Friday, 27 November 2009

Too much mustard?

Back in August when my local sewing shop began getting in their winter stock I practically fell to the floor in a swoon when I saw this mustard-coloured wool suiting. Thinking of winter bags and wishing the last days of summer away, I bought some right then and there, along with a little dark blue to go with it, as one of my favourite winter coats is just that colour (I was unsure if I was making it for myself or not...but illogically I tend to only make things that go with my own clothes). I'd had this weird up-and-downy scallopy effect in my head (I wonder if there's an official name for this technique - I'm sure that I've seen it on children's clothing before. It reminds me of honeycomb though...so for this reason this will be called The Honeycomb Bag) for a long time and couldn't wait to try it out. It made my head ache trying to work out how big the pattern piece needed to be to accommodate my scallops and they took far longer to execute than I could have possibly envisaged (for it needed to be done for both sides). However, I'm sure that I remember that Julia once wrote about giggling to herself as she sewed something that she found especially delightful (I'm so sorry to pin this one on you if it wasn't you, Julia - I can't find it in your archives!), but anyway, I must admit to partaking in a little of this mad laughter, for despite the time-consuming nature of it, the finished effect made me feel quite giddy.

So what a shame then that I ruined the whole bag by making some hideously thick piping for it and then installing a frumpily thick tab on it too. When I'd finished I hung it up on our cupboard doors (this is where all finished bags spend at least a couple of hours, so that I can decide whether I'm happy with everything) and sat feeling rather gloomy...would it be too over-dramatic to say that looking at my own poor workmanship and the bag's ugliness made me want to poke my eyes out with a fork? It stayed there taunting me for a couple of days, and then I put it away in my cupboard of finished Made by Florence shop items (which was a mistake, because it completely ruined the karma of the cupboard for me). Anyway, that was August and this is now. When getting something out of the cupboard this week I suddenly realised that I would either have to snip the bag into tiny bits to obliterate any evidence that such an eyesore ever existed...or would have to gently take the whole thing apart with my seam ripper, install some narrower piping and leave the cumbersome tab off all together. On environmental grounds I chose the latter.

I phoned a dear friend (who is incapacitated having just broken various body parts while cycling DOWN a hill as fast as her legs would turn the pedals...even she doesn't know why she chose to do this, but it just makes me love her all the more and makes me think of the Lotta books) and sat unpicking stitches while we giggled over what a loon she can be at times and the logistics of getting dressed without fully-functioning limbs.

And a couple of hours later I felt as though the bag had been rescued from the brink, even though Mr Teacakes says that mustard doesn't really appeal to him and looked slightly pained when I asked him what he thought of it. But then I have the same reaction to polyester football shirts, so that's fine, I suppose....for mustard makes me happier than a happy thing (NB. luckily Mr Teacakes understands the importance of not wearing this type of shirt at any other time than when actually playing football himself...which makes me even happier than the colour mustard).

Here's some close-up scallop action.

Other sewing this week has been canine related. Long-time readers may remember that a long time ago I made this cushion featuring a Westie dog for a friend of the smallest Teacake. Anyway, they recently asked me if I might rustle up a matching Christmas stocking, which of course I was only too happy to do.

I hung this up in Zebra-girl's room to photograph it as that's where the sun was and sweet little Honey happened to be sitting at the bed head with her paws resting over one of the little cats that decorate Zebra's slipper socks (bought from Monsoon in case your own girlie might like a pair...or inspiration for those of you who can actually click your knitting needles together like Dorothy and her red shoes...I'm like a farmer in wellingtons for that particular activity, which is why the slipper socks are bought, rather than homemade...but oh how I'd love to make stripy cat-adorned slipper socks). I was unsure as to whether she had noticed what was on the socks, and whether the paw was protective or predatory...but she looked so scrumptiously lovely sitting there in the sun that I had to take a photo of her.

Anyway, even more exciting than bags, stockings or cats is that we are off to meet a new baby this weekend - my sister-in-law has just had the most gorgeous little boy and the smaller Teacakes are beside themselves with what cousinish fun might be in store over the coming years. Horah!

Thank you so, so much for spoiling me with so many lovely and kind comments on my last post - I'm delighted that all three pictures have now been sold. If anyone is interested in commissioning one they are priced at £40, including framing and p&p (UK mainland only - overseas postage will come to a little more).
Wishing you a lovely weekend.
Florence x
p.s. for photos that are less grainy and blurry (why do you do this blogger?!) you can visit my photostream at Flickr.

Friday, 20 November 2009

To the ball...

I've recently felt (well a month or so ago...because there's a slight time-lag in my blogging at the moment) that I had so many ideas bubbling away in the background that I wasn't giving any time to that I just might go into melt-down if I didn't get them stitched and out of my head. With custom orders and trying to make stock for the craft fair (intermingled with going to spinning classes and the gym, which may seem like a self-indulgent way to spend time, but really my days are so sedentary that it began to seem a necessity if I was to have a hope of seeing my 33rd birthday) there didn't seem to be time in the week to set aside vast chunks of it for more experimental stitching that might be less likely to sell.

So one very wet and rainy weekend, the lovely Mr Teacakes let me spend two entire days and nights (yes, it was a this-is-so-much-fun-I-can't-waste-time-sleeping sort of affair) cutting out small bits of fabric, while he and the children pottered about playing board games and watching videos together and occasionally coming in to sit on the floor where I was working for chatting and the nibbling of jelly beans (vegetarians take note - delightfully, the Jelly Belly and M&S jelly beans are all free of gelatine and so are perfect for making up for all those lovely looking jelly sweets that are out of bounds...and the colours and flavours are so lovely that, luckily, my children find them far more appealing anyway). Cinderella going to a ball was first on my list of things that I really wanted to do. I love the fairy godmother and carriage scene and golden thread seemed the only way for me to go to attempt to make it seem as sparkly and magical as the written story is when read aloud.

It took me hours to decide on fabrics...I have the most enormous pile of wheel-shaped rejects, which was a piece over which I seemed to become particularly indecisive. I framed the final picture in white.

My next picture is of a girl on a swing. I think there's something inexplicably lovely about swings, both to children and adults and I know that Zebra-girl loves them (although more recently I just experience horrible vertigo-like feelings whenever I go on one, which I feel so annoyed about)...if only our own tree was strong enough to hang one from. This feels both spring-like and wintry to me, depending on whether you think of the background as sky or falling snow.

This was the picture that I ended up being most pleased with, as I really like the colours.

And because I really love her hair...and would quite like to have hair like that myself occasionally.

I tried each one hung on our own walls to see how they looked...to do this I had to take down one of our existing pictures and was greeted by forgotten evidence that it was me who had hung that picture, as the wall behind is covered in failed attempts to get the nail in properly. Oh dear. Picture changeover was done while Mr Teacakes was out of the room.

And finally, I've felt desperate to do something involving a hot air balloon for well over two years, so it was with complete happiness that I cut out the pieces for the balloon. I decided that this one needed to be a little more boyish and so I changed my thread to silver and stuck to bold primary colours.

There is a little grey cat peeping over the edge of the basket, although dinosaur-boy assumed that this was a wolf. I think I like the idea of a wolf in a hot air balloon floating over the tree tops and roofs tops even more, so I'm sticking with his interpretation.

Wishing you a lovely weekend.

Florence x

**UPDATED** Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and all your lovely comments - they are so appreciated. I'm delighted that all three pictures have now been sold. If anyone is interested in commissioning one they are priced at £40 - this includes framing and P&P within the UK mainland (I am happy to ship overseas, but this will cost a little more). x

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Through the letterbox

Long time readers of my blog may remember that my sister, Laura, edited an anthology of poems a couple of years ago for Penguin Classics entitled Poems for Life. Well yesterday, her third anthology, Love, plopped onto my doormat and is just as lovely. Cloth-bound like the last, with thick creamy pages, it is a delicious treat of a book. And I can't help but be delighted by the fact that this book has page marking ribbons in contrasting shades of red...

Ordered into sections by the different ways in which we might experience love ranging from Suddenly, Secretly, Nearly and Tentatively, through Haplessly, Incurably, Impatiently and Passionately, to Greedily, From a distance, With a vow and Happily ever after. Stopping at The morning after, Treacherously, Bitterly and Indifferently, in between. My list omits so many other thoughtfully titled ways in which we might feel the ups and downs of love.

New favourites have been comfortingly found in the Happily ever after section, most especially one by Adrian Nowlan entitled Parlour Games (which I have been unable to find online to link to), which gave me that deliciously rare feeling of instant recognition, that can come as someone so eloquently expresses a snapshot recognised from your own life - he writes of a couple reaching a silent truce through smirks and sideways smiles over the course of a visit from unexpected guests who had arrived mid-argument in the most perfect and generous way.

I was propelled back to being a 17 year old as I re-read a much studied scene from Twelfth Night, revisited my first year at university when reading an extract from Roger McGough's book Summer with Monika and loved reading of moments captured on paper from the lives of others - In-flight Note by Judith Rodriguez, A Friendship by Connie Bensley and Ironing by Olivia McCannon.

She has included Invisible Kisses by one of my most favourite poets, Lemn Sissay, and for our Mama the book ends with Leonard Cohen's Dance Me to the End of Love. And on turning to the acknowledgments, she has dedicated the volume to myself and my parents....which makes me feel all butterfly stomached and watery eyed.

Just as beautifully bound and almost as lovely, my sister sent me this wonderful edition of Pride & Prejudice last month. After hearing her talk about Austen novels and recalling my own love of Emma, I rued the fact that I still hadn't read Pride & Prejudice, so she ordered me this very special mustard-hued copy, which I read, barely stopping to eat, over the course of 24 hours.

In the same way that one can see how a cliche becomes a cliche because of its very trueness, one can also see why a classic becomes just that - it is just so very, very good. I loved it and entered into the Bennett's world so whole-heartedly that for several days after I found that my speech had become slightly more formal and quaintly phrased (luckily I was able to email Joanne in character and know that she would be most sympathetic having spent nearly two years fashioning an Austenesque dress in which she might answer the door to the postman...how very odd that makes her sound! She will thank me for mentioning that out of context, I know).

Anyway, after a spell in the Austen decompression chamber I returned to my partially normal self and started devouring this wonderful craft book that I was sent pre-publication in October (which excited me no end for the only thing more delicious than a new sewing book is a new sewing book still in its comb binder arriving on my doorstop to peep at before its even arrived at Amazon HQ).

I love the premise for One-Yard Wonders, being someone who hoards her fabric greedily, not able to cope with the idea that a project might use up my entire supply of a certain print. As it says on the cover there are 101 projects and they are incredibly diverse.

I particularly loved the ones where fabric was used in a more unconventional way - like Junie Moon's project which shows you how to cover an old-fashioned pair of bathroom scales with fabric and seal it so that it has a rock-hard totally unfabricy finish, or Danielle Wilson's project which inspires you to fabric line the backs of shelves.

The projects which use fabric more conventionally range from children's and women's clothes, to bags and cushions, to holders and cosies, toys and blankets. There are some really fantastic ideas in there too, such as the beanbag booster seat, which I would have loved when my two were small. The photography is beautiful and many of the pages are edged with strips of lovely fabrics.
Storey Publishing are currently running a giveaway to coincide with the release of the book where one can win free fabric for a whole year - you can find the entry form here (and you don't have to actually buy the book to enter...although the book is so lovely that it's well worth buying - you can find it in hardback here - the paperback is yet to be released).

So much postboxy loveliness that I think I may need to go and lie down. If this isn't the linkiest, longest post that I've ever done then I'm not sure what is...if you're still here and haven't got lost link-following then hurrah! x

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

A pocket for everything...and one more for good measure

Well now, somehow an entire month seems to have passed by without a blog post, and part of it hasn't even been my fault! But more on that later, first some sewing, because my stitching archives are nearly three months deep now with unshared makes. A couple of months ago I was asked to make a bag to be given as birthday gift. The colours were to be kingfisher blues on donkey-coloured suiting...so many shades of donkey...so horribly open to interpretation...I was very much hoping that we were imagining the same donkey. I'm not sure we were, but I've since heard from both the gift-giver and the recipient that the bag has been very well-received, and so I'm assuming that all shades of donkey can become beloved.

Anyway, I hadn't found myself wanting for donkeys and kingfishers, but I have to admit that I did try this bag on a few times and became so consumed with wanting one that I rustled one up for myself too. Mine is the one at the top of this post with the more subdued blue piping...let's call it petrol...or dolphin.

And now here is my very own bag (at a jaunty angle as Zebra girl is becoming rather arty if in her photography). It has a much shorter handle than the other bag, as when I know I'm making something for myself then it becomes part of my 'petites range' (he he!) which is more suited to people who are only 5ft 1. Originally most things that I made were cut this way until it was broken to me (very tactfully) that normal people need longer bag handles.
I don't tend to experiment with things quite as much when I'm making them for other people, but as it was for me and it mattered far less if it all went horribly wrong and ended up in the bin, then I thought I'd attempt an internal zippered pocket, which is something I've always wanted, but never found the time to try. Anyway, Lisa's tutorial for this provides all the pointers a girl could need for getting it right first time and I have to admit to having butterflies as I finished the pocket as I was so thoroughly excited by seeing for myself that it really was perfectly do-able. And like an over-decorated Christmas tree I added in a key holder, as well as a pocket for mobile phone, wallet, pens and a whole host of other things that I found it strangely pleasing to make perfectly-sized pockets for. It's not very clear here, but there are actually additional pockets beneath the zip, as well as piped pockets on the other side. I listened to a Damian Rice album six times over that day as I was working so fast that I didn't feel I even had time to get up and change my iPod to something different. By the time I went to pick the children up from school the room was a mess, Damian was starting to grate a little, I was covered in thread, but my bag of many pockets was finished.

The magpie in me is loving these shiny hoops, also from Ms Lam's shop - is there no end to that girl's goodness?

How odd though that it doesn't feel like my bag after all that...it actually feels like my mother's. Last year I made her this bag in very similar material and now whenever I use my bag it feels like I'm borrowing it from her. Hmmm.
Anyway, I did say that there were reasons for my blogging absence. The first is that I suddenly had so much work on, that when not deciding to quite illogically drop it all to sew millions of pockets for myself instead, I didn't have time to blog. At some point I came down with the usual October coldyness which seems to have left me partially deaf, but in amongst all that we took ourselves off to the most wonderful cottage in West Wittering with my parents, where we stayed for several days. The weather was perfect and every day of our stay was spent at the beach playing football, cricket and searching for shells. There was such a healthy sense of competition between the adults that two came home with sporting injuries after making tackles with more vigour than seaside games might usually require. The beach at West Wittering is amazing and every day gave a different look to the shoreline.

Arriving home I was all ready to get back to work and had a long list of things that I wanted to do...which all suddenly became impossible once we found that our Internet connection had somehow broken while we were away and that I would have to spend the next week on the phone trying to work out why it had broken and what could be done to fix it. Anyway, BT have now installed some new cabling somewhere a long way from us, and after something of an Internet detox I now feel quite delighted by the idea that you can have a thought and then google it immediately, rather than delaying the gratification by waiting for 10 days.

But there was lots of of sewing to be done and I am now beginning to make some things for the We Make Fair in Chelsea Town Hall in December, where I will be sharing a stall with Joanne & Helen. I am loving the idea of shared stallship for it means there is so much less pressure to produce a mass of things. We are in a smaller room, that is a little less grand than the main hall, but is apparently very near the tea and cakes, which seems like a good compromise.

What have you been up to? x