Wednesday, 30 September 2009


In the last couple of days Zebra-girl and both her grandmothers have had birthdays. My own mother was 60 and so I wanted to make her something lovely. I knew that she'd been hankering after some cushions, but felt that making something out of the more muted, unpatterned upholstery fabrics that would compliment their lovely minimal home wouldn't feel quite special enough to mark the occasion. I wanted to blend together all her favourite colours and create something that would be both tactile and simple...which is what eventually led me to come up with the idea of weaving velvet ribbons.

I found it difficult to source my most coveted shades of velvet in the vast quantities that I required them in (that's the problem with possessing colour charts for a range...once you know what's out there you can no longer be happy with the standard shades that your local haberdasher's stocks)...but with an much amended and then re-amended list of most-wanted colours (because apparently half the colours on the chart aren't even stocked by the reel in this country) I finally pulled together 70 metres of the stormy seaside blues, greys and creams that I was hoping for. Seventy metres I had foolishly thought would make two cushions. It doesn't. But if it had I may well have lost the will to live making the second, so that didn't end up being too bad a thing.

The weaving took longer than I'd imagined it might, but it was nice to have a rare piece of lap work to do while I had a friend over for the day...a scientific sort of friend who, after watching me weave for nearly three hours, pointed out a much simpler way of doing it which involves throwing alternate ribbons up and then simply placing the horizontal ribbon down and then laying the alternate ribbons back over it...something I never would have thought of, but which delighted me no end.

After hours and hours of weaving I'd nearly finished when I started tightening and pulling some of the ribbons down a little....and quite quickly I was left with a square of weaving that tunnelled and curved upward at each ribbon edge, that wouldn't be teased back into shape and that could not forgive my meddling in what had been nearly perfect as it was. And so I found myself having to unweave the entire cushion and start over again. It was a dispiriting evening that called for a large mug of hot chocolate and a soup├žon of swearing stirred in.

Second time around I seemed to weave a little quicker though and I used my overlocker to secure each edge in place before adjoining it to the reverse fabric. This is the back of the cushion - some grey-blue tweed suiting. The zipper opening allowed me to get the cushion pad in easily, but also seems to imply that the cushion is washable. An implication I hadn't anticipated until my delighted, ever-practical mother gasped: and I can even wash it! Mmm, well no. I simply can't imagine how all those ribbons would react to a spell in the washing machine.

I have had so many projects on the go over the last couple of weeks that my overlocker has stayed out next to my sewing machine, so that I can switch between the two more quickly. It has been incredibly cramped and lends the room a slightly industrial feel, which I'm not sure I was actually hoping for. Some WIPs are piled up on top of the machine which are now all sewn up - I'll hopefully take a few photos of those before they're sent away.

Anyway, more exciting than any stitchery I could show you, are the cakes that Mr Teacakes starts making the moment there's a birthday on the horizon. For Zebra-girl there was a cat (for which I seem to have inadvertently switched my camera to the black & white setting for most of my photos):

And here's some colour:

And then for my Mama (for I started a cake for her myself, but soon saw that there is a very good reason as to why cakes are left to Mr Teacakes in our house) he made this rocking horse (the relevance being that she loves rocking horses). He had just two hours to make and ice the entire cake and in the rush, and under my awful guidance, we chose colours that, in retrospect, are more suitable for a newborn than a 60 year old. How we howled with laughter when we stood back and realised this just moments before we had to leave with the finished cake for her birthday lunch.

Luckily, she liked the idea of being reborn for cake purposes.

In amongst all the birthday celebrations I seemed to lose the ability to sleep and buzzed about the house sometimes for almost the entire night trying as quietly as one can to clean out every kitchen cupboard and reorganise pots and pans. It was a truly productive week and I realised that one would be capable of mammoth amounts if only one didn't need to sleep. But unfortunately the minute the birthdays were over I returned to my bed-loving self, looking a little more baggy-eyed and feeling ready to hibernate for the winter. If only one could.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Back to school notes:

Such a long time seems to have passed since my last post, that the summer and all its loveliness and then the feelings of elation as the first signs of autumn began to appear, now seem a long time ago...rather than the two weeks that's actually gone by.

After an unbelievably busy couple of weeks for my little shop at the start of the summer, the balance of things didn't seem to be working and I decided to switch off my sewing machine, barr the odd evening, and spend the rest of the holidays with the little Teacakes and, unintentionally, this seems to have led to some sparseness on the blogging front too.

Our week days were filled with picnics (not all of them sunny, and some of them comically windy), bike rides, painting, baking, outings, seeing friends, having water fights and spending wonderful chunks of time with my mama. Somehow it transpired that every weekend throughout August the small ones went and stayed with their grandparents for a night, leaving Mr Teacakes and I free to enjoy a summer of parties, meals out and spending more time with old friends. It ended up being the most perfect summer and by the time 7th September came (back to school date) I realised that I felt more refreshed than I had done for several years.

A couple of days before school restarted I was sewing a name tape into a school shirt when Zebra girl came and sat next to me and said: you don't really sew very much anymore, do you? This made me feel so happy with the relief that the first few weeks of summer, where she and Dinosaur-boy had played while I'd worked each morning, had been forgotten in her mind and that I had managed, in this case, to go some way toward unpicking my mistakes. Her comment also gave me all the permission I needed to allow myself to mentally slip back into stitching mode and make plans for my child-free time. I had several orders to get started on straight away, as well as some birthday presents to stitch and it's been so nice to immerse myself in them, particularly as for the first time ever both children have gone back to school feeling entirely happy.
In a fit of optimistic back-to-school enthusiasm, I also decided that I needed to do something about how sedentary my working week in front of the machine had become. Spinning classes have been attended and trips to the shops are now undertaken on my new shiny black bicycle, rather than in the car, which is almost as fast, even if it's several times more terrifying as cars hurl themselves into my path. I have found that skinny jeans lend themselves perfectly to pedalling and mean that one doesn't have to suffer the indignity of wearing trouser clips or other such foolishness. Unfortunately the cycling helmet is proving to be a non-negotiable sartorial faux pas...but I'm thinking that being without a brain would be a far worse look.

Anyway, I'm hoping that time will allow for more regular posting now, which will hopefully be stitch-related, as I've so many things to show you from the last fortnight. But in the meantime, I hope that you've had the most lovely summers and are finding it as exciting as I am to find that the red-leaved, cosy, pumpkin-filled season is finally upon us.

Thank you also to all those lovelies that continued to purchase a copy of my Tabitha Bag pattern over the summer - your enthusiasm for it has delighted me and seeing some of the pictures of the finished bags has been such a treat - thank you. x
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.