Monday, 22 December 2008

3 years on

We celebrated the boy's third birthday last week. This is us on Christmas day when he was a week old. Laid back soul that he is, he pretty much slept through the entire event. Come to think of it, I think I caught the odd forty winks myself - I know I only made it half way through Christmas dinner before I passed out with exhaustion on the sofa!

Being almost a fortnight late, my plan of finishing the Christmas preparations after he was born didn't quite pan out as I had expected. Everything was pretty much thrown together, but none the less lovely for it. Somehow, this year I seem to have contrived to have been even less organised! The Christmas cake isn't even marzipanned, never mind iced, but then I don't have the best track record with Christmas cakes ...

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

A week of sewing

look away now if you are my mother - spoiler alert!

part of the to-sew pile

I can't believe it's almost a fortnight since my last post. Things have been pretty hectic with Christmas preparations as well as the usual day to day things. I have a poorly girl and boy at home today - hoping this is the last of it so that everyone's well over Christmas. I could also have done without our burglar alarm going off at 3.30am this morning for no apparent reason, although it did mean that we got to see a fox in the front garden that we would otherwise have missed.

Feeling a bit more organised, finally. I managed to skive off for a day of Christmas shopping the weekend before last, so we at least have some presents sorted and the boy's birthday is now in hand too. I've also been sewing a lot over the last week. I started out with one of those daunting piles of fabric that represent my to-do list last Wednesday - some already cut out, some where I hadn't even made a start. It's been really nice to tick a few things of the list this week making me feel a little more in control.

Here are my finished objects for the week:

another 2 sets of these Christmas decorations

miscellaneous fabric bits and pieces

a made-to-order moleskine organiser

another custom moleskine organiser

And last but not least, my mum's weekend bag:

... okay so this is a bit of a cheat as it's not totally finished yet, but only the lining left to do now. I'm absurdly pleased with this bag; my poor husband has had to put up with me asking 'how lovely is this?' approximately every 5 minutes. The pattern is so well put together, I love everything about it and I'm already planning my next one. I'll post some more pics once its completely finished and lined.

Meanwhile, it's back to the next pile of fabric - my poor machine is probably looking forward to a nice rest over Christmas, especially after being put through its paces on that weekender!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Busy busy busy!

So much going on this week, and no, I haven't even really made a start on ticking items off the list. I am obviously a bad mum as everyone else I chat to outside school and playgroup seems to have trees up, cards written and presents bought. I haven't even thought about Christmas yet. And then there's the small matter of the boy with a third birthday just over a week before. Aaaarrgh! (keep calm, don't panic).

My etsy shop is keeping me quite busy at the moment. A few custom orders on the go, mostly for moleskine/journal organisers.

I just posted this one off this morning, and have another 2 to sew this week. I also had my 100th etsy sale this week! Call me disorganised but I hadn't quite clocked that I was near my 100th sale, so hadn't even thought about the free goodies I'd always planned to throw in. The list is definitely getting longer and not shorter, but isn't that always the way with lists?

I'm really excited to see this week that the first issue of the brand new online magazine UK handmade is out. I've been involved in this in a very small way, and it's been so exciting to see the whole thing take shape thanks to a lot of hard work by the editors. Do pop over to the website to view or download the first issue. There's also a giveaway to celebrate the launch of the magazine which you can find details of on the UK handmade blog. There's still time to put your name in the hat if you'd like to win 1 of the 5 goodie bags pictured below:

Anyway, time to get on with that list. I did buy some fabric today to line the weekender, so that's a start. Hopefully I'll be back with some actual progress soon!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

On my to-do list

I'm bad with lists. I like making them as they make me feel organised. However, I never actually manage to tick off all the things on the first list before embarking on yet another list. It's a serious condition ...

This week I'm determined to make a start on at least some of the projects on my Christmas crafting list. The trouble is the list just keeps on growing. The latest addition is this dress for my girl from the winter edition of Ottobre (6/2008).

The one in the magazine is made in a dark viscose jersey, but I'm picturing one in a red stretchy velour. I don't have the best track record working with stretchy fabrics, so this one might well be another steep learning curve. I always have the best intentions of making my girl a Christmas dress and then run out of time - hopefully this will be the year I actually manage to tick that one off the list!

Next on the list is an Amy Butler Weekender bag for my mum, who has requested an overnight bag for Christmas.
I'm a little alarmed by the sound of all the layers of interfacings (both fusible and sew-in), piping, and exterior and lining in home decorator weight fabric - fingers crossed my machine will cope!

I'm already a few repeats into the lace ribbon scarf and love the way Skein Queen's Firecracker yarn is knitting up.
This one is going to be a Christmas gift - just need to schedule in a few more knitting hours here and there.

There's plenty more on the list, but for now I'm going to concentrate on these 3 - trying to be a good girl and finish at least one project before starting on the next!

Friday, 21 November 2008

knitting time

After being chained to my sewing machine for weeks on end preparing for the craft fair, it's a nice change of pace to turn to some knitting for a change. I've just finished this pair of Fetching fingerless mitts in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran - they're so cosy as knitting them on 4mm needles instead of 5mm makes the fabric really dense and snug. I actually made 3 gloves, but ended up with a pair - the first was begun at the South Hill Park craft fair after a quick tutorial in the magic loop method from knithappens - thank you, I will never look back! - but I made a mistake very early on. I thought I could live with it, and finished and cast off the glove, but it was really bothering me, so I ripped the whole thing and started again. Luckily, they're so quick to knit I knitted another two in a couple of evenings. Finally I've made a start on my Christmas knitting!

Next on the list is a lace ribbon scarf made with this gorgeous sock yarn called 'firecracker' that I bought from Skein Queen at the craft fair. The photo doesn't do the colours justice - just think 'firecracker' and lots of bright reds and oranges. You can also see the fairisle handwarmers I bought from Emma - I had my eye on these from the moment they were laid out on our stall - I love the green and grey colour combination. Emma's knitwear is just stunning, she was even featured in Selvedge this month so is properly famous!

There will be a lot of knitting and sewing around here for the next few weeks as I catch up with a backlog of Christmas crafting!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

... and breathe!

Well I'm back, and have survived to tell the tale of the craft fair! Thanks for the good wishes. My laptop didn't make it through the week or I might have been back to report on progress, though then again, I've barely stepped away from the sewing machine for the last week or so. This is the kind of thing I might have blogged about if I had been able to:

The laptop was not a terminal case, luckily. It's still suffering from a few ailments, but after a new power cord it has a new lease of life. I can't tell you how distressing it was for me to be without internet access for so long!

The weekend of the craft fair was really busy. It was lovely manning the stall with the other Outcasts - Kira, SkeinQueen, Knithappens, Knitwit and Carli. Fellow-outcatsian Melarno also popped in to say hello. Here are a few snaps of our stall - I like to think of it as 'rummageable'.

I had a great weekend - so lovely to have friends and family dropping in to give their support, too. Lindsay of Clothcat, my craft fair partner from the last fair I took part in, popped in, and I met Machi of MagpieNest who sent me that lovely Christmas swap last year.

Naturally, I didn't come away from the fair empty handed and will share my buys in my next post.

Now I'm just catching up with all the things I've let slide over my week of frantic crafting. What a lovely surprise it was to get this package in the post from Florence in the midst of my sewing stress. Florence seems to have a great eye for pretty ribbons and trims, and after I had admired some of the recent purchases she had posted about, she was kind enough to send me these pretty grosgrain ribbons.

Thank you, Florence, for the lovely thought which was so cheering! I'm keeping them well away from my little girl who has a tendency to collect up any pretty trims she finds for her own sewing box!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Reasons I have been an absent blogger this week

I've been intending to blog all week, but my pesky laptop is really playing up. I have a screen which suddenly goes blank or won't power up, a power lead which has started chirping like a cricket and only intermittently supplies power, a battery which has a life of all of 15 minutes, and a wireless connection which is patchy at best. So frustrating! I know it's about to die, which will leave me without internet access at all - how will I cope?? If all goes suddenly silent, you'll know why.

It's been a good week, but a busy one. We celebrated bonfire night on Wednesday, with all the right ingredients.

A warming autumnal butternut squash soup, a slightly less healthy second course of hot dogs with fried onions, and a mini firework display set up by daddy in the back garden while the children watched from the safety (and warmth!) of the house with me. They loved the fireworks, but not enough to do away with the safety barrier of our patio doors. My boy kept on saying 'it's like a half a square' - it took my girl to decipher his meaning - 'it's like trafalgar square'!

Then there have been the frantic preparations for the craft fair next weekend in Bracknell. I'm joining some of the ladies from Outcast in a joint stall effort. It's the first time I will have taken part, and I'm more than a little worried I'll end up spending more than I make, especially with Skein Queen's lovely yarns in such close proximity! Today I have been cutting out fabric for a large batch of pencil cases and tissue holders, and I'll shortly be cranking up the sewing machine to try and get them all done this evening. So many other things on my to-make list I'm trying not to think about it.

It was nice though to have my little girl set up camp with her sewing things next to me - she's freestyling a pair of pyjamas for her brother, apparently. Though she has a lovely stash of brightly coloured and patterned felt, she keeps on eagle-eyeing my pretty prints and squirelling away all the small offcuts. She's developing some expensive tastes!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

winter warmers

It's been almost a week since my last post - a week of half term with lots of visits from family, and a custom order for 3 wedding bags needed by the end of the week, so quite busy really! The bags are finished now and awaiting collection - two clutch bags with some of the silver purse frames I bought from Lisa a little while ago, and a dolly bag for the flower girl (Kyoko has a great tutorial on making a bag with a round bottom).

In the evenings I've been doing lots of knitting. There's a present for my mother in law which I can't talk about as I know she recently discovered this blog. With the sudden cold snap we've had (it snowed in Reading on Wednesday!) my mind has turned to all things snug and cosy, so I cast on last night to make a pair of these 'legwarmies' for my girl:

photograph used with kind permission of Alana Dakos

So cute, I will definitely be making some of these as gifts too. The Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino is so soft. One legwarmer was finished this morning after casting on last night, so they're relatively quick to do. I had two models competing to be photographed this morning. The boy has now requested a pair of his own. (He has also requested a sparkly blue ballet dress, so that's one to add to the list of Christmas present ideas!)

I'm totally sold on the legwarmers idea now, especially seeing how cute they look with a pair of boots. I think I may even make a pair for myself - maybe these or these. My day to day mum uniform is jeans, and whilst practical they're not really very warm, so I'm thinking a pair of legwarmers might be the way to go. That's if I have the staying power to knit an adult sized pair on tiny needles!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Giveaway winner

Ably assisted by one of the resident small people, we drew at random a winner from the 16 commenters to the giveaway post below. Number 9 was the winning ticket, so would AnnieB, the ninth commenter, please step forward and claim her prize! I know Annie has some small people of her own who will probably help find a home for the pencil case, purse and tissue holder.

Thanks to everyone who left a comment. It's lovely to hear from you all!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

A quiet house

It's quiet here. Eerily quiet. Especially considering both the children are at home with me. I can't quite believe it - I might have to pinch myself - but BOTH my children are asleep. To be honest, just lately, there's barely been any sleep at night, and daytime naps are unheard of in this house. I was just snatching 5 minutes to check emails and found one was asleep on the sofa and the other in his bed curled up with a Thomas the Tank magazine. So it's a stealthy cup of tea and a slice of bara brith for me and a blissful 5 minutes peace!

Just enough time to share my latest sewing project. I've had a few clasp purse frames in my stash for a while now and hadn't got around to using them yet, so in a fit of purposefulness (on the back of my unusual decisiveness with the scrap challenge quilt), I made good use of those 2 hours while the boy was at playgroup yesterday. If you haven't seen them already, Lisa has two great tutorials on how to make your own patterns for a clasp purse frame which guided me through the process (thank you, Lisa!). I think these may be my new obsession - so quick and easy to make.

I also wanted to share a new fabric shop find. I was looking at Julia's blog at Primrose Corner this week and noticed that she was having an Amy Butler fabric sale in her shop. Amy Butler fabric sale you say? I'm there! So a couple of clicks and a day later, a lovely package of Amy Butler home decor weight fabric arrived on my doorstep. Thanks, Julia!

Thanks for all the comments on the scrap challenge quilt and blog-aversary giveaway post. I'll be drawing a winner for the giveaway on Saturday evening, so still time to put your name in the hat if you haven't already.

Oh well, back to mummy duties for me as it looks like nap time is over. It was good while it lasted!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Scrap challenge and giveaway

So the car's broken (again), which means another repair to pay for (again). I am wondering whether my children will stop coughing and sneezing this side of Christmas. Also, the boy seems to have a touch of earache this evening, so I'm crossing fingers that Calpol will work its magic as we have a 90th birthday party to go to tomorrow.

But I won't dwell on any of that. Instead, I'll say thank you very much for all your good wishes for my blog birthday and my pattern being accepted for the book. As mentioned in my last post, I'm going to do a small giveaway to celebrate, so if you'd like to receive the 3 items below, please leave a comment on this post and I'll draw a winner in a week's time on 25th October. All are welcome to enter, overseas or UK, regular commenters, lurkers or new visitors.

matryoshka tissue holder, panda coin purse and cherries pencil case

You'll need to check back at the end of the week to see if you've won as unfortunately blogger doesn't provide me with everyone's email addresses to contact you directly.

I spent this morning setting to work on my scrap challenge from JC Handmade. I've thoroughly enjoyed working on this project. It's been so good for me in curbing my natural tendency to overplan a project and thus never actually get started on it! The rules were that we should aim to have a finished item in 1-2 weeks, and with sewing time pretty scarce around here, I jumped at the opportunity to spend a couple of hours on my project this morning.

In the spirit of the 'scrap' challenge, I used only what I had at home to complete the project rather than buying new supplies and used as much of each piece of fabric as possible. The little houses theme suggested itself to me when I first looked at the individual dimensions of the scraps I received. Otherwise I tried to keep things very simple as I didn't want to introduce too many new elements, just the flower buttons and their embroidered green stems.

The quilt has been gifted to my daughter for the new doll she received for her birthday, and also as a little reward for being child of the week at school this week! She's absolutely thrilled with it (though she did momentarily query the lack of windows), and to my delight, she started identifying the types of houses exactly as I had conceived them.

Thus the two small houses with triangular roofs are bungalows, the yellow and blue house are town houses, and the house in the top right corner is 'a house like ours' - i.e. a classic 3 up 2 down semi (though note that the one 'like ours' is the smallest of the lot, and that it's divided between 2 families!).

This is all the more fitting as it's the scrap of fabric that I sent in that forms the roof to the house.

What I enjoyed most about this project was working with fabrics that I probably never would have put together myself, and the fun of seeing how everyone else in my group has dealt with the very same scraps. So thanks, Jennifer, for organising a great challenge!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

has it really been a year already?

It suddenly dawned on me last week that my blog-aversary must be imminent and I made a mental note to devote some time to thinking about my post. Well, as often happens to me, I forgot all about it until today, so here I am rattling off a quick post just so that I don't miss my 'slot' on my actual blog birthday!

This is probably a good time to share a bit of exciting news. Back in January I was contacted through my etsy shop by someone from Lark books who had seen this moleskine case I had made and invited me to submit a proposal for their forthcoming book, Pretty Little Cozies.

Not being one to count my chickens (this is a very definite personality trait of mine, the non-chicken-counting one!), I didn't want to say anything about it until I was absolutely sure it was happening. So in spite of having had my proposal accepted and even a cheque in the post, I had my eye on the small print that accepted projects still might not make the final cut. So last week, I sent a tentative email to ask whether my moleskine organiser was in, and was told that it will indeed be in the book. Pretty Little Cozies is due to be published in May 2009 and I'm so very excited to see the book in the flesh!

Since then this organiser has been through quite a few different incarnations. This is one of the things that I love about etsy, that I so often get custom orders to tailor-make a design for someone in their own taste of fabrics and colours.

I feel that there should be some kind of giveaway to celebrate both the blogging birthday and the good news, so I'll be back later this week with something to put up for grabs!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Scrap challenge

It's here - my envelope full of fabric scraps for JC Handmade's Spare a Square Scrap Challenge has arrived! So far all I've done is open the envelope and photograph the fabrics in various different arrangements. I'm thinking that this will be an excellent challenge for me, as my normal tendency is to procrastinate and endlessly defer making actual items as I'm so busy unfolding and refolding my fabric stash. The 1-2 week time limit will force me to be a bit more decisive for once! I notice that there are already photographs of some lovely finished items in the flickr group pool.

the fabric I sent in the piece in the top right corner - a piece of a vintage daisy print fabric

I've got some really pretty scraps to play with, so I'm waiting for inspiration to strike so that I can get sewing!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Blue skies and sunshine

Thanks for all the lovely birthday wishes for my daughter in my last post. Here, have a slice of birthday cake -

Regular readers of this blog may notice a likeness to the last birthday cake and realise that my own cake-decoration skills are almost on a par with those of a two and almost-five year old!

It's been a blissful weekend of sunshine and bright blue skies. The birthday girl had a tea party in the garden with some friends on Sunday - not something we had ever thought would happen with a birthday in October!

On Saturday we had a relaxed day with my mum visiting from Wales. After a leisurely lunch on the patio of a country pub, we headed up to Burnham Beeches, a mere hop skip and a jump from where we live, for a wander in the woods.

There was paddling in streams, picking the last few blackberries of the season, and some tree climbing.

A forest ramble (well, by a 2 year old's standards!) ranks as one of my children's favourite days out. Hopefully the lovely weather will continue so we can fit in some more lovely Autumnal walks very soon.
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