Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Chalky excitement

I must tell you about this wonderful little device (which everyone else may have known about for years, but it's new to me, and has me wanting to shout about it's fabulousness from the rooftops...). But first, the problem I have had that lead me to it:

I've always found the marker pens where the ink fades away after 24 hours to be a bit of a disappointment, for the lovely crisp lines they allow you to draw seem to dissolve almost immediately with exposure to light or heat and so the minute my fabric gets anywhere near my sewing machine lights it is a race to sew along my guidelines as fast as possible (and you can just imagine how attractively that turns out!). A dressmakers chalk is another option, but I sometimes find that for smaller items it is too cumbersome and doesn't give a fine enough line, so up until now I have stuck to a combination of squinting, sewing in the dark and cursing a lot....but now those days are behind me.

Meet the wonderful push-up chalk pen! It comes with with a selection of chalks for you to load in to the pen in all manner of colours and gives a satisfyingly thin line that brushes off quite easily afterwards. I now cannot imagine a sewing life without one.

I must also tell you about a green and thrifty option to marking that was recently brought to my attention by the lovely Hazel (who I must implore to start a blog so that I can link to all the loveliness that she makes!). Hazel sent a near-finished bar of soap for me (at just the point where the bar has turned into more of a wafer with slightly sharper edges) and suggested that it is a fantastic way of marking on lines...and it is! Mid bag-making session using some dark suiting and having an argument with the dissolving pen (which doesn't really show up on that type of material anyway), before the push-up pen had come into my life, I suddenly remembered it, and I have to say it is the most perfect, green, and economical option.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Thoughts on Cash's name tags and other things

These hearts are the last thing that I will make for Zebra-girl's Christmas it's nearly upon us. They were really quick to run up as it was not my fabric there was none of the usual humming and harring (sp!?) about what material to use, again, not my labels and I was even given the pattern that I should's amazing how much of the time spent making something is taken up by indecision and playing with the fabrics and pattern....but then that's a large part of the fun, but just occasionally it's nice not to have to think.

If only I had known last year how easy it is to sew a Cash's name tag on with a machine! When Zebra Girl started in Reception I was such an eager beaver that I even sewed name tags into each individual sock by hand! It took hours and allowed much time for unhealthy brooding and apprehension....a year on and I have to confess that on occasion, when in an extreme rush, I have resorted to using a (whisper it) Biro! Oh, how quickly standards have slipped! I feel quite ashamed of that: there is something about having Cash's name tags sewn in to children's clothing that says 'cared for'...I must go back to doing this, not least so that Zebra-girl & Dinosaur-boy will find them as nostalgic and lovely as I do once they are grown...

The mirror that I have displayed a couple of the hearts on was a gift from my lovely father...he guiltily scours boot fairs at first light during the summer months and on one particularly fine 'booting' day bought me this for me for only 50 pence! ('Guiltily' because my mother disapproves and, increasingly, because his study is starting to resemble a boot fair itself as this is the only place he is now permitted to deposit his haul). I love my mirror though.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Storage solutions...

...yesterday felt like an evening for sewing boxes had become such tangled, unpleasant places that no enjoyment could be had from rooting around in them. I'd been so busy and involved in the projects that I was doing that I'd become less than careful about putting things back neatly when I eventually fell into bed after midnight for the third week running (and less than careful about tidying away the pins that seem to fly around the room when I've been mid-sewing-frenzy...ouch! Sorry, Ian!). So here's a selection of some of my fabrics, all nicely folded and colour-sorted (thanks for the inspiration Jo, it was your talk of felt tips that did it!). Above, all my plains cottons and linings on the right, and on the left my yummiest, pinkest fat quarters (yes, that should have been left first and then wires appear to be crossing).

Plaids and bits of randomness on the left and my felts on the right (back to normal again!).

Velvet has to be one of the best things in life, no? here's some more.

...and some of my favourite patterned ribbons. Does anyone have any good ideas on how best to store ribbons...mine look fine now, but it will only take one small venture into their pot to find what I want and they'll be in a tangle again.

This is the tin where my thread lives...I would love one of those antique wooden things with little prongs on, so that they could all look lovely lined up and not end up creating a tumbleweed of thread. (Although I love the was once filled with some lemon biscuits from Fortnum & Mason that was a Christmas gift from friends...I sometimes delude myself that I have caught a whiff of their lovely lemonyness in the air!).

This is the box my mother bought me for keeping my buttons in...I love it and think of her each time I use it.

...and here are its contents:

All this...and much more...fits under our very low bed! Oh for a dedicated sewing room. Ian has told me to find out how much it might cost for us to take a corner off Zebra-girl's room and added on to our own, so that his body parts might be free from the dangers of the pin-infested space he currently inhabits at bedtime...but somehow, despite the fact that her bedroom is far larger than ours, I would feel horribly guilty and selfish about stealing part of what she considers to be her space, so I'm trying to think up better storage ideas instead.

How do you store your sewing things, those of you who don't have a sewing room? Or tell me how you store them even if you do have one, so that I can properly imagine how lovely that must be! I love storage and thinking about perfect storage solutions. How do you store your ribbons and threads?

Tomorrow evening? I will be tidying my upholstery-weight fabrics, which will be most therapeutic as the day times are to be dominated by 3 children's parties this weekend!

Oh gosh, look at that, Ginny! I appear to have done it again!!!

I hope everyone has lovely weekends. x

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Mid-week holidays...

Ian took some holiday this week and has had the first three days off. It rained a lot and was generally gloomy, which was fine as it meant that we felt justified in staying at home doing very little! Although, somehow, it wasn't little enough, as Ian noticed that with all the dropping off and picking up from school and nursery, and popping here and there to get things, he never managed to finish any of the cups of coffee that he made....he says this aspect of being at home is making him feel less glum about going back to work tomorrow...he is looking forward to drinking a whole mug!

I was up until 1am last night working on one of the Christmas presents I'm making...and Ian very sweetly got the children off to school and nursery this morning so that I could get straight back to it at 7am, as I had been awake half the night trying to work out the best way to get some seams to join up neatly and had finally woken with a plan that I was desperate to try I stayed in my pajamas until lunchtime sewing, while we chatted and I listened as he played funny songs on his guitar for me. A lovely morning.

Afternoons we filled with walks in the drizzle to the bakery to buy Coffee Swiss Rolls (yes, more than once in three days...?!) playing eye-spy with Dinosaur-boy to distract him from the cold and the fact that Ian has persuaded me that I must start leaving the pushchair at home (perhaps I need this more than Dinosaur-boy...I'm not ready to have two children that walk everywhere yet). On our walk there is a very long low wall for him to walk along, carefully balancing. There is something about walking a child along a of my favourite things...oh dear, I am in a pondering, pensive sort of mood...perhaps I am feeling a little sad that I finished filling in his school application forms yesterday?

At the start of the week Ian had promised the children an end-of-his-mini-holiday special tea on Wednesday...oh gosh, what an unhealthy week we've had...macaroni cheese (there was lots of broccoli too!) and then this ice cream extravaganza that made Zebra-girl's eyes practically pop out on stalks, such was her delight. In the picture you can just see the edge of Zebra-girl's rainbow bowl, which I love. And here's Dinosaur-boy's, which takes up the owl-theme that I've been admiring on various blogs over the last couple of weeks. Both are from the Tate Modern when they were running their Colour exhibition (...but what a shame I forgot they weren't dishwasher proof...I seem to have antiqued them somewhat!).

After tea, Ian and the children built this tower for balls to go down, which ended up being taller than Zebra-girl.

My favourite bit of it is this bit pictured below: it reminds me of a birdhouse stuck up on the top of the tower like that. I also like the shadow it makes on the wall.

And has anyone noticed that Blogger has added a slideshow feature to the Page Elements section? (you can see it in action on the right, entitled 'my pictures')...but has anyone yet discovered how you link to a particular flickr folder, rather than just a general one?

Monday, 19 November 2007

Walking the dog...

At the weekend we went to stay with Ian's parents. When Ian and his sister were little his father had made, from Meccano pieces, a mechanical dog that would chase them, delighting Ian, but scaring his poor little sister. (I remember myself, aged 3, having the same reaction to a large walking doll...that once set on it's path by our neighbour's older daughter, careered towards me with glazed eyes as I screamed and found myself backed into a corner). I wonder if we were less used to moving toys then...because Grandpa had recreated a slightly higher-tech version of his mechanical dog for our children's visit this weekend and Zebra-girl and Dinosaur-boy looked on with glee, rather than fear. Zebra-girl even picked it up as it's tail continued to wag and it's legs continued to grind fruitlessly forward in mid-air.

How clever to be able to make all it's wiring and gears though....he is the sort of man who takes whole television sets apart and then remakes them just for fun.

On the sewing-front we are not too far off finishing making things for the Christmas Fair, and I am also eagerly awaiting the Royal Mail van each day which should be carrying fabric from the States for me, so that I can continue with making my family's Christmas presents. So many desperate to discuss them...perhaps I need to set up a secret Christmas blog!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

My boots have landed...and not a sausage in sight

Normal crafty/sewing activities will soon be resumed, but first I want to share with you a picture (or two) of my new boots that arrived yesterday, following the surprising (and completely lovely) amount of interest and support I have had during my on-going boot crisis.

I am very happy, for they go in at the ankle (so no sausage legs...well, apart from what's naturally there resembling sausages, but there's little I can do about that...or maybe that's called eating less chocolate, but where's the fun in that!?), they don't bag at the top (so no wellington accusations) and they even add nearly 1.5 inches of free height (although I then feel so tall that I develop a slight stoop to compensate as I'm so unused to that sensation that I feel very conspicuous... weird given that my new height is only just above 5ft2')!!!

How only see in a photo that the doormat needs straightening!

Anyway, I have been up nearly every night until midnight for nearly two weeks frantically sewing Christmas presents (why?'s still so far away!), so tonight I'm having a night off. I spent half an hour this afternoon having a look at some new blogs (well, new to me anyway) and am feeling inspired by all the owl-themed things that seem to be around at the moment (I'd never been to Moon Stitches before...but I love it!) and then more owly inspiration at Creative Little Daisy and again at Lucy Kate Crafts. I also came across London Mummy who has the most fantastic blog and makes beautiful stuffed houses (and more recently a church, which is amazing) description of them does them a disservice as a 'stuffed house' sounds a little odd, so do go and have a look yourself as they are wonderful!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

A new addition to the family...

I think I wrote a while ago that Ian had commented on how lovely it must be to go into a fabric shop and know that if the beauty of a particular fat quarter made your heart sing, you could just go ahead and buy it right then, as long as you had £2.50 in your purse. He said this in relation to how very different it is for him when he goes into a guitar shop...they're all there lined up on the walls, but mostly the ones that make his heart sing are quite out of reach, at least without a good few years of saving first. Anyway...last Saturday the children were staying at my parents so we headed up to London for breakfast...a pain au chocolat and a coffee or two, and then we wandered over to Denmark Street...which is pretty much for guitars, what Berwick street is for fabric shops. (I realise it does sound like I gadd off to London at the drop of a hat with three trips up in as many weeks - this is completely unrepresentative though and has come as quite a surprise, albeit a happy one)

His mission was a vintage one, in that it's been burning in him for the last decade and that the guitar he had in mind would be pre-1940s....two hours later and in the last shop we went to he found it. Beautiful wood, an interesting history and a sound that seemed alive...he was in love. And I realised how similar we are - he appreciated the combination of woods in the same way I'd appreciate combining a beautiful velvet ribbon with a contrasting piece of material. Some heavily figured Brazilian Rosewood on the bridge, worn Mahogany on the neck...he has spent hours since Saturday admiring the way they compliment one another.

Anyway...what a response I had to my boots mission! But it has finally come to an end, or will do once the postman arrives. The Camper boots were gorgeous...but not quite right for me - wellies should be wellies and boots should be boots in my book! I already have my dream boots - a 3-year old Christmas present from LK Bennett that are brown suede with a lovely crepe wedge heel that keeps the easily-ruined suede out of harms way, but I needed a black pair! And guess what?...I found their black identical twins on EBay!!! A size 36, brand new, and mine for £35!!! What have they been doing unworn in someone's wardrobe for the last three years, I wonder? - maybe their previous owner has had a boot crisis similar to my own...demonstrating that one woman's perfect boot is another woman's wellington. Anyway, the minute they are here I shall be attempting to contort myself into strange positions in order to photograph them whilst on my legs!

I have been sewing like a loon...and am making hefty inroads into the long list of Christmas presents that I am making...more on that when I've devised a way of sharing them here whist still keeping them secret from the intended recipients (who also read my blog).

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Goodbye Sausage-Legs, hello Wellington-Girl...

Gosh, VV Rouleaux is obviously a favourite in everyone's book...and I can see why. Trying to narrow down my selection took at least half an hour... but once I'd finalised my choice even more reward was to come - what gorgeous bags they wrap it all up in! Here's some of my haul, photographed above, including a gorgeous little pin tin from Cath Kidston that I'd had my eye on for a while. I bought quite a few bits and pieces fabric-wise, but unfortunately won't be able to reveal specifics until after Christmas as some of the recipients cast their beady eyes over my blog occasionally.

I was slightly disappointed by John Lewis - pre-children, when I lived in London, I never really used to go up to the 4th floor fabrics, and instead would stick to the second floor where there are more upolstery-weight fabrics that were perfect for the projects I was doing at the time (rescuing and recovering chairs from skips...gosh, I miss black cabs - they are so perfectly sized for transporting such finds). However, seven years on and my skip-rooting side has more or less departed me, so I am now more suited to the fourth floor lighter-weight fabrics...what a disappointment can they have so much space up there, yet such poor choice? I bought a wooden yard stick, confirmed for future knowledge that the second floor is still wonderful, and then was on my way. I had vague recollections that Berwick Street in Soho used to be good for fabrics...and it didn't disappoint.

Here is a picture of my favourite shop there: Cloth House, which was completely dreamy (although a little pricey)...further down the road I found silk shops, Borovik (where I bought some fabric for my mother's Christmas present and some fabulous suede remnants), and also The Fabric King (this actually had some good fabrics, but psychologically I had a mental block about buying from a shop with that made me think of burgers and sweat shops).

I took the sausage boots back and successfully got my refund and then bought some new boots in Camper (horay!) - beautifully made, a size 35 (so hard to find) and just all round gorgeous...but alas on my return it was suggested to me that they actually looked like Wellingtons as they are a little gapey around the tops!!!! Ian says this is no bad thing as it is an obvious invitation to eat more in order to fatten up my legs...but while that mission could be fun, I really just want some nice boots to wear right NOW without having to eat 200 doughnuts to look right in them (and without having to buy new jeans to accommodate my extra middle)...oops, another trip to London then?

Anyway, boot crisis aside, my sewing machine is busy and I have a hundred ideas whizzing round my head for Christmas presents that I want to make; one of which involves decoupage, a technique I've always wanted learn. I saw this chair in the decopatch brochure and I think it would be the perfect way to do up an old mirror that I have that I have wanted to pass down to Zebra-girl.

I must also thank LucyKate who has nominated me for a SMILE award and in the process made me smile too! Thank you!!! I will pass it on when I find out how you find out who has already been nominated...if that makes sense!

Monday, 5 November 2007

I must make errors of judgement more often...

as it is now essential that I go up to London tomorrow and leave my lovely mother in charge of the children for the day so that I can go and return some boots that I purchased while visiting my sister - they had the unfortunate effect of making any hint of an ankle disappear and left only a pair of tubeified legs, closely resembling sausages. At first I couldn't quite admit to myself that I had made this error as it would mean such great hassle in order to return them, but second opinions revealed that it was not just me that was seeing sausages...however, as I plan my trip up I am realising that this will not be such a bad thing as I have several Christmas presents that I'm making where only John Lewis will do when it comes to fabric selection, so my first port of call (after returning the boots....oh, I so dislike returning things and sorry, sorry, sorry, Laura, that I needlessly put you through the trial of spending an hour with me while being indecisive over whether to buy them in the first place!) will be there, and as long as I'm not too flibbertygibberty over making my choices, I'm also hoping to fit in a quick trip to VV Rouleaux which I have been told has quite the most exquisite collection of ribbons and trimmings. Above is one of the colour swatches from their website showing their samples of Velvet Piping Tape...I didn't know that existed pre-made, but thank goodness it does, as I now want some very much indeed!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Seasonal inappropriateness...

...well that's what it seemed like to have a profile picture of me on here giggling away in white summer clothing with some parched green grass in the I have changed it to something more in keeping with the current climes! This idea makes Ian laugh, but I'm convinced that others find these things irksome too (not specifically my summer garb...but other things like that in their own lives!).

A while ago I asked Ian if he would make me a pink RSS feed button, as I found the orange one seemed to ruin the pinkness of my blog. To much head-shaking, guffawing and snorts of derision he created one for me claiming that I must be the only person in the world to need their RSS button colour co-ordinating (and he's a web-designer....I can't believe his clients are so well-behaved!)....but then I started to look around...and found that actually, I wasn't so loopy after all, as I have spotted others who have chosen to ditch the orangeness and at some point must have had to humiliate themselves by requesting that their rss button be made to match their hair colour or some other piece of frivolousness (okay, I haven't seen anything to demonstrate that particular example, but you get my point?)...and that's what I love about looking at other peoples crafting blogs...sometimes I'll notice a little thing that someone has done to their blog that ties it all together, and of course even more so on something they've made, and I find it so pleasing that there are others who find this pedanticness (is that a word?) runs through their character when it comes to anything touched by aesthetics.

As a nod to the ridiculous superficiality of this post I present you with a belated picture of our Halloween pink. Enjoy.
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