepstow, with no fewer than 4 bridges and 1 tunnel in the environs where you cross from one country to another. My mostly half-Welsh, half-English children will never feel too far from either set of roots!

second severn crossing

Still on the to-do list is to travel further upstream to see the Severn bore (the tidal range of the Severn is the second largest in the world). We also have designs on some more chunks of the Wales Coast Path, though progress will be at a three-year old's pace, so I doubt we'll get the full 870 miles covered any time soon.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Sunday Stash - luscious liberty

Liberty tana lawn 

'A few scraps of fabric' is how The Coffee Lady described this package which she so generously sent me around this time last year! Hardly scraps, but bundles of liberty loveliness - how I oohed and aahed as I opened the package. I have to say, Liberty tana lawn is one of my all-time favourite fabrics to work with, especially for sewing clothing - the super-high thread count, the silky sheen, the lovely drape. I feel a sort of sense of responsibility when sewing with tana lawn - no cutting of corners or quick-fix finishes (hence French seams in this top I made for my daughter).

Liberty tana lawn

So what to sew? I've been hoarding these two bundles for far too long, it's time to get those fabric shears out. I'm thinking of patchwork - perhaps some English paper pieced hexagons, always a winner. Or there's lots more food for thought over on the Liberty Craft Blog. Perhaps I'll just procrastinate a little longer.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Giving it my awl

What fun - Sew, Mama, Sew! is holding a  favourite sewing tools link party for National Sewing Month. My favourite tool of the moment (I can be quite fickle, I have a lot of favourites)? A thing for making holes in other things. Ideal for eyelets, bag feet, leather work and lots more.

giving it my awl
piercing the holes for bag feet through the bag base

Fellow-Brits of my vintage will remember fondly Blue Peter teaching us to make holes in the back of paper by pushing a pencil point through with a lump of modelling clay underneath. Then there are those who favour poking the blades of a nice sharp pair of scissors through their chosen material. Well, I can guarantee much better control, and less potential for broken pencils/clay-covered fabric/severed fingers if you actually use an awl to make a hole.

awl and fray check
a dab of fray check to stop the fabric fraying, and you're good to go
(yes, I need a new cutting mat)

Not just for poking holes in things, a nice pointy awl is invaluable for guiding fiddly things under your machine foot without risking your fingers under the needle. Digits tend to be fairly essential in sewing, so it's always a good idea to look after them. If you don't already have one, you really need one.

And did you know that the cockney rhyming slang phrase 'a load of cobblers' (meaning 'a load of rubbish') comes from the humble awl? Neither did I, but I do now.

So what sewing tools do you think are essential? Always keen to know if I'm missing a trick!



Sunday, 15 September 2013

Sunday Stash - button love


It's been a while since I've celebrated my ever-growing stash of haberdashery and fabric. We have a new pop-up shop in  my home-town of Chepstow, Vintage Vision, which describes itself as 'a social enterprise for women, selling and restyling great vintage clothing', with two other shops in Abergavenny and Blaenavon. The shops are full of vintage and retro finds and also offer sewing workshops focused around customising, repurposing and repairing clothes. They will soon be hosting a pop up museum exhibition entitled 'What is fashion?' in partnership with Chepstow Museum.

Of course, given my button mania, I was never going to be able to pass up the opportunity to sift through the prettily-carded vintage buttons on the counter and came away with these beauties to add to my hoard. My button jar overfloweth.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Outdoorsy - Summer 2013

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attempt to capture the Summer in applique form

We've had a fabulous Summer here. First time I've ever known the grass turn brown in Wales, that's for sure. It's been our most outdoorsy Summer yet, beginning with a camping trip to Tenby in the first week of the holidays where we swam in the sea every day, ate fish and chips on the beach and had a generally lovely and laid-back holiday.

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Fresh air? I should say so! No fewer than three individuals sent me a link to this article from the BBC news website about resetting your body clock by camping out. Judging by the fact that after a regular midnight bedtime at home I was struggling to stay awake past 9.30pm every night, I think I really need to curtail my screen time at home in the evenings.

sandcastles in Lyme Regis
sandcastles

2013 has also been the year of the bicycle. Riding without stabilisers finally clicked for the middle child a good two years after first taking them off. He is no longer a loose canon, apt to take out fellow cyclists and pedestrians, but a confident peddler. The secret? A big wide expanse of grass in a huge park where he wasn't frightened of hitting anyone! Now that proper cycle rides as a family are a realistic proposition, I've managed to acquire an ebay bargain bike, having not owned one since my Oxford days where two-wheeled travel was obligatory. And a bike seat for the littlest member of the family was also duly purchased as she's not quite ready for a tagalong bike yet.

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The eldest and I even cycled across the Severn bridge on an impromptu ride in the middle of the holidays - my, that thing moves A LOT! It's nice to say that for our first cycle ride we cycled to another country and back.


And because it's nice to share, here are my top five links for family fun in the great outdoors:
  1. Cycling with kids - lots of advice for getting out on two wheels as a family from Sustrans.
  2. Routes2Ride - my go-to guide for family-friendly cycle routes, supplemented by the print publication Cycling in Wales)
  3. Cool Camping - because it's never too early to start planning next year's camping trip.
  4. 50 things - The National Trust's list of the top 50 things to do before you're 11 3/4 - you can even download a poster checklist.We've ticked off a fair few this Summer!
  5. Wild Swimming - because I want to introduce the children to lake and river swimming next year.
We're resolved to make the most of the end of Summer and the early Autumn months to come - some blackberrying, a visit to see the Autumn display at Westonbirt arboretum, and some walks-with-a-view are definitely on the cards. What are your favourite outdoorsy activities, seasonal or otherwise?



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