Tuesday, 18 November 2008

A flexible addiction....

Thank you so much for all your comments on my somewhat wordy last post on verbosity last week...they were all appreciated and it was so nice to have such warm encouragement to warble on still further. Giles...you see, you just didn't get it (see end of last post for recap on who Giles is).

The week before last, I was asked to make some glasses cases...which started an almost unhealthy addiction to the making of them. What a lovely idea I thought and then anxiously ordered five flex frames from Lovely Lisa, wondering whether I would actually be capable of making them (this currently seems to be the starting point for most of my endeavors), but thinking that if I could, then I may also make a couple for the craft fair that I'm doing at the end of November to make the postage costs worthwhile.

Well, the delicious flexes arrived and their flexing was so satisfying and their small chromey bits so shiny...and they have proved to be the most perfect reincarnation in another form for the the style of the teabag holders that I make...and I have been having so much fun making them that less than a week after the first purchase, I placed a repeat order, asking Lisa to stop me if I tried to buy any more...but then a friend came visiting while the second batch were being created and asked if I might make one for her mother and another for her little boy (with a crab on....gosh, glasses cases for children opens up even more avenues of fun)....which meant that a third order had to be placed...and it is never economical to order just two of something...so I now have rather an abundance of glasses cases for the craft fair and the ones pictured are just the tip of the iceberg...I have since ventured into many more fabric types and colourways.

I have also been making up vast quantities of stockings. Four of the ones pictured were for custom orders...but again, the surplus are stock for my table at the fair.

Making things for a fair is a strange thing indeed....most of the time I am propelled by thoughts of: I have a 6ft table to fill, I must make large quantities of everything to avoid having only an expanse of white table cloth with a teabag holder in the centre...but then another part of me niggles away, wondering at the knowledge that these weeks of frenzied activity may result in a wet squid of an evening where I sell nothing and fail to cover even the cost of my table. I am regularly having to send a large (but thankfully entirely imaginary) JCB through my head to shovel these thoughts to one side. Although for the most part I'm feeling generally more positive about it after one of my dearest friends, who knows me very well, offered to accompany me to it, instinctively guessing that I would be close to hyperventilating every time I thought about standing behind my table of stitchery alone...so if nothing else we will spend the entire evening giggling and I would happily pay the table fee for that.

But as of last night my stitchery is all being done from a different desk; an early Christmas present. For the last couple of years I have worked on a tiny old school desk (I think it's in my sidebar somewhere) with irritatingly inaccessible storage in the form of a lift-up lid, and barely room to either side of the machine to put a pin cushion....but my father (yes, giver and finder of so many lovely sewing-related things) happened upon this desk...possibly the smallest, but most perfectly formed desk with drawers in the world...and it even has a pull-out paper rest. It is 35" wide...but the room to put a pin cushion and a bag of fabric marker pens and measuring gauges next to me while I sew feels like a whole new level of luxury.

Monday, 10 November 2008


Appliqueing this house was the point in the last week at which I stopped and actually realised that I was having fun and enjoying what I was doing. Since opening my shop I have had lovely orders placed (although nothing at all through Etsy), even lovelier requests for custom orders to be made and my days have been filled with sourcing supplies, pattern-making and sewing, wrapping and packaging and many trips to the post-office (oh, and registering as self-employed - which felt oddly momentous)...which is all just what I was hoping for, but I have found that after seven years of my pace being dictated by my children, it has been harder than I'd anticipated to add another element in and instantly strike the right balance...the school runs that, until Christmas, are at 12pm for one child and then again 3 hours later for the other, means that the day feels short and fragmented and I have been trying hard to keep my afternoons with Dinosaur-boy free from what to him may seem like chores. In amongst all the busyness I forgot to the keep the house tidy and Mr Teacakes found himself in semi-shock...he no longer recognised his home or the strange creature who sat in the middle of a sea of wadding and materials; who forgot to buy bread; or to wash his football kit in time for his games...jokes were made, that weren't taken in the spirit in which they were intended as one who is normally so obsessively tidy would really rather everyone else pretended that they hadn't noticed that she was no longer managing to oil the worktops with such alarming regularity. So while I have been finding some sort of equilibrium, it is blogging that has temporarily been pushed to one side...there just don't seem to be enough hours in the day at the moment...but that will change after Christmas when Dinosaur-boy goes to school full time... then I will have more time than I know what to do with.

For the last couple of weeks I have been making things for a fair that I will have a table at, and one of the loveliest things has been being asked to do custom orders that have then sparked new ideas for things I would love to make even more of - I've had one such order this week, that I enjoyed working on so much that I have been waking in the middle of the night excitedly thinking of more fabric combinations that it could be made in...but more on that once the recipient has received her parcel.

During the holidays, which seem such a long time away now, I had fun with the children making a new collage to fill their playroom door with. You might remember that they had previously made a butterfly garden, and this time they chose an underwater theme...they were literally so full of ideas that we could have carried on for weeks - their door includes jellyfish, starfishes, shells, seaweed, dolphins, a shark, big fish, small fish and seahorses. They sat at the breakfast bar gluing, cutting and shredding tissue paper for hours on end, while I was sent scurrying backwards and forwards to the computer to find silhouettes of their requested animals and to find reference books so that they might study the real thing for inspiration (luckily my sister has equipped us with the most amazing library of nature books over various birthdays and Christmases and we had these open all over the room).

This is Dinosaur-boy's shark...chasing fish (yes, I turned the butterflies into fish, while they worked on the main creatures). And then below the seahorses, sparkling fish and wispy tentacled octopus.

And on the seabed starfish loitering around a darkened cave.

Anyway, the other thing that I've been meaning to do for weeks now is to tell you about various books that I've been reading (and Sew Hip magazine too! Utterly wonderful, but I never got round to blogging about it, which is fine as so many of you seem to have it too...which is pleasing in itself as I was really hoping it would sell well as there is such a huge gap in the UK market for it).

Anyway, the books: first and most excitingly, Ginny's (and Alice's) lovely book Sew Fabulous Fabric - I think often when you look at a book written and created by someone you don't know you take it as a fait accomplis, but when you look through something created by someone that you do know...well, I think you can't help but dissect all it's ingredients and wonder at where they found the time, skill and strands of inspiration to tie it all up together into something so well-formed and perfect...you appreciate all the little bits so much more and feel slightly awestruck by the fact that it was a real person who wrote every tip and hint on each page, each explanation for a picture and every warm and friendly paragraph inspiring and encouraging the reader. And gosh, Ginny (and Alice...I don't know her, but as her contribution was equal it feels awful not to keep mentioning her) really has produced such a fantastic book...one where as I did my first cursory flick through I became increasingly excited by the photos and projects...for it is exactly the kind of book I love - part life-style, part instructional, large dollops of inspiration and full of tips, hints, patterns and a fantastic list of suppliers (one of my favourite bits in a craft book).

I also love it because the sewing technique that I'm most delighted by - applique - features so heavily in it. From tea party jellies and sandwiches to boats bobbing on a curtaining sea, to a fantastically tall tree and house featured on a fabric height chart, Ginny & Alice's book left me desperate for some time to create things inspired by their photos and patterns.

Next is Zakka Sewing - 25 Japanese Projects for the Household...I know Rebecca, whose book reviews are plentiful and always brilliantly informative reviewed this book a while ago, so I feel like I'm coming to the excitement around this book slightly belatedly, but for those of you who haven't got it or read her review, it's a really lovely book to own and look through. The pictures have the signature Japanese minimalist crispness to them and the smooth matt cover is quite perfect.

Despite adoring so many of the more Zakka-style blogs and at times having had brief phases of aspiring to emulate that style (and even buying a few fat quarters of fabric that gives more of a nod to it), I think essentially my own sewing look is quite un-Zakka (and I do think every seamstress has an area that they feel most comfortable in and are drawn back to), so I think my practical use of it will be limited, but it is a delight to own. My favourite bits of the book are the boxes that contain Zakka Facts - I found these fascinating and it made me love what they had created to reflect the Zakka fact so much more.

And finally the Marie Claire Idees book: Simply Irresistible Bags, that I had on my Amazon wishlist for nearly half a year pre-publication. A couple of the leather bags that are featured in it are quite simply divine...but as leather can be hard to source and expensive to buy I shall have to satisfy myself with drooling over the ones on the pages instead. It's so hard buying books on the internet as you have your own (normally unrealistic) expectations of what a book's covers may hold. I think I may have been guilty of having visions of being transported into the realms of Parisian chic via the bags in this book, but actually it's more in the vein of French country rustic chic so not quite what I was expecting and possibly less of the type of bag that I would wish to throw over my shoulder when leaving the house. But it's a really lovely book, beautifully photographed and well put together.

You may be thinking now: maybe if she did shorter blog posts she'd be more capable of fitting that into her life at the moment...I've thought that too...but I'm simply not capable of it. I was once told by a rather dashing recruitment agent named Giles that my CV was verbose...it stung, as the truth often does. I think he would say the same thing of my blog...not that he looked like he had an interest in sewing.
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.