Thursday, 27 December 2007

Happy Christmas!

Christmas cake, with decoration by my 4 year old!

We've had a lovely few days, with lots of crafting gifts given and received (... well, my daughter (4) and I received crafting gifts anyway. My 2 year old boy and my husband are not so interested in sewing, though my son has been trying to grab my little girl's sewing machine at every opportunity!).

my much-loved Christmas china by spode

I'm taking a break now until the new year, but will be back with some more photos in my next post.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

It's been another long gap between posts as things just seem to keep on getting in the way! A poorly little boy again; it was his second birthday yesterday and he didn't even manage to eat the cake, poor thing. That said, he did wear the firefighter's helmet and tabbard he had as a gift all day. My little poorly firefighter looked so sweet with his rosy cheeks! His big sister gladly helped with the present unwrapping, thus saving the day!

Last weekend was fun, in spite of the lack of sleep, as I went to a big meet up of UK etsy folks in London. There were 14 of us in total and we had a lovely day chatting over coffee and freezing to the core eating a pub lunch outdoors on the South Bank.

I've also had other etsy-related excitement in the form of no less than two secret swap packages arriving. The first was two sets of earrings and a pendant from Honeybeedz, in the Autumn secret swap, which are just lovely:

I also got a package from magpienest in the Christmas secret swap. Some delicate silver stud earrings and a card holder made from gorgeous Japanese papers.

Both packages were so beautifully presented too; I am a very happy etsyer!

There's been quite a bit of crafting here too - lots of projects which were almost finished have now been completed, including this baby cardie for my friend's 3 month old:

I'm seeing her tonight for a rare night out, which will be nice! Fingers crossed for an unbroken night's sleep tonight or I'll be like a zombie tomorrow :)

Monday, 10 December 2007

Christmas is coming!

I can't believe it's the 10th of December already! That means my little boy will be two in a week! It also means that I need to get my act together with the Christmas shopping!

Here's my children's advent calendar - so pretty. I'm still staying away from chocolate calendars and going for the old fashioned kind out of principle!

Had a lovely day out yesterday in Bath with my sister and mother. Such a lovely place to do Christmas shopping. It's been a little tradition we've had now for a few years to meet up in Bath just before Christmas and have lunch in the Pump room, which is part of the old Roman baths building. We had a brunch of eggs benedict and english breakfast tea and enjoyed watching lots of tourists tasting the truly awful spring water, much to our amusement! I've been on countless trips to Bath with my family and with the school on Latin class excursions over the years, and it really is one of my favourite places.

I have been doing lots of sewing too, but nothing I can show here as it's for two secret swaps! One for the Holiday Traditions exchange and the other for a UK etsy sellers swap.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Ode to my walking foot

When I first got my sewing machine (best gift ever from my lovely husband for my 30th birthday), I must confess I had NO idea what a walking foot was. My machine came with one bundled in though, as it was marketed as a quilting machine.

What a great idea - a foot that lifts up and down as you sew so that multiple layers don't pull apart as you're sewing. I really wish I had discovered the walking foot when I sewed my first ever quilt for my daughter. I hand-pieced the whole thing painstakingly, but then, having no real idea how to machine-quilt, cowboyed* the layers together, resulting in a less than perfect finish. I like to call it shabby-chic! I'll insert a picture here tomorrow, but as my daughter is currently asleep under said quilt, it'll have to wait for tonight!

don't look too closely - cowboying alert!

I discovered yet another use for my walking foot today - sewing oilcloth! I'd had the pieces for a new bag cut out for about a week, but having done a bit of research on how to sew oilcloth here (my cowboying days are over), I realised that I didn't have the appropriate needles. So, finally armed with a size 16 needle, I thought I'd give my walking foot a try. Yay for the walking foot - it let me stitch the oilcloth with no problems at all when I thought I'd be really tearing my hair out!

The alternative method, for those without a walking foot, is the tissue paper method. There's a fantastic tutorial here.

And just to prove I haven't been bone-idle all week, in spite of the lack of blog posts, here are some of the things I've been making:

* cowboy vt - to attack a sewing/knitting project with undue haste and with inadequate preparation with little thought for anything other than finishing the project in the minimum amount of time (results are variable).

Monday, 26 November 2007

Back in the land of the living

The last week seems to have gone by without me even realising - blinked and missed it in a haze of sleepless nights! Luckily everyone is now well, so normal service has been resumed. After school today, my daughter and I had a little baking session - very aptly made 'easy peasy cupcakes' from this book, which she had for her birthday last year and has been well-used, and an apple and plum crumble (yet to be tasted as I'm holding out for the children to actually eat more than a mouthful of their tea first!).I think I'll be finding hundreds and thousands on the kitchen floor for weeks to come!

I've been back to handsewing felt Christmas decorations for the past few nights. It's really exciting to see some of them in the UK Street Team's Etsy shop in promotional Christmas themed packs. The whole thing was organised by Pouch and c-urchin, two UK Etsy Sellers (blogged by Pouch here) . I really hope they sell well - I'm tempted myself having seen some of the lovely goodies made by other sellers.

More sewing tonight - my first foray into working with oilcloth. I'm wondering whether my walking foot might work as I don't have a teflon foot for my machine. Otherwise, I'll just have to sacrifice some of the tissue paper in my wrapping stash. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Sleepless nights

It seems I was just tempting fate by saying that I hoped we'd have a nice illness-free weekend in my last post. Right on the back of my little boy's funny tummy he's had a nasty dose of croup. I was so glad my mother was staying with us as it was one of those occasions where I was pretty sure it sounded like croup (lots of wheezing and a sort of animal bark), but just wanted a back up diagnosis.

Three sleepless nights later and he's still not himself and has lost lots of his baby plumpness from hardly eating for a week. We're trying to steam up his room to ease the cough at night (hoping this might have the added bonus of stripping the horrible textured wallpaper off!) but other than that there's not much we can do. Here's hoping he's better soon.

Meantime, I've been having a crafting lull, just pottering away at a bit of knitting. I've been knitting a pair of long fingerless gloves for my sister for Christmas from Louisa Harding's Hats, Gloves, Scarves. I really like this book, on loan from the library and renewed several times already. The projects are all really straightforward, but are all very wearable. I did notice though that the reviewers on amazon are a bit divided on the book.

The gloves are knitted in RYC Cashsoft DK (not Cashmino as the book states - not sure whether this has been renamed or if it's an error) and Rowan Kidsilk Haze. Both are beautifully soft; it's the first time I've used Kidsilk Haze and I definitely want to buy more now to make a lacy scarf a bit like this one.

Here's one finished glove, complete with the velvet ribbon tie suggested in the pattern, which adds a really pretty touch. The other just needs to be sewn up and to have the ribbon threaded through.

I really like the style of these long gloves. Now that I've got my head round the shaping involved (this is the first pair of gloves I've knitted since I was about 12 years old!) I feel inspired to tackle another pair but to make up the pattern myself - I thought I'd make a pair of fingerless wristwarmers for my sister as she was saying she liked these the other day.

Friday, 16 November 2007

at home

Had a couple of days at home at the end of this week - my daughter's been off school with a nasty cough and my son has had a tummy upset. Poor things haven't been themselves at all, so we haven't ventured far. Hoping they'll wake up tomorrow feeling a lot better so that we can have a nice weekend and get out and about.

Much excitement yesterday as I received an email from my Holiday Traditions swap partner, Sherry. We've exchanged a couple of emails and now I'm starting to think about what to send. I love Christmas, so this swap is going to be really good fun!

Despite being nurse to two sickly children, I've managed to get a bit of sewing done - three little coin purses and a wristlet for my shop. I'd planned to sew all four on Weds eve after the children went to bed, but my luck ran out after finishing the wristlet as one thing after another went wrong. I finally gave up after a long session with the seam ripper. I did have a brief 'elves and the shoemaker' moment as I laid out the pile of fabric pieces I'd cut out before going to bed. No little helpers turned up though!

This morning things were going a lot more smoothly, so I've got something to show for my time in front of the machine.

We had a lovely bit of mother and daughter time when my little boy was asleep. I made the purses, and my little girl made this:

she has big ideas for trims to add to it!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007


Had a really good start to the day - I was already pleased enough that 2 of my items were in etsy treasuries at the moment, but then I find that Charlotte's treasury has made the front page, which means my bag spent part of the morning on the front page. Yay!

So thanks very much, Charlotte, for putting me in your treasury :D I have been smiling all day!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Teal velveteen take 2

This is the other bag I was working on over the weekend. The teal velveteen is my favourite fabric in my stash at the moment - so soft and sumptuous. I'm thinking it would make a lovely cushion for my living room ...

This second bag is one of my own patterns again. Each time I've made this one up, I've experimented with the interfacing and structure of it. This is partly due to the fact that the fabrics I have used have been so different - a herringbone wool tweed, quilter's cotton and, this time, the velveteen.

I used boning for the first time on this bag - a quick read through of this tutorial, and confidence boosted by reading others saying it's not so difficult. I put the boning just in the top of the bag - one piece on either side with a gap where the strap is attached. It does give just the right amount of support for the bag opening, along with the craft weight interfacing and plastic canvas base. The only thing was that it was a nightmare getting the bag through the machine when I was doing the final topstitching around the bag top. Really difficult not to pinch in the fabric when I reached the sides with no boning in them. Still, I managed, didn't break any needles! I'm really happy with the end result.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Weekend sewing and knitting

I finished the slouchy bag last night. I'm really happy with how it turned out.

The teal velveteen that I used for the exterior is lovely - really sumptuous and the lining fabrics set it off really well. I really love teal and brown together at the moment.

One note of caution is that the velveteen marks really easily on the feed dogs of the sewing machine, so I found it better to work things so that I was sewing with the fabric facing up under the machine foot instead.

The interior features a divided patch pocket, with room for mobile, purse, and a pen and on the other side a small zipped compartment

It's going to be in my shop tomorrow (Monday).

All in all, it's been quite a productive weekend. In between trips to the supermarket, jigsaws, duplo and Sunday roasts, I've managed to pack in quite a bit of crafting - one pair of fingerless gloves begun, progress on a baby cardie, two bags completed (the slouchy bag fabric was so nice I made a shoulder bag too) and another clutch cut out and ready to go.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

All cut out and ready to sew

Yay - I've cut out all the bits of the new bag ready to sew. No more procrastinating - I've decided to make a slouchy bag with that teal needlecord, lined in chocolate/teal print. I'm toying with the idea of putting piping in the top openings to stop it from collapsing in on itself, but I'm not sure - maybe slouchy is better. The shape is similar to the one I made recently for Alicub in the UK Etsy Secret Swap:

This one is in natural linen with a panel of pintucked vintage green floral fabric, lined to match.

Going for more Autumnal fabrics this time, so I'm thinking that maybe the bag should be a bit more structured.

This is my bedroom floor, which is my cutting out space. My little boy has parked up for the evening in the corner. I am so very jealous of spaces like this at house on hill road - I can dream!

I like to think I would be so much more productive if I could just keep my machine set up and ready to go all the time, and if all my sewing bits and pieces were kept in one place. In reality, I would probably still procrastinate and agonise over what to sew next to defer all that horrible cutting out! I do love a pile of neatly cut out pieces of fabric ready to be assembled into a bag, but I just hate the process of pinning and cutting and moving the pattern then pinning and cutting and (yawn)....

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Crafting inertia

A post without pictures as I don't seem to have managed to accomplish much today. I have played endlessly with my fabric from u-handbag, arranged and rearranged, but really I need to buy a zip if I'm going to make the bag I had in mind, so I've had to put that to one side till tomorrow.

I've unearthed my pile of little bits of dolls' clothes knitting and am trying to summon up the energy to do something with it. I'm just in a bit of a crafting impasse ... So I have high hopes for tomorrow's project on Sew Mama Sew's 'Handmade Holidays: 30 days of gifts to sew' - Nov 8 is 'whimsy', which sounds really appealling!

Off to knit for the moment, till bag-making inspiration stikes.

First class delivery

Yay! I got my fabric order from Lisa at U-handbag yesterday morning. And I only ordered it late afternoon on Monday, so was really surprised to get it so quickly. It was all beautifully packaged in tissue paper, as ever - though that didn't last long as my daughter was keen to help me unwrap it all! She was also thrilled to find the freebie bag of sweets included, but kind enough to give me a couple of cola-bottles (my favourite!).

my new fabric haul

I am feeling a little bit guilty as I already have a growing stash of fabrics that I should probably use up before ordering new things, but I was looking for some new Autumn/Winter bag fabrics and couldn't resist this. And one thing led to another ...

I'm going to get cutting out this evening once the children are in bed - probably a bag made from some teal needlecord I accidentally bought on the weekend, lined with one of the prints above. Pictures soon!

Monday, 5 November 2007

Day trip to London and finished objects

A nice weekend - my sister and mother came to visit, which was lovely. We then went into London the following day and visited the London Aquarium with the children, which was a fantastic day out. My little boy slept through the first half, but it was worth it just to see the look on his face when he came round in front of a tank of manta rays! The children were so taken with all the sea life, especially the tiny jellyfish, a spiky anemone with black spines and, of course, the sharks.

I've scavenged a bit of time here and there for crafting. I made my first bib, which I'd cut out the fabric for a little while ago. I used my own pattern but the method came from Amy Karol's Bend the Rules Sewing, which I bought a little while ago. It's full of really simple projects which are beautifully presented with some good corner-cutting along the way! Normally, I'd just cut a pattern complete with seam allowance, but cutting out the fabric roughly round the sewing line on the reverse made sewing this really quick and easy. I finished the bib with a pearl snap and I really love this combination of fabrics from the Urban Chiks Summer in the City range

bib front view

bib back

I also finished off this little coin purse, a custom order for my friend. I've had so much support from friends and family with purchases from my shop, which has been fantastic.

This has been by far the most popular fabric in my shop. I'd really like to get hold of more, but it's sold out from the shop where I originally purchased it and I just can't track it down.

The Christmas cake method of inducing labour ...

Had a lovely few days. I made my Christmas cake on Friday, having soaked my fruit in marsala overnight. I used the recipe from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson for the third year - it is the best Christmas cake recipe I've cooked and I am completely sold on it, though I have to say the TV programmes are not for me!

cake in progress

The small hand belongs to my daughter- I am not really an elf!

I actually first bought this book the day before my due-date for the birth of my daughter. I was absolutely convinced that as she was my first, I would be a fortnight late, and thought I'd while away the days baking. So I bought the book and the ingredients and put my dried fruit to soak overnight ready to bake the following day. I can't tell you how surprised I was when I woke up in the early hours of the following day as my waters broke! Spent the night in hospital and gave birth the following morning.

Suffice to say that fruit soaked for quite a lot longer than suggested in the recipe! In fact, the cake was cooked by my mother-in-law, but as I was completely exhausted I didn't actually get around to icing it that year. Instead the cake sat wrapped in foil in its airtight tub for a whole year!! Just goes to show how long fruit cake lasts - I just fed it a bit of brandy then marzipaned and iced it the following Christmas. So that's my tip for giving birth on your due date - never mind pineapple and curries! (Sorry to say that it didn't work next time round though - my son was a fortnight late, in spite of my tried and tested fruit cake method). It does make me smile at the memory every year when I start soaking that dried fruit - I've hung on to the receipt for the book and my shopping list as a memento in my baby book!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

It's that time of year ...

... when I begin to think about Christmas.

Halloween has been and gone with only 11 trick or treaters, which leaves me with a huge quantity of funsize goodies. Obviously, I don't approve of lots of chocolate for my children, so what's a girl to do??

our halloween pumpkin

So, halloween being over, I'm thinking Christmas! The fruit is soaking in marsala as we speak, and tomorrow I will be baking the Christmas cake.

I've signed up for this lovely-sounding Christmassy swap today at Montessori by Hand, and I am so excited. Already thinking up things to send to my swappee. This whole concept of swappage is so very right up my street :)

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Visit to the homeland and half term crafting

Just back from a few days in Wales, visiting some friends near Swansea, an area which I know really well as we must have done thousands of days out at the seaside on the Mumbles and Gower coastline.

the children looking at the sea in Mumbles

This time, we went for the first time to the Wildfowl and Wetlands trust centre in Llanelli
which was a lovely day out. The children really enjoyed feeding the ducks, and my 4 year old little girl really got into the whole concept of sitting in a hide with binoculars.

a duck at the wildfowl and wetlands trust centre

half term crafting ...

Back to school this morning - so I'm back to being a solo parent by day as my husband is a teacher. Did wangle plenty of crafting time over half term, so I can't really complain. Here are a couple of items hot off the sewing machine - a retro apron and a Christmas stocking. The apron is a version of one I've made before, but this time I lined the pockets and interfaced the waistband.

A friend bought the first one I made soon after I listed it, but I had a bit of the yellow bird fabric left over and some yellow ric-rac, so I thought I'd make another one. I might get around to making an apron for myself one of these days.

This is the front side of the finished stocking. I'm really pleased with this. I'd drawn up a pattern and got ready to start last weekend, but found that the fabric I'd intended to use had a large number of flaws in it. Too late to take it back to the shop too, as I've had it a year after never getting around to making stockings last year! Luckily, I rediscovered this bottle green cotton in my stash and had great fun hand embellishing the finished stocking with sequins, bells and ribbon. I'm really after a star bead now for the top of the Christmas tree, so I must keep my eyes peeled.

The stocking is the first time I've done appliques in years - and this time with the help of iron-on stabiliser, which worked really well. Unfortunately I was a bit slapdash and didn't iron my fabrics before fusing the stabiliser to them, so I have big creases fused into one piece - oops! It's my favourite one too - the one used for the Christmas tree applique, so it's a shame I've wasted some of it. I'll just have to cut really carefully and try and salvage as much as possible while avoiding the creases.

I do love applique work though - have a few ideas now for applique children's totes and another skirt for my little girl...

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Sewing to Catatonia

We had a nice morning out in Windsor this morning. We happened to arrive in time for the changing of the guard, which the chidren love. It's been a lovely bright Autumn day, so we walked in along the river and back through the park. Had an interesting conversation with my daughter about why it wouldn't be a good idea to take a swan home and keep it in the bath. We also had a quick trip into Daniels department store - haberdashery for me (not much, but the nearest source of basics) and the amazing toy department for the children to browse (with us hawk-eyeing to get ideas for Christmas!).

I've managed to scavenge a few hours knitting and sewing here and there over the past couple of days, so I'm feeling very pleased with my productivity. The children have been taken to the farm by my husband this afternoon, so I've had a couple of hours with the sewing machine and a trilogy of Welsh bands - Catatonia, Stereophonics and Supper Furry Animals CDs - must be missing the homeland :)

ready, steady, sew!

Working to music is definitely more relaxing, and I don't know whether this is a coincidence or not but I haven't used the stitch ripper at all today!

Just finished this bag, an order from my mother-in-law:

I can also feel very virtuous as I did my good deed for the week yesterday by shortening my father-in-law's shower curtain for him.

Yesterday I finally sent off my contribution to the UK Street Team's shop on Etsy (see the blog here) - some felt Christmas decorations. There are quite a few people taking part, so there should be a fair mixture of items in each bag. I think they're going to be listed sometime in November.

The sewing machine is still out on the table - we're eating our tea around it this evening - so I think I'll get on with a bit more sewing later on once the children, now back from their farm trip, are in bed.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Half term crafting

Hooray - half term began on Friday. Most of my mum friend's loathe the week's half term break from school/playgroup as all the children's activities stop for a week. Not me though, as my husband is a teacher; that means I get time off for good behaviour and I can do lots of crafting!

Here is the finished napkin set, which I've just added to my shop:

I wish I'd bought more of this fabric now as it is just so soft and lovely to work with. I also want to make some more linen bags as I love the way it feels and looks when teamed with cotton prints.

Plenty more projects on the go; I'm off to do some knitting now - a scarf from a Louisa Harding book I borrowed from the library. I'll post some pictures later.

EDITED TO ADD: this project is now available as a free tutorial for napkin set and pouch

Friday, 19 October 2007

Little knitting

Here's the elf's work in progress - a tiny cardigan for my daughter's doll, Neniko (actually my sister's old childhood doll as hers seemed to look a lot healthier than my tiny tears after 20 years or so in the attic):

I just love knitting clothes for dolls - everything grows so quickly. I like to see fast results - that's the reason why the only adult-sized garments I knit are hats, scarves and gloves. I did once knit a jumper for myself about a hundred years ago when I was waiting for my A-level results - that was knitted in a stress frenzy and finished within a couple of days!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Being an elf

Sewed up three of those napkins last night...

I'm really pleased with them - I just love this fabric as it has a really vintage feel, even down to the way the fabric handles. This is really really soft, unlike some quilting weight cottons I've been using recently. I'm just not sure how to convey how lovely this fabric really is when I list them in my shop.

The other three are to be finished tomorrow as I feel too weary to set up the maching tonight - knitting for me this evening, I think, or some handsewing. Maybe a ball dress for my daughter's Ariel (the little mermaid) doll, as she tends to go naked when she becomes a human and removes her tail.

I am so pleased with these recent finds. The first one is from the simplicity archive and has some fantastic clothes for baby dolls. I particularly like the red dress with the frilled neckline and the blue bonnet. The other one is for fashion dolls and has a reall 80s feel! The plan is to spend a few evenings running up a few bits and pieces like one of Santa's elves, so that I have a few things ready to wrap up in December. I know my mother used to do this for my sister and I when we were little and we never twigged, despite the fact that we'd seen our mother making dresses for us in identical fabrics to the dolls' clothes!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Fun and games

Had a lovely couple of days with the children. Yesterday was painting day - the first time in a while we've emptied out the contents of the craft cupboard and got really messy.

They both painted their hands - my daughter consistently and painstakingly does this every time she has the paints out, and my little boy just had to follow suit as he obviously thought it was the done thing. Strange that everything ended up green! The evidence ...

Today has been beautifully sunny, which is always a good start! My daughter had a friend home for lunch from nursery and I had a lovely time just listening in to them playing together. The duplo fire station was dismantled and rebuilt several times with lots of role play going on. I was mildly concerned about the number of dead animals that were being rescued by the fire service, but all in all was very entertaining!

Children are now asleep, so I'm about to thread up the machine to sew some napkins. I've been hanging on to some beautiful pink fabric from the Flea Market fancy range for ages, while thinking what to use it for. I've finally cut into it, so tonight is sewing night. I'll hopefully post some evidence tomorrow.

Monday, 15 October 2007

First post - a finished skirt for my daughter

Oooh - my first post! Feeling very positive after a productive crafting weekend, in spite of other things going on. I managed to start and finish a bag for my shop and a skirt for 4 year old daughter.

I bought this pattern ages ago, Butterick B4277, and found the fabric for it the other day at John Lewis - a beautiful purple/burgundy corduroy, embroidered with flowers. I've spent a good few days agonising over wether the skirt ties should be lilac or hot pink, but finally bit the bullet and started sewing! Was slightly slowed down as I managed to lose the back panel of the skirt, which I'd taken to the shops with me to match with the thread. Ooops - luckily there was plenty of spare fabric!
Really pleased with the shape of the skirt - for a start it has a flat front and elastic in the back only, which is why I chose it (my little girl is quite fussy about elastic). If only I hadn't been in such a hurry to finish it, I might have waited to check the fit on her before sewing in the elastic - unfortunately it's a bit big, so I'll just have to unpick and adjust this evening.

The other thing making me happy is that I've sold two sets of my Christmas decorations over the weekend. All in all, a good start to the week!
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