Wednesday, 31 October 2007

All out of grains...

Mission completed. The final doorstops are now finished. I ended up changing my pattern to the pyramid type so that I could get more out of the material...and what a stroke of genius that was, for they take but half the time!...if only the same could be said for filling them.

Filling them seemed to take forever, and involved sending Ian out to the garage several times to get more of the rice that I'd been stockpiling...but still there wasn't enough, so out he went again to assurances that there was definitely more out there...he just wasn't looking in the right places...mmm, then I realised I'd used that on the obese 4kg doorstop I'd made last week...oops. Sorry Ian. Anyway, so determined was I to finish them that I started breaking into our own grain reserves, which thankfully are not kept in the garage...a little more rice to be had there, and then onto the lentils...I drew the line at using pasta shells..., but the doorstops are now done....and I'm now dreaming of a project involving matryoshka dolls....

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Disco doorknobs and the quest for brevity...

I am largely incapable of typing short posts...or come to that short anything (the husband of a very dear friend prints off her emails for her to read while she's feeding her baby...and I've been told that he has taken to doing a word-count to see whether I'm ever able to come in under 500 words! - he is very lovely, despite his cheek, so he is forgiven). I could claim this is they symptom of being able to touch-type very quickly...but actually I think it is some kind of awful affliction that it would be nice to eventually find a cure for...there are times when brevity seems a covetable quality indeed!).

Anyway, the reason for me wishing to type a short post is that I have had a largely unproductive week sewing-wise as I have been avoiding my sewing box as I feel that until I've finished making the doorstops, that are one of my contributions to Zebra-girl's school Christmas Fair stall, I shouldn't allow myself to do any other on that basis I have done nothing at all and felt quite miserable!

So tonight, I am permitting myself five more minutes of procrastination by typing this post and then I am going to force myself to finish them, even if it means staying up all night, so that I can get back to sewing something other than rice-filled sacks. I do actually love making doorstops...just not lots of them....all in beige.....when I've got other things that I'd rather be making. Subsequently, I am craving an injection of colour, which is most unusual for me (having once been pronounced to be the Queen of Cream)...which is perhaps why today I took such huge pleasure from the little rainbows that our doorknobs were throwing all over the living room...

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Wonderful weekendness

For the past couple of months I've had a date on my calendar that has justified a personal countdown of a similar magnitude that I might give to birthdays and Christmas! As the date got closer I'd even drafted in grandparents to babysit on the Friday afternoon so that another couple of hours could be shoe-horned into the occasion! For me, more exciting than praline seashells or even the arrival of Heather Bailey fabrics, is the prospect of a weekend spent with my sister, Laura, at her flat in London.

On Friday afternoon I went to pick her up from her office - she works for a small publishing company and there are always lots of interesting books to look at, beautiful illustrations on the walls that she's commissioned to go inside, as well as these swatches and pantone books above, where she gets the delicious task of choosing what colour a new book's hardback cover will be, and what the contrasting colour on the inside will be. Mmmmm, I could spend hours playing around with those (but will have to settle instead for the paint aisle in Homebase). Anyway, after I'd nosed around her office for an indecently long time, we headed back to her flat, popped out for some drinks and then went back to eat Beetroot Soup....I was dubious when she first told me about it, but one mouthful and I was hooked and am now trying to find stockists in my area...I think it could be an addiction. More drinks and lots of late night chatter and suddenly I was waking to the sound of her alarm and the prospect of strawberries drizzled with lime juice waiting in the living room to tempt me into getting up.

Once up, we went straight over to the shop where my sister sources her lovely buttons that she sends to the children. They also do a huge selection of wonderful ribbons...just some of which are shown above.

A few minutes walk and we were at Portobello Road Market so early that we were able to enjoy browsing without the crowds of people that filled it an hour later.

I saw a wonderful professionally-taken photograph of this unusual door which can be found on one of the side streets (taken by someone with far superior photography skills to my own...although I wasn't helped by the fact that it was half-covered by market paraphernalia when I went to photograph it) that I was tempted to buy, but didn't on the grounds the colours were a bit too bright for my house (which is a shrine to cream...sometimes that's a little limiting!).

...thank goodness the old printer's trays weren't painted in zinging lime colours! My sister bought this one as a treat from a lovely little stall that had them in all shapes and sizes. I love it, and put it up the minute I got home. I'm thinking of filling it with reels of cottons in shades of white, cream and beige, interspersed by the odd little print press thing that I've already got. No, there is no logic or relevance to putting the two things together in there...but I think I will enjoy looking at them!

This piece of fruit...or is it a vegetable, whatever, its name has completely escaped me, provoked much hilarity as it looked so rude!...cats' bottoms sprang to mind, but I decided to turn the offending item into a person's mouth instead in an attempt to keep the blog respectable (I shouldn't really have mentioned the bottom at all then, should I?).

Once we'd finished at the market we headed over to Whole Foods Market, which is the enormous organic supermarket that opened in Kensingston High Street to much controversy and disapproval. I've been a couple of times now, and each time I have entered feeling ready to see all that's wrong with it, but despite all the things that it might have been criticised for, I can't help loving it. They have sourced the most wonderful products and have succeeded in making wholesomeness feel luxurious (and they sell the wonderful Beetroot Soup...what's not to like?!)....well, it's not entirely wholesome...but it is always organic....fancy an organic monster cake?...or even the gargantuan organic meringue that Laura sent home with me to give to Zebra-girl and Dinosaur-boy? I've never seen one quite so large and they were only able (and permitted!) to eat about a tenth of it between them!

Such a lovely weekend...

I now have that horrible Sunday-night feeling that it's all over....and the children return to schools & nursery in the morning...

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Chilly good fun

Look at these gorgeous red leaves...they seemed to be everywhere today!...and we very nearly didn't get to see them as the idea of staying warm and cosy in the house was horribly tempting now it's so wintry and cold (every year I forget just how cold the cold really feels!)....but after a slow start we went to a National Trust property with Grandmama and all had such chilly good fun! Here's a picture of her and Dinosaur-boy peeping at me!

There were so many interesting trees to look at and it became rather an obsession to find places on them that Zebra-girl's Fifi characters could live if we brought them back with us next summer (I didn't like to suggest that she may have grown out of Fifi by then!). The best find of the day was this little tree pool, that when Zebra-girl found it had just a couple of red leaves floating in it.

...then they filled it up.....

then emptied it back out again....

....that game could have gone on forever!

Our walk centred around this lake:

and on it we saw this gorgeous fluffy signet.

The sight of this bare tree made me feel very cold indeed and we realised that as it was nearly 3pm it might be an idea to go and get some lunch! We found a fantastic place that served delicious freshly cooked bread and an amazing Roquefort soup drizzled with truffle oil. Yum. The children had innocent smoothies with their lunch and we took a photograph of one of the packets as it looked spookily like granddad! When Ian looked through our photos once we were home it reminded him of something else other than granddad and he went to the Innocent website and there was a message there for me saying that he had bought me a tree! All you have to do is buy a carton of Innocent smoothie and they plant a tree for you to give as a gift to someone - what a nice idea!

Anyway, it seems like life has been blissfully free of doorstops for at least a day or two...can you guess what my next post may hold?!

Monday, 22 October 2007

Half-term happiness

Today was the first day of our half-term and with friends not arriving until 4pm for tea, we had almost the whole day ahead of us with no we stayed in our pyjamas....until 1.30pm!!!!! I so love the change of pace that half-term brings and usually like at least one relaxed day like this in every holiday. However, I may have to give this up as Zebra-girl revealed that actually getting dressed so late made her feel 'all lazy and eugggggggggghhhhh'....oh, so that was just me that was enjoying the extended bed-wear time then.

Once up and dressed she started making this lovely star with her Hama beads. After about half an hour she enlisted me and Dinosaur-boy as her helpers and we diligently sorted the required colours into piles for her so that she could put them on to the peg board more quickly. Zebra-girl gave us such frequent praise and encouragement that it made me think how lovely she would be to work for, should she end up being someone's boss. I was very nervous that I might drop all her careful work as I took it over to be ironed, but thankfully got it there and off the peg-board in one piece. I love her choice of colours.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

More doorstops....

Above is another of the doorstops that I've made for Zebra-girl's school craft stall...I'm not sure the photo quite conveys how vast this doorstop is, but it took 4kg of rice to fill it and when I look at it, it makes me think that I may have unwittingly pioneered the first genetically modified doorstop. However, the fabric, while beautiful, was a nightmare to work with as it had so much give in it and was very unravelly, so I'm not even going to think about reducing it's girth...I will just have to hope that someone has an incredibly weighty and large fire door that they need propping open!

We have had a lovely weekend with trips to swing parks, marathon games of pick-up sticks, indoor cricket, children's parties and today some friends from London visiting for the day. Out on a walk we spotted this table outside someone's house, a quick chat with the owner and it was theirs for nothing, so the men took turns carrying it home and had the ingenious idea of putting Dinosaur-boy's soft squashy rugby ball on top of their heads, so that the table wouldn't cause any skull indentations (!). Part way home we came across a wonderful (and brand-new!) wall cabinet in someone's front garden...a knock on the front door (and the subsequent delight of realising that the householder was actually the mother of a good friend) revealed that, that too was unwanted and free to our friends' good home...

Once back at our house, we gave it a rub down with some sandpaper and then put on coats of Danish Finishing Oil in between rounds of tea and biscuits and some exciting chat about bag-making projects (girls, not boys)...a couple of hours later and we were all standing around deciding which our favourite bits of wood grain were (which reminded me of those Fred cards where they all point to their favourite bit on the wall) and were quite delighted with how gorgeous it now was...followed by a moment of uncertainty when we realised that it may not fit in their car, but a few worrying cracking noises later and it was in and they were on their way back to London.

It's half-term this week, so I'm looking forward to having a relaxing week at home with the children, but am feeling slightly less enthusiastic about the prospect of evenings rustling up yet more doorstops...

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

The elves and the shoemaker get it wrong!

At the weekend we went to see my friend's gorgeous new baby boy, Oscar, in their almost as gorgeous, new house. Amongst other things, we took some blue booties that I had made for him using the same Heather Bailey pattern that I'd used when making the pink pair that I'd blogged a while ago. The pattern says 0-3 months and while I was making them my main thought was how long he'd have to wait until he could wear them - they just look so big for newborn feet. I finished them at about 11pm the night before we went to see them and I had a weird urge to put them together with the pink ones I'd previously made, as there is just something so very lovely and 'elves and shoemaker' about seeing little shoes lined up nicely. The next morning Zebra-Girl came into our room and obviously had a similar appreciation for such things as they reminded her of the story too.

However, unfortunately this particular shoe-maker had not taken into account the fact that Oscar's father is 6ft 4...and so consequently he has slightly larger feet than the average newborn (although they still looked absolutely tiny!)...and there was no way that he was going to be able to squeeze his lovely little feet into them, despite valiant efforts from his mum!

So unless the elves get to work overnight and surprise me, I shall be making another, larger, pair at some point this week.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

What a busy weekend my bag & I have had... much so that my bag has been on many an outing before I was able to find time to photograph it whilst still in pristine condition. Accompanying me whilst visiting some friends with a beautiful, but very malty dog, meant that the bag has inevitably acquired some extra hair...unfortunately the dog wasn't black, but I have found coming across the odd stray blonde strand to be a nice reminder of a lovely day. Anyway, here I am modelling it (photographs taken by Zebra-Girl & Ian - thank you!).

I always love the small details on shop-bought things so I always love trying to replicate them on the things that I make myself. Pictured left is a small tab that I've sewn into the seam, and which matches the fabric that I've used to make the inside pockets with (pictured right). There is a pocket for my mobile phone (a feature that I always love in a bag as I am always missing calls as I usually take so long trying to retrieve it from the jumble of contents), and another pocket next to it for bigger bits and pieces.

I've sewn two vertical lines going down the middle of the bag in contrasting thread, to try and add a bit of colour to the outside...but as I said in my last post, contrast stitching has the disadvantage of highlighting any less-than-perfect handiwork...Overall, I'm pleased with the bag - it feels really sturdy and I'm sure I could put books and magazines in there without any risk of the seams being weakened. I love the size, and the colour of the outside, and I love the piping around the bottom that helps keep the shape (which incidentally I had been dreading putting in, but it was one of those fluky things that just went well - yay!)....BUT...there are a couple of things that I feel really dissatisfied with - firstly the stitching around the curve at the top feels clunky: it was so difficult trying to get the lining to stay flat and get the slits all just the right length to keep the curve smooth, that I ended up not doing as good a job as I hoped - I did tack it all first, but I found it really hard to keep the machine in exactly the right place - with less that a millimetre between the outer line of stitching that the edge of the's okay, but not brilliant. Secondly, I really can't stand the lining - it's too bright and lacks the subtlety that buying a more expensive, better quality lining would have brought...but it was in my fabric stash and I convinced myself that it would be fine, but actually it's not and it grates on me every time I look at it!!!

Having said all that I will still wear it happily as I adore this style of bag - only having one handle seems so much easier than two - it never slips off your shoulder, and, as your arm naturally goes over the opening, all the things inside feel really secure.

This is the canvas summer bag that I used as my inspiration - it's made by Jo Edwards, who I think designs the most wonderful bags. You can find some of her more recent models at Not On The High Street (I'm sure she sells so many that it's no longer her personally hand stitching each one, but I can say that the curve on her bag, that was so problematic when I came to doing it myself, is perfection...oh to be able to stitch like that!!!).

Friday, 12 October 2007


I am in the middle of tidying up the 'sewing room' (aka: our bedroom) after a marathon bag-making session and I am finding that the scrap pile that I am gathering up from the floor consists of chocolate wrappers and fabric offcuts in near equal amounts...that tells me that this project has been both stressful and fattening!!!

I have now finished the bag (three days after beginning it...yes, that was another project that I wrongly thought would be just a couple of hours work). Anyway, pictures of the creation will have to wait until tomorrow as the photos taken tonight under the glare of tungsten bulbs are unfortunately unfit for public viewing!

But just to give you an idea - I have based it on a canvas summer bag that I bought a couple of years ago and have cunningly attempted to reinvent it as a winter bag using some heavier-weight, darker material. The pattern, as ever, is my own rather botched one, but I am learning soooooooooo much by doing this - mostly because I make soooooooooooo many mistakes, being a newbie to bag-making!!! Here are the things that I have learnt this time around.
  • Tracing your actual pattern onto your fabric is not enough...making your pattern with a seam allowance so that all the bits are cut out perfectly and match up exactly is a brilliant guide and so much better than trying to turn your own head inside-out by matching up randomly shaped pieces with an inch of seam allowance here and a centimetre there.
  • Using contrasting coloured thread to your material highlights any sewing inadequacies
  • While nearly every iron-on interfacing in the world requires a damp cloth in order to be fixed into place...always, always double-check this, as you may indeed have bought the only one that doesn't, and end up with a soggy, non-sticking mess.
  • Making bags shares certain qualities with various points I've sworn I will never ever attempt this again, but only five minutes after the birth of my bag and all the trauma is seeming like a distant memory and I am buzzing with ideas for my next one!

Anyway, my tidying break is now over and I must busy myself once more with some scintillating thread collection from the floor (although perhaps I might stop occasionally to allow myself to place my new baby over my shoulder and peer in the mirror and perform the odd pirouette - I am sure Ian will understand that this kind of activity will spur me on and give me the energy to tidy the bedroom even more quickly, rather than further delaying the pin-clearance from the duvet cover which is required for him to sleep painlessly).

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Introducing Zebra-Girl & Dinosaur-Boy...

...But before I introduce them, let me show you this pear that I've made. I've long admired the row of pears on Kwoozy's site and then saw one in Heather Bailey's flickr set too and I thought I might have a go.

There's a project that will take half an hour I thought....mmmm, two hours later I was just finishing. Actually the reason it took me so long was that using the felt & Heather Bailey material was my second choice (I had some of her fabric shipped over from the states recently for £1.98 per 1/2 yard...I can't believe the price difference - so unfair!) - my first choice was some creamy upholstery-weight material, that had a slight sheen to it, as really I had wanted the pear as an ornament in the living room, but it was a complete disaster as the fabric frayed so badly that the pear seemed to be disintegrating every time I so much as tried to pin another seam. I hardly ever abandon a project, but I eventually gave up with only one seam to go and set about making this pink pin cushion version instead - much quicker and very useful too!

A while ago I read a post (I can't remember where...which seems to be a regular occurrence with me) about the children of bloggers and their anonymity (I've noticed that while lots of bloggers do use their children's real names, many refer to them as something else, which seems like a good idea in some ways)...and it's been playing on my mind a bit, so I've now decided to do something about it. From now on my little boy will not be known by his real name, but DINOSAUR-BOY!!! And my little girl will adopt the name of Zebra-Girl. These are their favourite animals, so they're not completely randomly chosen. I can't tell you quite how dull it has been going through every previous post and photo and changing the names on them...but it's done now and I feel much better!

Last night was spent making more Christmas Stockings for Zebra-Girl's School Fair's craft stall. Here they are:

Monday, 8 October 2007

If only we didn't need to sleep...

...for there seems to be a lack of hours in the day! This last week has been really busy with one thing and another....but somehow my camera seems to have lots of pictures on it - so somewhere in amongst it all, concrete (or should that be material) things have been achieved. Firstly, this draught excluder that I made for my mother. She bought some fantastic stuffing for me to use - called Cumulus, which was a bit more expensive than standard stuffing, but the minute I started using it I could see why - it goes a very long way and subsequently you need to use far less of it than a standard stuffing. I put Velcro along one end so that she can wash it and also a tab on one corner so that it's easy to pick up. I love the fabric and the picture shows it in situ at her house (I'd forgotten to take a picture of it before I sent it over to her with Ian, but completely unbidden he took a photo of it once he arrived - how did he guess I might have wanted that?!).

I also made Ian this little mouse after he requested that I make him something really small that he could keep with him. I was guessing he didn't want something pink and Heather Baileyish, so used the brown suiting in an attempt to keep it vaguely mannish and then added some ears and a tail taken from an old cashmere scarf that my sister gave to me (it had been attacked by moths, which is such a shame as it is gorgeous, but at least the remaining bits are going to good use!). 'Love' on one side 'You' on the's meant to be Love You, but read it the other way and it's You Love....? mice?...small rodenty things? Best read the right way round. It is currently being flattened and battered by loose coins in his jeans pocket...I like things that look well-loved though, so that's fine.

A couple of cards - one for Baking Grandma who was 60 (did you read Creative Little Daisy's post a week or so ago about becoming a grandma and discussing the names we use for our grandmothers? - in our family Ian's mum is Baking Grandma, because she is the most incredible cook, especially in the cake & biscuit department, and my own mother is Little Grandmama - Zebra-Girl chose this name for her when she was around 2 years old, as even then she seemed aware that my side of the family are all very petite - odd, as I'd always thought that at that age adults all just look 'big'....but apparently not). The other card is to celebrate the arrival of a friend's new baby, yet to be named, but he's absolutely beautiful!

At the weekend my mother took the children out into the woods with little bags for collecting treasures and they came back with all sorts of things. When they came back I helped them to make pictures with them - here is Dinosaur-Boy's: he made what can only be described as a mad old bird...that he then made even madder by overloading the picture with nearly all the contents of his treasure bag. I particularly love the wings.

Earlier in the week Zebra-Girl made this - it's a shell house for an acorn that she found.

She lined the box with some of her favourite paper, and then used sellotape to make sure the petal and acorn hat staying in place....she uses sellotape on everything. One of our birthday presents to her was a craft box - full of string, sellotape and scissors - all the things that she was always asking me for, but was constantly being limited on how much she could use. It always seems to be the simplest presents that are most well-received...and the things she's made with it are so sweet - yesterday she made a picture of girl with string hair taped on - she'd divided the string out, like you'd do with embroidery thread.

And finally, I have started making some Christmas stockings for Zebra-Girl's school's Christmas Fair craft stall. I really like this stitch, but it does seem to use up vast quantities of thread....

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

A most unexpected end to the indecision....

Yesterday I went into my local fabric shop and was pondering the upholstery and curtain weight fabrics...I wanted to make another door stop for the living room, but at £20+ per metre I felt completely overwhelmed and indecisive....BUT THEN...I happened to see that they had huge boxes full of materials that they'd carefully packaged up into colour groups with insanely low prices labelled on them. This in itself was a galloping heart moment, but even more so when the lovely sales assistant agreed to open one of the packages so that I could see what kind of sizes the fabrics pieces were. Some of them are huge, enough to make 4 doorstops out of, let alone just the one that I needed! Others were tiny, but will be fantastic for adding little details to things.

So all of the above for £8.50!!!! (my guess is that there's nearly £100 of material there) And also this one below:

Orange has never really been a colour that I've been drawn to, but I think that regular reading of the How About Orange... blog is beginning to change that and so I was unexpectedly quite delighted by it.

So why were my local fabric shop doing this? Apparently they were offcuts from the workroom floor. However, all of them are unblemished and lovely, so I am considering going for second inspection of their wares (on Ian's encouragement), as I think I may regret it later if I don't....

Now I just have to decide which one of these would make the best doorstop to go with the colours in my living room...there is much standing around the rug having stroky beard moments in our house now (despite a complete lack of facial hair in both parties!)
A few of the books/products that I link to on Amazon from my blog contain affiliate links and very occasionally, I'll mention a product that I've been given free of charge. I choose the things that I recommend carefully and my priority is to only share things that I love.