Thursday, 31 October 2013

The sewing machine with no name

doodling embroidery stitches Janome 5900QC 

Oh Janome 5900QC, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I've been window shopping sewing machines for some time now due to having outgrown my old, more basic machine, as well as hankering after the bells and whistles of a computerised machine. I'm a great researcher of purchases - never knowingly bought anything without spending hours on the internet beforehand - so when I had the opportunity to purchase the Memory Craft 5900QC with the bundled quilting package for a really competitive price, I knew this would be the machine of my dreams.

What the Janome 5900QC has going for it:
    Stitches: standard, embroidery and fonts
  • A LOT of stitches (from 30 on my old machine to 500+ on the Janome).
  • A memory (which is more than can be said for its owner - see below on names). 
  • Alphabets! Including a lovely italic font which I'm itching to try out properly. 
  • A drop-in bobbin. I can see how much thread is left - no more running out half way through a seam.
  • The best-ever 1/4" piecing foot
  • A 1/4" foot bundled in which has an actual fabric guide for the raw edges - revolutionary! No more wonky patchwork points.
  • Width as well as length adjustments for the patterns.
  • A hard cover. Not that I really cart my sewing machine around, but I've always considered a hard cover to be the hallmark of a 'proper' machine.
  • A speed limiter. Although I'm a self-confessed speed merchant, this one is really useful for tasks like topstitching the finished edge of a bag, or other fiddly tasks, as it gives a much more even speed than using the full range of the foot pedal. 
  • Feet, feet and more feet. More feet than I know what to do with, to be honest, but I'm looking forward to testing them all out (bundled in I got the following: regular, satin stitch, zipper, cording, automatic buttonhole, button, darning/embroidery, even feed/walking foot, hemming, overcasting, overedge). 
  • Cubby holes for machine feet and needles
  • Well thought-out storage for the feet and other sewing paraphernalia - I like the dinky marked compartments. A place for everything and all that (this machine might be the making of me, the world's most chaotic worker).
  • Needle up and down button. The best thing of all, in my opinion - so much easier for those stop-start projects like tight curves and applique work where you need to stop and adjust the fabric as you sew.
  • A knee-lifter - going to be very useful for quilting, I think. 
  • Stop/Start button - easy as pie, just press and sew. Look, no feet!  
  • shiny red buttons
  • Shiny red buttons for direct stitch selection
I've been putting the 5900QC through its paces over the last couple of weeks, throwing multiple layers of quilting fabric, wadding and interfacing at it, and it hasn't baulked at all. No snarled up threads. No skipped stitches. In fact, the most perfect lovely even stitches that I've always longed for, and one of the main reasons I decided on a Janome. I'm absolutely delighted with my machine. The only negative point I've found? The fact that the sewing machine extension table is see-through so I can't hide all my clutter under it as I used to on my old machine! Then again, I've already found myself tidying up around my machine so that the clutter doesn't detract from its loveliness, so this is going to have a positive impact on the study-o.


And finally, a confession: I do not name my sewing machines. I know, this will probably go right against the grain (ahem) for a great many stitchy types, but I have my reasons. I mean, I struggle to remember and call my three children by the correct names at the best of times, so it would be a bit of a kick in the teeth for them if I was suddenly on first name terms with my sewing machine!

Working together with Janome.jpg

Wednesday, 23 October 2013


cherry tomato crop from the garden

Ever wondered what to do with that end-of-Summer glut of cherry tomatoes? Well, after a last ditch harvest of all the ripening fruits from our vines, I wondered too. And wondered. And wondered. I leafed through recipe books and browsed the internet. Meanwhile, as the days went by, those shiny cherry tomatoes sat abandoned on a baking tray awaiting their fate and looked at me accusingly every time I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea (and I make a LOT of cups of tea during the course of an average day).

Of course, the good thing about neglecting your tomato harvest for a couple of weeks is that by that time, they will almost all be ripe. The bad thing is that the green tomato recipes you had thought about cooking are now no longer appropriate (I had designs on this recipe for chicken thighs with green tomatoes via The Coffee Lady).  So, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to the rescue with a simple idea for passata made with roasted cherry tomatoes, herbs and garlic, the basis for a delicious homemade roast tomato ketchup which I would then bottle, allowing me to ditch the squeezy plastic variety and feel like a smug domestic goddess.

tomatoes ready to roast

I washed, halved, and bathed the tomatoes in olive oil and garlic with a scattering of dried herbs. Then I roasted them for almost an hour. Then I painstakingly pushed them through a sieve (a surprisingly strenuous activity) to make my passata . Which I left to cool on the side. Which my husband, on returning from work, assumed was leftover tomato soup. Which he microwaved in a bowl and ate. Which was the end of my lovely homemade passata. And the end of my roasted tomato ketchup dreams.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Sunday Stash - The Land that Never Was

Traveler's Blanket, Folkloric and Bunting

I am totally won over by this new collection of prints by Lisa Congdon for Cloud9 - those lovely bright hues, the folkloric cast, and the peacocks are just the icing on the cake. I still can't see a peacock without thinking of the most enjoyable day out I had with Jo and family at Kew gardens and my son's extreme photography!
I'm also thinking that there's room in my stash for the text prints, Fairy Tales. I bet there's room in your stash too, isn't there? I see that Annie has both black and white available at The Village Haberdashery so I'm going to be heading over there to rectify that very soon!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Double figures

Don't ask me how, but this teeny-tiny pudding person


has just turned 10.

10 kit kat and smarties cake

Sweets for the sweet!

thank you, Charlotte, for the cake inspiration! 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Memoir of a misspent youth

My parents recently moved house to consolidate the family a bit in Monmouthshire. I'm very fortunate now to have both my parents and my brother, sister-in-law and nephew living in the same town as me. Now, if my sister and brother-in-law could be persuaded to move from London with my other little nephew, we'd be completely sorted!

One of the side-effects of my parents moving after 37 years in the same house (and all of my childhood), is unearthing all the abandoned possessions belonging to me and my two siblings. There's now a positive treasure trove of boxes and plastic crates sitting in my garage, waiting to be sorted. Having delved into one the other weekend, I found a veritable archive of my youth.

First up is this lovely tapestry portrait of an Alsatian, painstakingly stitched from a kit given to me for my birthday. Not so painstakingly that I didn't miss a tiny patch of stitching on the bottom of the tongue. That still annoys me a bit. Almost to the degree that I'm thinking right this minute of finding a bit of wool to finish it off. 

Next is my much-loved pyrography kit. I was so delighted with this Christmas gift, though now an adult, I do question my parents' judgment in giving the clumsiest child in the world an electrically powered red hot burning tool as a toy. Still, absolutely the best present ever.  


Inside the box, there are even some leftover bits and pieces of 'work in progress'. Such as my watercolour name plaque. Don't worry, I've never tried to pass myself off as an artist - despite having a constant need to create, I never exhibited any aptitude whatsoever for drawing and painting. 

Lurking in the corner of a box were two books which I'd actually had my mum hunting the attic for just a few months before they moved. Having turned up a blank, we assumed they had been given away long since, so I was really thrilled to find them again, the Anchor Book of Freestyle Embroidery Stitches and the Anchor Book of Crewel Embroidery Stitches. They are really beautiful books full of instructions for a wealth of stitches, with sample projects to stitch as well. (Long since out of print, there are 'new' editions: The New Anchor Book of Crewelwork Embroidery Stitches: Techniques and Designs (The New Anchor Embroidery Series) and The New Anchor Book of Freestyle Embroidery Stitches.)



I also unearthed a small screen printing sample made at secondary school. This has already been spirited away and put to use as a teddy bed cover. Preparing our screens and printing was one of my favourite activities in CDT (craft design and technology), and I'd love to do some more screen printing at some point. I like to think I might make a tidier job of it second time around.

And last but not least, my thimble collection. Or at least, a tiny part of it.  Because, after all, when you're not actually crafting, you might as well be collecting something crafty-themed.

There are other delights still to find - I know my parents still have embroidered felt cushions and plaster of Paris blown eggs amongst other things. Or at least they did before moving. I wonder if they made the cut? To be fair, I did make a LOT of stuff, couldn't blame them for thinning it down a bit 20-30 odd years on.

I was a proper homebod as a child; while many teens were out on the razzle, I was treating myself to a woman's weekly so that I could cut out and file away the knitting patterns. I'm hoping that I've produced future teens of the same ilk!

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