Thursday, 28 August 2008

Making a dress (part 1)

In my last post I wrote that my sister had asked me to make a copy of a dress that she already owns as a belated birthday present. After choosing the fabric for it together on Tuesday I set to work on cutting out a pattern...first I used non-stick baking parchment (what else?!) to make a template...but when I needed to stick some of my pieces together I came to realise that non-stick baking parchment is an incredibly effective product that will repel sellotape just as well as cake mix...so I set about transferring those templates onto newspaper...what luck that Mr Teacakes had left the Sports section from the weekend newspapers by my side! Once I had quadruple checked that all the pieces appeared to match the dimensions of the original garment I set about piecing them together to make sure they fit with each other perfectly...but found the carpet a shuffly place for such an activity and discovered that blu-tacking one's pattern pieces to a wall allows you to place and adapt things much more easily. I enjoyed sleeping with this on our bedroom wall for a night...it felt like a modern art installation.

(dress on the right, facings on the left)

I have to admit to having felt slightly terrified when my sister put in her birthday request because I knew it would mean that I had to use my overlocker and the longer it has sat in the garage, the more fearful of it I have become. As I unpacked it from its box I felt increasingly sick...more so when the only stitches it would produce were poorly-tensioned and bobbly. After checking all the tension dials and discs and considering running away, I realised that in my anxiety I had forgotten to do the most basic of things and had been attempting to overlock without the presser-foot down.

The other thing that I had been puzzling over was the logistics of making a dress on the overlocker - I knew I would need to regularly swap between the overlocker and my sewing machine (I sew at an old school desk, which has barely enough room on it for one machine, let alone two), so I ended up bringing the children's drawing table up from the playroom...which I have previously found fine for felt-tipping sessions, but I can reveal that it is less comfortable when one has to contort one's knee at strange angles beneath the table in order to use the foot pedal.

By Wednesday I felt that, with the help of Joanne & Helen who had very sweetly explained the basics and even emailed me relevant pages on facings, I had done all the preliminary research on this type of installation that I could do, but still none of it made complete sense to me...the only thing that did bring about a moment of clarity was when Jo mentioned in passing that it was like lining a bag. I clung to this idea like a life-raft, for bag linings I can do. So for that stage of dressmaking I pretended that I was making a bag...which made even the little keyhole for the button opening feel manageable. By the time I'd created the top section of the dress I felt like things had gone so well that I considered just stopping the whole thing right there and letting that small piece of perfection remain in isolation. I considered racing round to show it to my sister at that point: this is how lovely it could be...does your dress really need arms and a body adding to it, Laura? I felt these two things were bound to be ruinous. Several arms (for they were as problematic as I had expected, but I have learnt from my errors and feel that the whole thing would be much easier if I had to do it again... for those of you with overlockers: my initial attempt involved overlocking the arm and dress together in one go, but I now think it is easier to overlock the arm hole and the arm edges as single materials and then sew them together on the sewing machine and press open or to one side to finish) and many a choice word later the dress is finished. I have newly fallen in love with my overlocker, I have learnt lots of things that will make other projects easier and I have hopefully made my sister a birthday dress that she will be happy with - she is such a lovely clotheshorse that I feel vaguely confident that it will fit and look good on her....I will post the final results tomorrow, once she has tried it on and seen it herself....I so hope she likes it. Dressmaking feels very much out of my comfort zone - I feel so much admiration for those that dare to do it on a regular basis, I'm not sure my nerves could stand it.

And finally here are some Gingerbread Butterflies that the little Teacakes made when we spent the day with my mother and sister on Tuesday. I googled for a recipe and the first result that came up was from Alice's lovely Raspberry...or should that be lovely Alice's Raspberry...either way is good I think....or perhaps lovely Alice's lovely Raspberry...whatever, her recipe is amazing and made the most perfectly soft and flavoursome gingerbread.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

The post where I witter on for hours...

A couple of weeks ago I finished sewing in all Dinosaur-boy's school name tapes, but then I suddenly remembered on Friday that I had his PE bag still to make. On a trip into town he picked out this rather sober blue fabric for the purpose and asked me to put a picture on it. His initial request was for a builder doing some building, but I had my doubts about the longevity of any Bob-like creation and wondered whether he would still feel happy about his choice aged 8...so we compromised on a space rocket.

I have embroidered his name beneath it. This is my very favourite type of project - virtually a blank canvas just to applique on to - sometimes I feel quite desperate to sew in this way, but am exhausted by the idea of also having to construct whatever item it is that the applique will be attached to. Making applique pictures to go on the wall seems the obvious solution to this, but there's something in me that also wishes for the things I make to have a function. As I made this Zebra-girl sat next to me and hand-sewed a bag from some of the fabrics that Hazel gave to her...she still has to put the handles on, but she has done a beautiful job and is getting quicker and quicker. As we tidied away when we'd finished sewing she told me how much she liked folding up her fabrics because it felt like they were her friends and they reminded her of me...it's so funny how children can change from being loud and boisterous one moment (well, more specifically in this case repeatedly singing the lyrics to Witch Doctor which are something along the lines of...Ooh Eeh Ooh Ah Aah Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang) to saying something so unexpectedly sweet that it makes you want to cry the next. And oddly I knew what she meant...part of the reason why I love my own fabrics is nostalgia and that occasionally they have the ability to suddenly remind me of my mother's summer dresses and the feeling of her being close-by as I played in the garden as a small child.

This weekend Mr Teacakes has been playing at a small three-day festival. On Friday he told me that he would be giving away free CDs of some old previously unreleased tracks and that he would like me to design a cover for for it. The title track was to be a song called 'I know how it feels', a song that he wrote about Zebra-girl two years ago when she first started school, so shy that she was barely able to speak. He told me how he envisaged the cover looking and then went out for the evening leaving me with the instruction to 'make it a bit messy'. Mmm...abstract images and messy stitches may be something that occasionally come to me accidentally, but rarely intentionally, but this is what I came up with, finally finished at 2am, long after he had returned home and gone to bed:

One of my favourite lines from his song is:

Draw me a sky.
With a bright yellow sun.
And if you're lost in the dark like a scared little spark you can...
Follow it home.

So that's where the large sunshine comes in...and it seemed like a good opportunity to add a little Amy Butler into the mix.

Somehow I was more pleased by the girl that he burned on to the actual CD...partly because it looked less recognisably 'mine', but also because there's something nice about seeing your stitchery transformed by a different medium and I liked that Ian had added some computer-created scrawl around it.

Anyway his free EPs all got snapped up (as free things do) and we had a lovely afternoon in the sunshine watching Ian and some of the other bands play their sets and chatting to friends who came along. My sister flew in from Nice this morning and turned up wearing the most amazing dress...which she has asked me to recreate for her in a different colourway. When we got home this evening we discussed possible fabric choices and I am feeling vaguely optimistic that it won't go the way of my mother's mermaid-cut skirt...because it is a shift dress and so by its very nature it is not meant to cling to every curve...also because Laura tried on this dress that I made so long ago and that was on the small side for me. It looked perfect on her, so at least I now know that I can make clothing that fits a real person - horay! I noticed that in Laura's own dress there was a neat little flap of material inside the neck that I knew I'd want to replicate when I come to remaking it...but without knowing the technical term for what exactly this flap was called I was left with no Googlable search terms...luckily on the basis of my vague description Helen (of Angharad...which I've just accidentally found out as I was getting the link for this post means 'loved one' in Welsh - isn't that lovely) was able to tell me that it is called a facing (this link is for a skirt facing, but you get the idea...just in case I'm not the only one not to know what a facing is).

Anyway, I have wibbled on for quite long enough - perhaps I should put in a self-imposed word count limit. Wishing you all lovely Bank Holiday weekends. x

Thursday, 21 August 2008

My fabric is here and I am dazzled by it..literally

All that time spent glancing out of our front windows in the hope of spotting a Royal Mail van, when actually I could have settled myself much more comfortably on the doormat and waited instead for the customs notice to be posted through the letterbox....what a wasted week! For after visiting friends in the morning (because I decided that for the sake of my children and my sanity I must tear myself away from obsessive window watching and drying my hair with the doorbell positioned near my ear) and then going to several shoe shops to find the elusive school shoe that would be declared 'comfortable' by Dinosaur-boy, we returned home to find a rather dour-looking grey postal card telling me that my fabrics couldn't be delivered as they had incurred a £23 customs charge that I needed to pay first. I drove quite joyfully down to the collection depot (hugely relieved that they hadn't been lost) and Zebra-girl and I had a few rousing choruses of It's a Long Way to Tipperary on the way, before Dinosaur-boy said grumpily 'What is this Tipperary that you speak about?' and Zebra-girl told him very sincerely that Tipperary was the name of a fairy and implored him to join in....mmm.

If the fabric wasn't so absolutely breathtakingly, astoundingly, deliciously divine I think I would have felt a little distressed by it's sudden price-hike per yard, but thrillingly I don't care at all because it is worth every penny and I don't think I have ever ordered a more lovely bundle of fabrics. You might spot that it is a mixture of Sandi Henderson and Heather Bailey...and the surprise is that they go beautifully together, sharing so many of the same tones. I ordered it from Beth in the States, who is lovely and whose fabrics always arrive looking so crisp and fresh. You can read more on her blog here.

Yes, I arranged it in every imaginable configuration....and then when it was time to pre-wash it I must confess to allowing myself a couple of minutes sitting in front of the glass portal spying the the sweetshop of colours spinning around.

When not involved in that rather characteristically feline activity I set about making a birthday cake for a friend...imagine, I thought to myself, the fun of combining the perfected (yes, they are now pink on the inside and the outside - thank you so much for all your advice) alien meringues set on a smooth pink layer of icing, a top a butter cream-filled sponge sandwich. And so I set to work (an horrific egg splattering incident took place with the blender, but these things don't get a girl down when she has the most perfect fabrics spinning around her utility room...she just breathes a big sigh of relief that they were in the washing machine at the time and not on the breakfast bar where they had sat only ten minutes earlier and sets about de-egging her hair, clothes, shoes and kitchen). I have no idea how , but this rather strange creation took me nearly four hours to complete, and is not quite what I had been envisaging, but I know that it will make my lovely friend, Melon (as Dinosaur-boy calls her) laugh, so that is fine.

I decided to tumble dry my pre-washed fabrics, because it gives them the best chance of remaining stable if they're ever naughtily dried in this way once they're made up into finished items. So by ten o'clock they were ready to iron. The ironing only seemed to take me five minutes and I was quite delighted by the fabrics seemingly anti-wrinkle properties...until I looked at the clock and realised that actually it was past midnight and that they had in fact been no easier to iron than any other cotton...I'd just been gazing at the prints so much I hadn't noticed the time go by.

When I look back on it the whole cake-making/pre-washing/egg splattering/ironing sequence it all seems slightly surreal and now I realise that I may actually have been suffering slightly with pre-migraine wooziness...for I woke happily and made myself a cup of dandelion tea and took it back to bed, but by the time I had finished it the flashing zigzags in front of my eyes had become so intense that I could barely decipher which box might contain aspirin. Our visiting plans for the day were cancelled (which I felt really upset about as it is a friend that I so look forward to seeing, but if I can drive in the morning then we still have it too look forward to) and Mr Teacakes came home at midday bearing pharmaceuticals powerful enough to make me feel that I had lost control of all my facial muscles less than an hour later. Until that time I have memories of the children lying round me in the bed testing my reflexes and heartbeat with their doctor's kit and generally causing my head pain to intensify, but with too little will left about me to ask them to stop.

And then my mother arrived with these beautiful roses, and cards and envelopes so that the Little Teacakes might make me 'get well soon' cards. And now I am feeling quite exhausted by all this typing so am off to bed. Sleep tight. x

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Late night feasting

When Zebra-girl was very small my mother and I set off to go out for dinner one night on a summers evening. As we looked back at my house we saw her waving to us through a crack in the curtains at her bedroom window...we walked half-way to the restaurant and then decided that she was actually far too delicious to leave at home and rang Ian to ask him to help her pick out a dress to wear so that we might dispense with our plan A and instead take her out for some late-night pudding. She was quite beside herself with excitement and we chose somewhere ridiculously frivolous and grown-up to take her. So every year we try to have a girls night out. Last night, dressed in pink polka dots she dined on a glass of warm milk and a chocolate fudge brownie and yawned her way to bed two hours past bedtime....but we all felt a little guilty as Dinosaur-boy is now old enough to understand what he might be missing out on, and I realised that I didn't want to encourage her to keep secrets from him...so tonight Mr Teacakes, Grandfather Teacakes and Dinosaur-boy are on a boy's night out of their own and Dinosaur-boy looked just as dreamy and awe-struck as Zebra-girl had done all that time ago when presented for the first time with the prospect of late-night feasting.

Other delights have been a visit to the 3D Imax cinema at the Science Museum. Having been up to London two days running myself at the weekend, I felt slightly exhausted by the idea of going up for a third day, but that's what happens when you promise your children that you will take them to see The Fox and the Child locally without first checking that it is still actually being screened. My father accompanied us with a rucksack bursting with carefully packed treats that he might bring out to distract them with on the long train journeys. In the Imax we were given these huge plastic glasses to wear that were nearly as big as the faces of the little Teacakes...as we watched sea creatures swim inches from our noses and waves come crashing up to our bodies Zebra girl spent much of her time reaching out, convinced that she might actually be able to feel the fish brush past her fingers. The voice over was by Kate Winslet and Johnny Depp and was both informative and magical.

Later we spent along time in the pattern pod where children can manipulate colours with their fingers on this kaleidoscope-like screen...their creations are then projected onto a huge screen in front of them that can be seen by the people going up and down the escalators in the Wellcome (sic) Wing.

We are visiting friends for the next couple of day and I am feeling increasingly anxious that it has now taken 12 days for my overseas order of fabrics to arrive...part of me wants to cancel all further activity and wait by window for red vans...I think I may feel compelled to kiss the Parcel Force man if he ever does turn up. I do hope he's bracing himself for that!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Lowering the tone in Liberty...

All week I had been counting down the days to the weekend, which for me, officially began on Friday afternoon when my parents came and collected the little Teacakes, leaving Ian and I to meet later for dinner. Mr Teacakes tried his best to persuade me to drink more than a little, but despite earlier kind assurances from Lisa that she would arrive with Neurofen in the morning, I was determined not to be the green girl in the corner again - as was my way on our last meeting - when I was due to meet up with Lisa, Joanne and Helen on Saturday.

Our meetings are ostensibly arranged around fabric and haberdashery shopping, but actually these things just provide a backdrop and occasional distraction to our constant chatter and cheek-ache-inducing laughter...the ratio seems to be five broken minutes of actual product perusal to half an hour of loitering around a fabric stand that temporarily morphs into a make-shift living room as we get stuck on discussing such things as why someone might make their own knickers (a crafting step too far...we thought) and what materials might be involved in their construction, to where one might go to achieve the best eyebrow shape (that would be here...for reasons too numerous to mention). Wonderfully, we stumbled across what I think was this book (I can't be entirely certain, as our focus quickly shifted to what was inside the book) only hours after it first came up in conversation...the pictures revealed strangely hair-free men wearing red and black polka dotted, lace-edged boxer shorts (perhaps it pays to be more aerodynamic when wearing such a garment?), the finer points of gusset insertion, and other gems - you can only imagine our delight!

Pierre Victoire was our chosen venue for a merged lunch and dinner, followed by cocktails at our past haunt, the 5th View Bar in Waterstones Piccadilly. Mr Teacakes joined us for last orders, having spent the day meeting up with his own friends, and then led me in a mad dash across the West End to try and catch our last train home before pumpkin-time...sprinting and Hazelnut Martinis aren't the best mix, but the alcohol at least served to anaesthetise the pain in my feet as they pounded against the pavements with only a worn millimetre of ballet flat sole between them. As we had bounded down the five flights of stairs in Waterstones and reached the bottom I could still hear the laughter of the others echoing down the stairwell as they waited for the lift above - what lovely, lovely girls. I do hope that we are still meeting up for these days when we are old ladies.

Here's Joanne with her latest and most wonderful bag...I stopped short of getting a seam ripper out to see exactly how one particularly covetable part of it had been constructed...but only just (more details of inner zipped section here).

Here she is winking the lovely lining...she chose her drink to compliment it, obviously (well, she didn't really, but it was a pleasing coincidence)...

Helen....giggling...

...and Lisa, howling with laughter - I love this photo.

I woke to find that, like Helen, my head was pounding and my will to pull myself out of bed was small, but luckily I had helpers to get me up who were so pleased to see us after two bedtimes without, despite having had wonderful adventures with their grandparents.

Today found all of four of us on the train up to London again, this time to visit Ian's sister...where the children tried on their bridesmaid and page boy outfits for her wedding, and we ate far too much delicious food.

What a perfect weekend.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Marrows

I so love this fabric. One of our local shops makes absolutely beautiful curtains and is cavern-like with it's fabric-covered walls and drapes thrown over every surface...the average price for a metre of fabric in there seems to be around £70, but they do have a wonderful remnants bin (which obviously is the only section I allow myself to look in). Recently I found this striped fabric, originally priced at £42.50 per metre. I came away with 1.7 metres for an awful lot less than that - and its selvedge is so beautiful that I'm almost tempted to work it into a project somehow.

Well over a year ago I also bought from there this beautiful silk - it is a huge piece, enough to make one side of an eiderdown (that word was for you Mrs Molly Cupcakes!) or double quilt with....but I feel quite terrified to use is it as its original retail price, before it found its way into the remnant basket, was more expensive than I could possibly have believed, so there are downsides to having such precious fabrics! I'm interested to know what kind of quilt wadding do you use for machine quilting, how do you decide which to use and (not for this project, but more for cottons) what kind of wadding is it that once washed gives the fabric that old and crinkled look?
The little Teacakes both had friends round to play today, the mother of one of whom came to collect her daughter and gave me two wonderful large marrows fresh from her garden. I wondered what I might use them in and quickly decided I would like to make some soup.

It was ready just in time for the children's teatime and both declared it the best soup they'd ever tasted and asked if they could have it every night. I was more than a little delighted by this, as Dinosaur-boy especially, isn't always complimentary about his suppers and the sight of a risotto being served has been known to reduce him to tears.

After googling for information on how best to prep a marrow, this is the recipe I created from the other things that we had in the cupboards that seemed to be generally regarded as being complimentary to marrow.

Ingredients
1 large marrow
1 onion
3 sticks of celery
2 cloves of garlic
1 potato (peeled)
3 handfuls of spinach
4 vegetable Oxo cubes
1 knob of butter
1 good slug of semi-skimmed milk
Cumin
Paprika
Nutmeg
Salt & pepper

1. Peel and de-seed the marrow and cut into small 1cm cubes
2. Chop the onion, potato and sticks of celery into small pieces
3. Press the cloves of garlic
4. Make 1 pint of stock using the four vegetable Oxo cubes
5. Boil all of the above ingredients together in the stock in a large pan for 20 minutes, adding generous amounts of Cumin, paprika, nutmeg, salt & pepper.
6. Turn the heat off, add the spinach and stir in until wilted
7. Blend the soup in spurts for no more than 20 seconds to produce a roughly textured, thick soup.
8. Add a knob of butter and stir until melted
9. Pour in a slug of milk and stir.
10. Serve topped with fresh herbs or a swirl of cream (we had neither of these, but I imagined them - of course it looked fantastic!) and crusty bread.

And finally I leave you with a picture of my little Zebra-girl. I came into her room this morning to find her arranging her skirt around her in a giant circle - how lovely she looked: a small little body and head with a smiling rosy face in the middle of all that beautiful fabric.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Alien meringues...

Yesterday found Mr Teacakes and I lying on the sofa with a stack of unread weekend newspapers beside us and the children happily making 'books' upstairs...which is why Mr Teacakes found it completely incomprehensible when I sprang up and said that instead of taking advantage of this lounging time I simply HAD to make meringues...this wasn't as out-of-the-blue as it seems though. A while ago I saw these perfect pink meringues on Cathy's blog. It had never occurred to me that meringues could be made pink, but since this revelation I have felt quite possessed by the idea of having some of my own. And this was absolutely nothing to do with wanting to eat them, and everything to do with wanting to look at them. So here they are all are lined up on the tray pre-baking...perfectly, delicately, delectably baby pink....

...and now here they are out of the oven, their outer-colour stolen, a wretched disappointment on the baking tray. They had the decency to retain their colour on the inside, but it was really the outer shell that I was more excited about seeing (and there's something slightly revolting about their differently-coloured layers, as though alien life has formed inside an innocent-looking meringue). I have no idea what might have happened: should I have put in more food colouring, cooked them more slowly, made each one smaller? I have no idea, but knowing that Miss Marzie has made the elusive perfect meringue makes me want to get out my whisk right away....but as it's not yet Saturday Sweet Day this means that I must wait four more days before I can. Rats.

This week I decided to overcome my fear of zips...they are something I find frustratingly difficult and when I do manage to get one in to place neatly it seems as though it has come about from luck rather than judgement. Perhaps I haven't made things any easier for myself by wishing to install them mainly on curved edges...but there is something that I love about a curved-top slouchy cosmetic bag. I have lost count of the number of times I have put in and then taken out the same zip this week, doing a good approximation of Eeyore with his jar and balloon, but was working on the belief that if each time I did it I looked at what I could do better next time and then remedied it immediately (rather than on my next attempt three months later) then it would result in zip installation wonderfulness. I'm not sure that is exactly what has happened, but I do feel a lot less fearful of them now.

And lastly here is a note that Zebra-girl handed to me before bed this evening...so sweet it made my stomach do somersaults.

Time has been running away with me - I hadn't realised how much I managed to squeeze into the three mornings that Dinosaur-boy was at nursery, but with the children at home my days are mostly computer-free. I'm so sorry for what a poor blogging companion I have been lately - as ever so many unanswered (but greatly appreciated!) comments and emails and so many posts unread on my favourite blogs. Thank you to: Molly Cupcakes, Sew Christine, Cake Makes the World a Better Place, Trixie's Trinkets, Jenny Flower, Creative Nachos and Lulu Carter for tagging me for memes or passing on lovely awards.

And I have been meaning to say, ever since I first clicked onto her lovely site, if you haven't already, do go and visit Clare's lovely blog, Lulu Carter. Scroll down and you will see image after image of loveliness. I always find that she writes about things that interest me, or that leave me thinking: oh! me too! And (this should have been mentioned first, no?) she sews lovely, lovely things! Enjoy. x

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Learning new tricks...

You may remember that a few weeks ago I purchased my much-researched sewing machine and today I went on the course that was provided by the shop with my machine purchase. I went on a similar course run by the same lady when I bought my overlocker which was really helpful, particularly as I'd never used one before and just learning to thread one alone is hard enough. However, having used a sewing machine for as long as I can remember and almost daily for at least the last year I had wondered whether I would learn a great deal. But I was quite wrong. I have had the most lovely day and the teacher was, again, absolutely wonderful. Just like being taught by your mother or grandmother, her teaching was peppered with the kinds of tricks and tips that you simply can't learn by reading a book. She was able to answer all the little questions I had (like why is there sometimes more than one thread coming up from the bobbin race when I take my material away from the machine) and also steer me away from some of the mistakes that I was making unwittingly just through spotting them in conversation. One example of this is that I had been using Coats invisible thread in my machine when I was stitching together a contrasting-coloured lining and top fabric where I didn't want the differently coloured threads to show up on the wrong sides. I hadn't realised that this could have broken my machine. The invisible thread has so little elasticity in it that it pulls at the parts of the machine rather than snapping or stretching. If it gets tangled up in the race it can apparently be near impossible to get out (and it does tangle more than normal thread - I can vouch for that). What I should have been using was the Gutterman Skala thread shown below. It comes in white and black, but somehow cleverly picks up the colour of whatever it's held against (use the white for light colours, black for dark colours).

We did small things like finding our individual machines perfect settings for different stitches...so even though I have been happily using a satin stitch for a long time we were shown what to look for in the stitch to make sure it was as perfect as it could be.

You may also remember that I chose a machine that had no decorative stitches...but we were taught how you can go about creating some of our own by winding the stitch width dial backwards and forwards as we sewed...silently counting to try and produce an even decoration (top photo...no, they aren't perfect or quite what a machine with decorative stitches could produce, but I had no idea that I could even attempt that on my machine and was surprised at what could be achieved in the two minutes we had to play with the technique.)

We also learnt how to make cord (the yellow cord above, making it was a bizarrely aerobic activity) to use in corded buttonholes. I've only ever created normal buttonholes before, but making a corded buttonhole is much easier than I'd imagined. She also taught us a fantastic way of seam-ripping your buttonhole accurately. You'll see that I've placed a pin over and in front of the bar tack - if you start in the middle of the buttonhole and keep the unpick perfectly straight you can rip right up to the pin without risking ripping on through the bar tack. Once you've done one end, repeat the process for the other end.

I am so looking forward to using all her tips and tricks which will just make everything a little easier. Zebra-girl and Dinosaur-boy also had a fantastic day with their grandmother who came to babysit for me. She arrived with huge rolls of wallpaper for them to decorate and I returned home to find that I was the audience for a show that they had put together complete with recitals of poems from Roald Dahl stories, dancing and a gallery featuring homes for pretend guinea pigs (obviously!).

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Froggish sewing

The week before last found me packing for our visit to the Isle of Wight...I had decided to make the children goody bags to open in the car - they were filled with magazines, notepads, puzzles, bubbles and for Zebra-girl a beautiful handmade doll that I had secretly bought for her a couple of months ago at a fete. However, as I was dashing about assembling wellies and suncream at 10pm it dawned on me that as my children love soft toys more than anything else the lack of something to cuddle in Dinosaur-boy's bag may have been a crushing omission...which meant packing had to be abandoned and instead I set about some stitchery. Dinosaur-boy had been pretending to be a frog for much of the week, picking out green clothes and jumping, leaping and ribbiting his way through the last days of the walk to school, so I instantly thought of one of the old bean-filled frogs that Liberty used to sell in the 1980s (I wonder if they still do). I picked out some green Heather Bailey fabric that seemed quite froggish and then sewed faster than I have ever done before and a short while later a small amphibian was born.

I have mainly been making things lately for the little shop that Mr Teacakes is designing for me and so have spent far less time sewing things just for fun or without the feeling of self-consciousness that comes from knowing that one's stitchery may be viewed by someone other than family or friends...I have become slow and perfectionist, redoing things several times...so how liberating it was to sew just for my little Dinosaur imagining him delightedly pulling the frog from the bag early the next morning in the car. I wonder if anyone else feels this...do you sew in a different way when what you are making may potentially be sold? And that's a big 'potentially' because the idea that I may be merrily sewing together a small factory-worth of goods only to sell nothing isn't lost on me (but perhaps it is a win-win situation after all, for at least I would be left with a bag to co-ordinate with every possible outfit)....but I suppose it's like that in the initial stages of doing anything.

Anyway, our holiday...we have all returned very much browner (for the weather was perfect and sunscreen had to be plentiful to avoid being charred) and refreshed. Evenings were spent playing Boggle, drinking wine and for me, reading The Time Traveler's Wife, which was so hard to put down and a book that I completely fell in love with despite the writing being slightly more edgy than I had anticipated (and I realised that it also felt like a long time since I had read a book - I have tended to stick to the weekend newspapers which can be dipped in and out of and fit better around the busyness of everyday life...but I must make more time for books, as papers are not a substitute. My mother has lent me Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach which I am hoping to start tonight).

We stayed on a farm with beautiful views and amazing surroundings. Across the road we could walk up this path (above) and reach a place that on one side had breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside (shown below, and there was such a wonderful burnt sugary smell in the air as a combine harvester did whatever it is they do to whatever crop it was that I was standing next to here...perfect...so much fun to have one's senses assaulted by such lovely things with no idea of what they are, and that is the unique joy of being more of a town girl for 51 weeks of the year, I feel)...

and on the other side stunning cliff-top views of the sea...

Ian was beginning to look somewhat frazzled by working so hard recently and staying up very late in front of his computer every night had left him looking pale and dark-eyed, so how lovely it was to watch (from the comfort of the picnic blanket) as he did what he does best...that is scrambling around, swimming in stone-cold sea, making strange sea sculptures and climbing in inappropriate places on cliffs...all while delighting the children with his foolish ways.

The other piece of loveliness was that the farm cottage we stayed at had a magazine basket stuffed with every edition of Country Living dating back to 2006...you can only guess at the many happy hours spent leafing through those....

I have been tagged by various lovely people and so will hopefully post those this week...