Why Wouldn’t You?

I recently decided I needed a yarn winder.  One of those gadgets that you use to wind a lovely, neat ball of wool when you buy it in a skein or when you need two balls of yarn for socks or an intarsia project.  One of those gadgets that make it so that the yarn emerges from the centre of the ball and, therefore, doesn’t shoot off across the floor with a cat in hot pursuit.  I know you can use your two hands but why do that when you can have a gadget that does it for you in at least half the time and when the result is much neater than I can manage.

Being me, I couldn’t just buy a plastic winder from somewhere in China.   Oh no.  I have to do ‘research’.  Then, of course, I see a lovely wooden winder on Pinterest from a Scandinavian company that costs around 150 euros which is ridiculous, so I go on eBay France and, after much racking my brains as to what one of these things would be called in french (enrouleur de fil, if you’re interested), I saw this.

Wooden Yarn WinderI was the only bidder – are you surprised? – so I got it for 12 euros and I am chuffed as I would rather buy a bit of vintage than a bit of plastic.  You can see, on the label, the make is ‘Rapid Plot’ which doesn’t sound very french but I am assuming it is a play on words as the french for a ball of yarn is ‘pelote’ which, if you say it quickly enough, sounds like plot.  This dates before 1968, according to the other markings, which just goes to show that franglais has been going long before ‘le weekend’ , ‘le shopping’, etc.   I do love a bit of franglais – I speak it myself – but I find it amusing when they use an english word for something but then don’t understand it when you say it with an english accent.  This means that when – or more likely, if, – I talk about a local bar which is called ‘Le Lounge’, I have to do some vocal gymnastics and call it ‘le Loooonge’, otherwise I am looked upon with pity and non-comprehension, although that isn’t an unusual reaction to most things I say here to be honest.

Anyway, I digress.  After my purchase of the ball winder – note I am using ‘yarn’ and ‘ball’ alternately here to include both sides of the Atlantic – I realised I needed something called a ‘Swift’.  Who knew?  Again, something that can be done with your own two hands – or, more accurately, the two hands of a willing assistant or, failing that, the back of a chair – can be performed by a gadget.  This time, a glorious thing, which you clamp to the side of a table and open like some sort of mad umbrella frame and then drape your skein around its welcoming arms, link it up to your Rapid Plot and Voila!  Again, I didn’t want a plastic one but didn’t want to pay too much for the wooden variety.

Because I was at yoga class on Saturday morning, I couldn’t get to a new (very popular) house clearance type shop that has recently opened just down the road and is only open at weekends as they presumably spend the rest of the week clearing out houses of old tut that will end up in other houses until it is deemed, by the new owners, to have become old tut again and so it continues in the vintage and antiques world.  So I told  asked Mr. T. to go and have a look and see if there was anything worth having and, when I rang him after yoga, he said something like  ‘no, it was a load of crap’ .  I don’t trust him as far as this sort of thing is concerned so, on my way home, I popped in myself and spent 100 euros and, amongst the things I bought was a wooden swift, here posing with its friend the Rapid Plot.

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Apparently, he had spotted it and knew I wanted one but just because there is a little split in the knobbly bit you push up and down he didn’t buy it and neither did he tell me about it when I phoned.  It was only 10 euros, he knew I was looking for one, he knew I would probably go in there at some stage and see it myself so, I had to ask, ‘why wouldn’t you?’ , to which he didn’t have a satisfactory answer.  In future, I will not trust him to spot a good thing in a junk shop.

His punishment was that they didn’t take cards and, only having supposed to have gone out for a yoga class, I didn’t have my cheque book on me (who writes cheques anymore anyway?) plus I bought an antique Pfaff  treadle sewing machine  and this lovely display stand of haberdashery drawers so I had to phone him to come down to the shop with the cheque book and extra car space to get my booty back home.  Booty as in stuff I’d bought, not as in the Beyoncé type of  ‘booty’ or is that spelled differently?

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I’m off to wind some balls of wool/yarn now – just for the hell of it.

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Warm Coco

Having made Tilly’s Coco dress for my daughter, I decided to make the funnel neck version  for me with some double knit jersey I got when I was over in the U.K.  However, it is quite thick fabric and, although it seems just the right thickness and stability for the style,  I won’t be able to wear it much before it gets too hot here.

So, I wore it the other day and took some photos but the light was soooo terrible that I didn’t get any good ones.  I thought I’d better put them on though in case I don’t get around to wearing it again until the autumn.

I know, I know, I’ve cut my head off again but this is the best photo of the actual dress so I’ve used it.

Coco Dress

 Next time, I will make the sleeves a couple of inches shorter as these are supposed to be three- quarter length.

Hmm.  I’m doing some sort of hip thrust forward movement here, thus blurring the photo a bit and making it easier to see the seam of my tights.  It makes it look as though there is bunching round the waist but there isn’t (see above!).  Also, my boots look like wellies – which they aren’t – but, apart from that, you get the general idea.   I think this fabric would also have worked well as the tunic top version which has little side slits.

Coco Dress

  I used the overlocker to make the dress, though it isn’t necessary, and then a twin needle to do the hem.  I lengthened it by a couple of inches so it would be knee length on me as the original pattern is quite short.

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An ‘action’ shot, as I like to call my blurred photographs.

Overall, a quick and easy dress to make which is really comfortable to wear and quick to pull on.  I will make some more, short sleeve versions in a slightly finer stretch knit for the warmer weather.

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Warm Days, Cool Nights

 After a tiring day playing in the garden, chasing butterflies and chewing up gardening gloves

Cat & Dog

when you can hardly hold the weight of your own head up any more

Cuddling cat & dog

It’s nice to have somebody to snuggle up with in front of the fire

dog & cat with fire

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Just One Sorbetto?

Remember this Liberty fabric I bought at the recent Knitting and Stitching Exhibition?


Well, I didn’t really have any plans for it when I bought it but a friend of mine was looking for a pattern to make a simple top with some silky fabric she has and I remembered the Sorbetto top by Colette patterns which I had downloaded but never made up.  So, I thought it would also suit the tana lawn quite well.

Here’s me getting ready with the remote.  I am also testing out my daylight lamp as a photography aid.  My house is not very good for letting in natural light as it is very old and designed for keeping the heat out.  However,  I need to photograph some little people’s clothes for my shop and I am not satisfied with my results so far so I am experimenting.

Sorbetto Top

The Sorbetto pattern is a free download which you can find here.  It is actually for a sleeveless top but I found a pattern hack here and added some little sleeves.

Colette Sorbetto in Liberty Tana Lawn

I seem to be looking unbearably smug in this photograph but that might be because I made my own bias binding to go around the neck and I also used it for the sleeves. Get me!

Biais Binding

 So chuffed was I with it, I had to actually photograph it on its own.  I take my pleasures where I find them these days!


The gadget you need is this Clover bias binding maker which didn’t come with any instructions.  I followed this video tutorial by The Little Tailoress where you have the added bonus of somebody looking adorable in a pink floral Liberty dress but you can’t hate her for it as she seems so nice.

Liberty Matilda Tulip Sorbetto

This little top is very simple to make.  I have seen claims of making it in 45 minutes from beginning to end.  Hmmm.  Maybe if you don’t add sleeves or make your own bias binding.  Maybe if your bobbin doesn’t run out and the postman doesn’t knock on the door.  Maybe if you don’t have to stop for a wee and a cup of tea halfway through.  Or is that just me?  Anyway, it is quick and you could probably squeeze one out of a metre of fabric if you mess with the layout and it is a very handy top for summer.  I will definitely be making more.



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Get In The Queue

I am getting to the state where I have so many projects in mind that I can’t remember what yarn or fabric I bought for which project.  Partly, that is due to a bit of a spend up at the Knitting & Stitching Show at Olympia a week or so ago where I was as tempted by the stands selling wool as by those selling  fabric and divided myself, and my money,  between the two – well, it was only fair.  I found the Olympia venue much more manageable than the Alexandra Palace show I went to in October last year which was almost too huge and overwhelming and, as a result, I didn’t spend quite so much there as I did here.

London Olympia

Anyway, I sort of had projects in mind for fabrics as I want to make another Coco dress not for my daughter this time, but for me.  Having already made one in a finer jersey, I chose a double knit jersey this time in a shade of blue I have heard referred to as ‘airforce blue’  - so it is sort of bluey, grey –  which I found at the expo for £7.99 a metre which I didn’t think was bad.  At the risk of looking like one of the crew on the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise, I am doing the funnel neck version with 3/4 length sleeves and I need to hurry up because, when the sun comes out here now, it’s quite hot so I won’t have long to wear it.  I would have finished it by now but my Mum came back from the U.K. with me for a week and I went on a knitting fest with her as it is more sociable than disappearing to the sewing room – although I did manage a couple of trips up there when she dozed off watching her soaps.

On the same stand where I found the double knit jersey they were selling loads of lovely Liberty tana lawn for £14 per metre and I haven’t seen so many different designs available in one place for ages so I had to indulge.

This will be sweet for a little girl’s outfit  -  bless all those little musical kitties -


and this one is Liberty’s Matilda Tulip design in a mustard and charcoal colourway which I fancy for a summery blouse or something.  If I make just a simple one it would go well with jeans I think.  (Just realised I have shown the mustard and navy together as if to prove my point.)


I’ve had an antique Singer sewing machine for a while now and keep meaning to do something with it in terms of renovating it a bit and perhaps actually using it.  Mr. Tialys had taken it all to pieces for me and I had the sewing machine on a shelf in my workroom but I kept brushing past the stand in the shed on my way out to the garden and decided to do something with it.  The wooden table part was a bit yukky so I thought I’d give it a couple of coats of chalk paint and decorate it with an image of a pair of antique scissors.  I might do a bit more distressing but this is as far as I’ve got at the moment.  A lot of the decals on the machine are worn but I don’t think my fine painting skills are up to restoring those.  After a bit of research, I discovered this machine was made in Scotland in 1906.  The belt is missing from the treadle mechanism so I will have to search for a replacement online but, apart from that, I think it should work O.K.  There is also a large wooden cover for the machine – you can see the fittings for it on the top – and also a drawer – but I can’t decide whether to leave those in the original wood or paint them to match the top.  I don’t normally like painting over lovely wood but this isn’t that great quality so I will give it some thought.

Vintage Singer Sewing Machine 1906

After a bit of research, I discovered this machine was made in Scotland in 1906.  The belt is missing from the treadle mechanism so I will have to search for a replacement online but, apart from that, I think it should work O.K.  There is also a large wooden cover for the machine – you can see the fittings for it on the top – and also a drawer – but I can’t decide whether to leave those in the original wood or paint them to match the stand.  I don’t normally like painting over lovely wood but this isn’t that great quality so I will give it some thought.

vintage sewing machine

The ‘spooky’ thing was that, after I had had a little play with this yesterday, I looked in the T.V. Listings mag I get Mr. T. to bring over from the U.K. with him, and noticed that tonight’s Great British Sewing Bee episode will feature some of these vintage machines.  Apparently the contestants will be presented with a 1930s pattern and they will be making a coat.  I’ve never made a coat – let alone from a vintage pattern – so it will be really interesting to see what they do although I don’t think they will be cruel enough to make them sew the coat on a treadle machine.  Will they?

Have you got an antique or vintage sewing machine?  Do you use it or is it décor only?  If you use it, what do you use it for?  Just asking as I’m interested.

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Coco Tokyo

Taking a break from knitting socks and wrangling dogs, I ran up this Coco dress yesterday which would have been a very quick job but for the fact that my overlocker had to be re-threaded and , not having had it that long, this was a traumatic experience for me as I am absolute pants at following diagrams and couldn’t work out where the lower looper thread needed to go for about an hour.  Or was it the upper looper.  Who knows? – I’ve done it now and next time I will be much more careful when changing over the thread spools

Anyway, this pattern from Tilly and the Buttons is a nice, easy pattern which goes together quickly especially, but not necessarily if you have an overlocker ( preferably threaded!).  Also, a nice, easy style to wear with a couple of variations such as a funnel neck which I might do for myself.   You can also make a tunic length top with the slash neck or funnel neck and either long or 3/4 length sleeves.   I made this Japanese themed version for my daughter who is mad on all things from Japan (but especially manga) and I apologise for the mannequin rather than a live model but she is shy and I’m not sure Kanji symbols would do much for me.

Coco Dress - Short SleevesNot my finest hour really but it’s wearable.  The neck lays flatter than that on a real model but I’m not sure I am that happy with the construction as it is just turned over and top stitched.  I might try a band next time as I find that gives the neck a little more structure.  Madamoiselle Tialys decided she wanted short sleeves – after I’d cut the 3/4 ones out and, actually, I think that was a good decision with this fabric as the design looked a bit overpowering with longer sleeves.  I left a bit too much hem too so the top stitching is a bit higher than I’d normally do it but, next time……

Coco DressI took the mannequin outside to take the air and for a bit of March sunshine – nobody can say I’m not good to my staff.    I notice the sunshine made the fabric look a bit more pinky than it really is – top picture is more accurate.  I’m going to order some slightly less stretchy knit for my one and make it with the funnel neck and 3/4 length sleeves and, as I’ve tried the Japanese one on (even though no photographic evidence exists), I know exactly what size to cut for myself.

I am off to the U.K. tomorrow to help my Mum clear cupboards, wardrobes, drawers etc. of 40 odd years of tut in preparation for her perhaps downsizing now that she is on her own.  I’m not really looking forward to it but it has to be done and I will fortify myself with lots of Marks & Spencer ‘Dinners for Two’ especially as they come with a bottle of wine and Mum doesn’t like wine – shame.  Also, on Thursday or Friday, I will have a day off  from decluttering and go up to Olympia for the Knitting and Stitching Show.  I am taking a suitcase instead of the usual cabin bag – not that I’m intending to buy anything but it’s best to be prepared :)



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Flo’s Progress – A Dog’s Diary

Since I came to live here from the dog rescue in January, I have been settling in nicely.

This week has been busy for me and The Missus says, because of that, she hasn’t been able to get much done.

Today, for instance, I rolled in fox poo when we were out on our walk and had my very first bath.  I didn’t like it.  Afterward, I ran straight out and jumped in the fish pond so that I would smell nice again.

I have four cats to play with but, I’m not sure they like me as much as I like them.  Henry peed in my dog bed this morning and The Missus said, cat pee smells so bad the bed would have to go in the washing machine.  However, as I had chewed a lot of my dog bed up, the stuffing was coming out so she had to sew it up with upholstery thread before she could put it in the machine.

Beau is my favourite cat.  He is very dog friendly and always comes to see me first when he comes through the cat flap.

Flo'sPets (3)I love to collect things from around the house.  The Missus says she wouldn’t mind  but I have a habit of chewing them up.  Because of this, I have to sleep in the kitchen at night and not with the other dogs.  So far this week I have enjoyed four dog blankets, the aforementioned dog bed, two pairs of prescription glasses, a skirting board, a set of four vintage buttons, a garden clog, a voodoo doll (don’t ask) , a roll of sellotape, a packet of Customs labels, one of a pair of gardening gloves and a PS3 remote.

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I like that Beau and I are sort of colour coordinated

Flo's Dogs (2)

and sometimes we have ‘who has the longest tongue’ competitions.  I always win.

I know sometimes I get called a pain in the arse – I think it’s a term of affection – and The Missus says I will ‘mature’ as the other dogs have done so I don’t think she regrets getting me from the refuge because she often asks “who persuaded me to get another dog?” and I think it’s because she wants to thank them.

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A Feverish Weekend Blog – Atchoo!

I’ve got a cold and feeling very sorry for myself.  I haven’t had many colds at all since moving to France and this is my first one for 5 years so I am making the most of it.  I am managing some incredibly loud sneezing fits, going through boxes of tissues as if I had been watching ‘The Notebook’ (again),  professing not to be able to taste anything so may as well not bother to cook (but ‘perhaps could just eat something if you’re doing it anyway’), ensuring everybody notices that the slightest exertion is making me short of breath,  appear to be covered in an attractive red rash which always happens if I’m a bit poorly and generally wafting about the place no use to man nor beast.

I’m doing as little as possible.  I think these two have the right idea although nobody would want to be that close to me at the moment so I might have to drape myself decoratively somewhere solo.

Curled Up Cats

Did you have a pull-along dog when you were a child?  I did – I think – and if I didn’t, I should have – and I’ve always fancied buying a vintage one for nostalgia’s sake.  Hard to see one that isn’t ripped, isn’t a donkey and isn’t an absolute fortune though so, when I saw Northfield Primitives’ Shop on Etsy I just had to go for one of her gorgeous dogs.  Handcrafted in Yorkshire, Sarah makes her animals on her old Singer treadle machine.This one (my one!) is made with hand-coloured mohair,  has a rusty bell and vintage meccano wheels, I am in love.

Hand Made Vintage Style Pull-Along Dog

Something else I bought on Etsy recently was this little pincushion ring from Lifepieces.  I have bought gazillions of her gorgeous pincushions for myself and as gifts and they are beautifully made – so much so, I can hardly bear to stick pins in them but, when I saw this one, I had to have it.  Look! That little owl is a pin – can you bear it?

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 Is it practical?  I’m not sure.  Is it gorgeous? Well, obviously.  Redressing the balance after my rant about re-sellers on Etsy recently – these sorts of shops remind me how it is still possible to find beautiful, hand made items from skilled artisans on the site when you really look.

Anyway, having no energy to do my usual housework chores (!) I have forged ahead with my new addiction.

Two at a time socks

I know it looks like I’m knitting a pair of sunglasses or a bikini top for a two year old but I am, in fact, knitting a pair – yes, you heard right – a pair of socks.  At one time.  On one long circular needle.  From the toes up. And…… drumroll…… I appear to be matching the stripes at the same time.  A bit ambitious for only my second pair of socks I know – considering the first were in nice chunky wool too and very fast to knit – but I know that I will be prone to ‘Second Sock Syndrome’,  a medical condition discovered by scientists studying the lifestyles and habits of sock knitters whereby, in layman’s terms, you finish one sock and then can’t be arsed to do the second one.  Not wanting to suffer from this – especially on top of a cold – I decided to go down the toe up, two at one time route and, with the help of the  internet and some incredibly helpful people who selflessly write out  reams of instructions and take loads of close up photos (or video themselves) for no apparent personal gain, I am on my way.

Honourable mentions for such tutorials go out to Knit Purl Hunter for ‘Judy’s Magic Cast On’ here 

                                                                                                       Liat Gat for Magic Loop Knitting here

                                                                                                       and Heidi Bears for knitting two socks at one time on one circular needle here

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Between Socks

I have more time now of an evening since the powers that be in telly land decided to move their satellites a little further away so that we can’t get terrestrial U.K. T.V.  here in my bit of France  unless we do techy things with laptops, VPNs and HDMI cables or replace our modest satellite dishes with humungous ones which we aren’t allowed to put on the roof and must install in the garden, having first applied for planning permission.   Yeah, right!   I know I could watch French T.V. but, when I get that desperate, I’ll probably be watching in a home somewhere being looked after by kindly nurses with no access to the remote control.

Anyway, I have paused between socks to finish my mustard coloured, Miette cardi that I started when Mum was here at Christmas.

SunflowerMietteCardigan (2)

I like the way mustard goes with navy – I’m not sure what other colours it goes with though.

SunflowerMietteCardigan (3)

A fun knit though maybe not quite as easy as some other, cleverer, knitters would have you believe  -  or so my Mum maintains as her effort lies abandoned in her knitting bag.

SunflowerMietteCardigan (4)

I got the mannequin to model the one with the buttons closed as her chest is more manageable than mine.  The cropped style, in my opinion, adds many inches and, unless you desire this effect, best wear it open as I plan to do.  However, the style was designed to wear with a sort of fifties style, waisted cotton dress and, should I ever feel frisky enough to put one of those on, I will do up those buttons and see what happens.

Should you be interested (or you can’t get the telly either) you can see my project notes on my Ravelry page here.

I am finding my new exposed stone wall very useful both for posing in front of and for taking product photos for my Etsy shops.  It was perhaps a little drastic to destroy half a room and employ a builder for 3 weeks but I think it was worth it.

I have started another knitting project so a new pair of socks will have to wait but, as a new addict, I have to tell you that I have invested in two balls of proper sock yarn and a little pouch full of different sized circular needle tips along with different sized cables from HiyaHiya (love that brand name) as I have started and will continue using the Magic Loop method and will not be tempted by DPNs.

Talking of the telly – I did manage to get The Great British Sewing Bee last night (after juggling with cables, etc.) and I was pleased to see they don’t seem to have changed the format too much as it is a welcome relief from other ‘reality’ shows with people being foul to each other and the endless, artificial ‘suspense’  for the announcement of the person going home each week.   It is genteel, kind, calm and informative – like the G.B. Bake Off – and, if I got a bit of a smug feeling when I knew how to make a handmade button loop and some of the contestants didn’t, well I didn’t gloat as it’s not that kind of a programme.


Liberty dress

…….just saying

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Little Liberties

Regular readers will know I love Liberty fabric and use it whenever I can but, there comes a time, and my time came a while ago, when a pastel pink floral Liberty print dress will not look good on you.  I would put the limit at, maybe, 25 years old but you may differ.  It is possible I believe, and hope as I have done it,  to make blouses and other tops with a ditsy, floral Liberty print and get away with it but, dresses, no. **

I have lined bunny ears with it, made coin purses and fabric storage baskets but I wanted more from my Liberty stash.

So, as I long ago left the age of 25 behind, I decided to make teeny tiny dresses in order to indulge my addiction.

Here are a few I’ve finished or semi-finished.

Little Liberty dresses

Actually, that last one in red and white is Tilda fabric but you get my drift.

I have even been using Liberty of London cotton jersey to make miniature skater dresses like my Lady one.  It’s a good use  of my new overlocker and I still can’t get over how the seams look so professional when done on a proper serger.  The cotton jersey is gorgeous but it is quite difficult to find, especially in prints that are suitable for very little girls.  These ones were from Sewbox who have quite a good range of Liberty fabrics at reasonable prices.

Liberty of London Baby Dress

This one is teeny, for 0-3 months, it makes me feel quite broody although that’s something else I have passed the limit for.  Perhaps the dogs would like a dress.  Somebody stop me!

** I must here mention a notable exception because there is a blog I follow ‘The Little Tailoress’ and she made a ditsy, pink, floral Liberty dress and looks damn gorgeous in it.  She is, however, probably only 25 or very near to it anyway.  You can see it here.

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