Sunday, 18 January 2015

January Blues

Obviously the reason I've not been on here for a while is because I've been spending most of my time working out at the gym, running in preparation for the London Marathon, spring cleaning my flat from top to bottom, and practising the guitar.  
Yeah right.
If my New Year resolution had been to laze about on the sofa, watching TV and knitting, well I certainly achieved that for the first couple of weeks, mostly due to a dodgy back and nasty neuralgia. But following a successful trip to the magician who is my chiropractor, she's straightened my back out and I've been much more 'out and about' this week. Including a five mile walk around Sawbridgeworth with friends - also taking in the charity shops, the vintage/antiques barn and a huge slice of Victoria Sandwich.  
AND a similar distance yesterday morning, but without the cake.  I saw these snowdrops, which always make me think that Spring is on the way, even though it's probably not.
I only made one resolution - not to buy any new clothes.  I wanted to make it achievable, so I made it just for the month of Jan, but I haven't had the slightest wobble, so I intend to carry it on at least through Feb too.  I'm allowed to buy charity shop stuff, ideally for 'refashioning projects' and I can make things.  
I made this - my first Laurel top 
Not particularly seasonal but this was the last of this fabric in the shop and I didn't want to miss it - reminds me of Mary Quant daisies
I've also been trying to make roses to be stitched around the neck of dress that I've made for an exhibition at this year's Textiles in Focus. Not sure that they are really roses, but they are definitely flowers, so I'll settle for that.
Now I just need to crack on and make some more.

And finally, I'm looking forward to a new sketchbook arriving in the post. Yeah I know I've already got a million or so sketchbooks, but this is a special one, handmade using beautiful recycled papers. If you too have a sketchbook fetish, can I suggest you visit here

January Blues - Thaddeus Dale Johnson (actually I was spoilt for choice, it seems the whole world and his brother have written songs called 'January Blues' so maybe it's a be a real condition?

Monday, 22 December 2014

I'm Ready

Shopping's done, cake's iced - a bought cake, obviously - I've just finished the last of my knitted gifts, everything's wrapped and delivered AND I've finished my Christmas frock.
It's another Laurel - I wanted something easy to make, and that I knew would fit, now that I've made one or two adjustments. I had intended to make the version with plain sleeves, but I showed the partially-finished dress and the pattern to my friend Lynne who said "Oh I love the frills on the sleeves" so although I wasn't at all sure, I decided to add them, and now I've really glad I did. Definitely makes it into a proper Christmas frock.
I'm really pleased with it, to such an extent that it's actually a "Christmas decoration" at the moment. (I don't know about anyone else, but whenever I've made something that I'm really pleased with,  I tend to leave it hanging somewhere that I'll keep seeing it.  And it makes me smile.  
If I don't get to say it later, hope you all have a lovely Christmas xx

I'm Ready - Paul Rodgers

Friday, 12 December 2014

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

I don't usually go overboard with Christmas makes, but I was inspired after seeing this pattern for a fabric deer head from Bustle and Sew

I downloaded the pattern, although I wasn't convinced I'd actually make it, but then on Tuesday I found the pattern under a pile of magazines - something that happens a lot here, despite my decluttering, so I decided to give it a go. 
And today having rummaged through my button stash for eyes,  I finished it -

His head is made from a charity shop scarf, the antlers are from some fabric 'decluttered' by my friend Pam, supported by some wire I found in the greenhouse, (the antlers that is, not Pam.  She is still self-supporting at present)
The red and white spotted fabric is leftover from this dress, 
So, all made without requiring any new purchases!  I deliberately didn't make it too Christmassy, just in case I can't bear to put it away in the New Year, but he does have a red nose.

Coincidentally, I was in the shop on Wednesday when a customer said she needed to make antlers and a red nose to transform her horse into Rudolf for a Christmas event at local stables, but she wasn't sure how to go about it.  I don't think she believed me when I said "You've come to just the right place, I happened to make a pair of antlers only yesterday."  
Not something you hear everyday.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - The Crystals

Sunday, 7 December 2014


Is it just me, or does anyone else get a bit fed up with the constant bombardment of adverts for 'Christmas fare', recipes for the finest ever Christmas pudding (yuck), the absolute best method of cooking a Christmas turkey, etc, etc, - as if we don't eat the rest of the year.  
I thought I'd seen everything in the culinary festive overload, but then yesterday in a little local magazine I saw something unbelievable - a recipe that called for eleven ingredients, including a dozen chicken wings, carrots, onions, celery, streaky bacon, etc etc.  And do you know what the recipe was for? Gravy! Gravy!?!?!?!?  
It must be me, I suppose.  On the rare occasion I ever consider cooking anything, a recipe is automatically dismissed if it calls for more than half a dozen ingredients.  Or egg whites (life's too short to separate eggs) or yeast, or anything else that  I haven't heard of. 

My Christmas food could be summed up in two words - Chocolate Log. You can keep your mince pies, Christmas pudding, Turkey dinner - although I'd still like a turkey sandwich please, if that's ok. But deny me a shop bought chocolate swiss roll, coated with with more homemade chocolate buttercream than is really necessary - and you'll be sorry.

I'm afraid I never understand why anyone would want to be cooking when they can be playing around with bits of fabric and thread and paint.  And in case you too want to make something Christmassy that won't give you indigestion, let me show you my lovely crackers, if you'll pardon the expression.
I didn't design them myself - I followed the tutorial from Gina.  You can see hers here - and although her version is probably slightly more perfect than mine, obviously, I still think mine look pretty damn good. And that's all thanks to her tutorial - I know she's my friend and I would say that, but she really is an excellent teacher, for two reasons - she designs and makes beautiful things, and secondly, being an ex maths teacher (no-one's perfect) she is able to explain the method in a very clear and understandable way that's easy to follow.  Anyway, if you're tempted, pop along to her etsy shop and buy yourself a very reasonably priced tutorial.  If nothing else, the crackers call for fewer ingredients than bloody gravy.

Yesterday I made something slightly more practical, but equally enjoyable - I went here -
 (photo blatantly nicked from their website)
Sew Over It's new shop in Islington, for a workshop to make  a pair of 'Ultimate trousers'.  
I've wanted to go on one of these classes for a while, but previously the only shop was in Clapham, and while I am sure it is equally lovely, it was just a bit too far for me to trek.  But Islington? Now you're talking.  
It was a brilliant day, the shop is gorgeous - even the loo was pretty - and the workshop was excellent.  I've been dressmaking for about 40 years, so I don't REALLY need to go on a course to make trousers, but getting the fit right on your own is the tricky bit.  Thanks to Dominique, our experienced and knowledgeable tutor who studied textiles, fashion design and pattern cutting in both in Chelsea and in France, everyone in the class went home with a great fitting pair of trousers.  There were tartan trews, velvet trousers, polka dot and floral version.  Mine, boringly I suppose, were plain black - but having worked on the fit and transferred the alterations to the pattern (again with Dom's assistance) I shall be more adventurous with my next pair.  
Why no photograph?  Well, as I said - they are plain black trousers, so it wouldn't be very exciting, would it?  Added to which, although they are the Ultimate Trousers, and they fit really well, I'm afraid I don't have the Ultimate Body.  When I do, you'll be the first to know.

Cracker - Biffy Clyro

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover

A few weeks ago I met up with friends Lynne and Libby for one of our 'rambles' - that's a walk, not an incoherent conversation - although if I'm honest we probably had some of those too.  Anyway we met at Libby's and I was impressed with some folded book structures that she'd made.  Then on Saturday, I was helping out at a local bazaar on a book and bricabrac stall.  We didn't have many visitors, and were clearly going to be left with quite a few books, so I thought I'd have a go at folding.  I chose a paperback - When God Was A Rabbit (although until I just went and checked, I'd misread the title as When God Was A Rabbi) by  Sarah Winman.  I'd not read it, although now I wish I had.  Maybe I'll unfold the pages one at a time and read it.  I chose it because I liked the colour and texture of the paper, it had an interesting typeface, and there were little illustrations of trees at the start of every chapter (that accounts for the little blocks you can see half way up the book)  This is the end result - 
Apparently you can tuck postcards in between the pages - maybe it would be a good way to keep my Christmas cards tidy?
A couple of days later I was clearing out some catalogues that had come in the post, and the Cath Kidston one was made of nice paper, so I experimented with that.  It didn't have enough pages to stand up like the one above, so I folded the corners up and down,
 added some beads and metallic yarn and it finished up like this -
I didn't get where I am today without knowing how to waste time.
Still, better than just chucking it the recycling bin. Now, if I can just find an innovative way of using all those pizza fliers that drop through the letterbox, I'm onto a winner.
Talking of letterboxes, the postman just delivered a parcel - and he was wearing shorts!  I know the weather has been really mild, but blimey.
To prove how mild the weather has been though - yesterday I picked a rosebud from my garden

and it prompted me to see what else was still blooming, even though it is November -  - all of these were photographed in my garden yesterday .....

You Can't Judge a Book By The Cover - The Yardbirds 
(And goodness knows how many others, but this version just happened to be playing on 6Music as I started typing this)

Friday, 14 November 2014

Don't Know What I Was Thinking

I wasn't sure I was going to post again - I seem to have been struck by a temporary blogging boredom  - I think the problem is that I now tend to read blogs on my ipad, and I haven't figured out how to post from it yet.  I'm sure it's possible but maybe it's just a bit beyond my technical abilities, and I don't seem to get around to logging on to the computer and posting.
This morning though, I happened to be on the computer for something else and read Gina's post about our trip to the Fashion and Textile Museum yesterday for the "Knitwear - Chanel to Westwood" Exhibition.
It was another fantastically inspiring exhibition - I wanted to dash home immediately and start knitting - I was very envious of Gina on the way home - she'd had the foresight to take some knitting with her on the train.

Anyway, back to Gina's post - I feel that as she was brave enough to post a picture of her 24 year old self, wearing a knitted suit, the least I could do was show a bit of sisterly solidarity and post a picture of me in a knitted suit that I made (and wore!) many years ago.  
I had a knitted machine and as a result two coloured patterning was a breeze - so, hey, why not knit a leopardskin sweater?
Obviously, a matching leopardskin skirt would be overkill, so you see me wearing a co-ordinating black knitted skirt with allover pleats.  Oh my! What a flattering two piece, complete with massive shoulder pads - and with the added benefit of being very warm and itchy too.  
I'm not sure exactly how old I was - late 20's or early thirties.  Believe it or not, I was quite slim then - but thanks to the big boxy top no-one would ever know.  And all topped off by an exceptionally hideous curly perm.  I'm off to see my hairdresser this afternoon - do you think I should go for it?

PS - I've just had another look at this - why am I standing there with my arms just ... dangling?
I can understand the facial expression - if you looked like this you wouldn't have much to smile about either.

Don't Know What I Was Thinking - Teddy Thompson

Sunday, 12 October 2014

She Sells Sanctuary

I had a couple of good days out this week - on Tues I went to the V&A with my cousin to see the exhibition of wedding dresses - not the most inspiring exhibition I'd seen there, to be honest, but we both enjoyed our visit, and agreed that we preferred our own dresses to any of those on display.

On Wednesday I went to the Knitting and Stitching Day at Alexandra Palace. I'm not sure if everyone realised it was on for five days this year - but it was certainly less crowded than usual, and there was plenty of room to move around and see things - and blissfully no queues for refreshments or toilets.

I used to go the the show to spend, spend, spend, and then, if there was any time left at the end, I'd go and have a quick look at the exhibition section.  These days, however, I think I have more than enough 'stuff' so I spent the greater part of the day looking at the various exhibitions.  I love seeing the Graduates' work - the knitting and crochet section was really exciting - certainly not the "old fashioned women's hobby" that non-knitters seem to believe.

I especially loved the designs of Nicky Barfoot who specialises in 'knitted doggie taxidermy'!
There was also work on display from several of my friends, who work with different textile groups, including Gina who was exhibiting (and selling!) with Prism 
Anyway, the exhibitions were wonderful and made me want to get the next train home and start stitching.  I resisted though, and having perused all the exhibitions, there was still time to go and have a little spend.  A few ribbons, a little bit of fabric and three indie dress patterns.  
Even my coffee stops were interesting - in the morning I shared a table with two ladies who didn't know one another.  We got chatting about the show and one of the ladies - Jean said that she comes over from New Zealand every year to go to K&S for all four, or in in this case, five days.  She mentioned Art Van Go and when I told her I used to work for them, she said "Oh, you're not vintagerockchick are you?"  Small world, eh?  
And then in the afternoon, I was having coffee with Caroline from SewLaDiDa and we were joined by an elderly lady who was rather eccentrically dressed (yes, even by my standards - she topped off her handmade outfit with a pink crocheted hat which had silver lurex crenulations around the brim!)
She turned out to be a retired doctor from Russia who was over here to learn English, and who was fascinating to talk to.  
All in all a very good day.

I've also managed to fit in a bit of making in the last few weeks - we had Jamie Malden from Colouricious come to our Embroiderers' Guild to take a workshop on block printing, and apart from lots of textile pieces, we all went home with a printed personalised apron
I'm at the back of that picture, so here's a close up - with a rather jolly face!
I've also made another Coco dress.  I narrowed the pattern a bit and judging by this photo, I may have narrowed it a bit too much.
and finally a red Laurel dress
Photo taken yet again in Creative Sanctuary in Hertford .  In case you think I spend all my spare time lurking there, I should tell you that I'm working there occasionally, just a few hours here and there, so it's a good place to wear my me-mades and get a picture taken.

She Sells Sanctuary - The Cult