‘What do you think of the newest kit in town?’
‘He’s alright I suppose but he’s not getting up here.’
My first crochet project has come to fruition.
After the teal boots…….
the teal shoes.
I just couldn’t not buy them.
About five years ago I spent a whole Summer teaching myself – with the aid of a book called The Happy Hooker – how to crochet. By the end of the Summer, I could turn out something like this little top.
Then I stopped.
A few weeks ago, I was milling about after lunch with a friend in our local medieval town – as you do – when I spotted this lovely yarn shop, a rare beast in these parts as I think they probably are in most parts lately.
There was a sign in the window saying that the owner did one on one courses for knitting and crochet and although I know there are tutorials galore on YouTube for free it is in my nature to knuckle down and do something if I’ve actually paid good money for it and so I did. Also good for my French.
These were my first efforts as I’d obviously forgotten everything I’d taught myself before – even how to do a decent chain to start off.
Anyway, newly inspired, I went home and sat in front of the computer, got hooking and progressed to these.
I had to go back to the shop for another session because she had (cunningly?) kept hold of my Happy Hooker so I thought I might as well learn, first hand, how to do another couple of stitches and amaze her all over again with the way I can’t seem to hold the yarn like she does and manage to turn the foundation chain mid-way every single time.
The reason she had kept hold of my book was to look at the conversion chart inside between U.S. crochet terms and English crochet terms which are different as, of course, are the French ones so for the first time ever I have found it easier to read a chart than written instructions because at least the symbols are the same in all languages.
Of course, I didn’t leave the shop empty handed and these will eventually become a pair of socks, though knitted ones as I am not so far along the crochet path even to consider anything other than a square, heart or doily shaped thingy.
As with any new (or renewed) hobby, it’s fun to start stocking up on what you need. I have a yarn stash that nearly equals my fabric stash (who am I kidding?) so I’m O.K. for that but I bought a couple of books and a set of hooks to get going with.
Of course I couldn’t leave those pretty hooks in the plastic box so that was an excuse to get my sheep fabric out and make a holder. Fabric with sheep on it! – surely it was meant to be.
I could almost join Kate’s Scraphappy Day with this hook roll because the flap and inner fabrics were leftovers from other projects but I confess the sheep weren’t scraps but entire 😉
So what with my lessons, my books, my hooks and my favourite crochet teacher on YouTube (Bella Coco) – watch this space for future creations. I don’t know what they will be as one of my problems with crochet in the past was what to make. I have enough of a hard time wearing the things I’ve knitted so I don’t envisage wearing any crocheted creations and I don’t like making toys (adorable as they are) because of the stuffing process and because my daughters won’t appreciate them any more. Any suggestions welcome.
Nothing to do with crochet but I made a madeira cake yesterday – I used the recipe from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ because I was in that sort of frame of mind – and it was blooming gorgeous with the requisite crevice across the top and all.
I’m not one for ‘gooey’ cakes so this sort is right up my street with a subtle lemony flavour and quite a moist texture. I did tremble a bit when I put all the sugar in but something’s got to kill you and I apologise if you’re doing ‘sugar free February’ or whatever it’s called but I actually consume very little sugar in the normal course of events and I didn’t have any sugar of the fermented kind all through January so I feel vindicated. Anyway, I only had one slice as the rest was consumed by Monsieur and Madamoiselle Tialys the Younger who needed a bit of a sugar rush to get over the shock of me emerging from my sewing room and baking something .
Even though the patchwork block swap I’ve been participating in hasn’t quite finished yet – there’s one month to go – I have actually made all the blocks I need to and I’ve already started getting withdrawal symptoms. Kate and Sue who have run the F2F (Foot Square Freestyle) swap for the past two years, have decided they need a break from organising duties and as I am more of a participant than an organiser I didn’t offer to take it over so, sadly, when Claire receives her 24 blocks from 8 other quilters around the world by the end of February, that will be it.
I found that participating in the swap really motivated me to improve my work, try out some new techniques and get things finished on time
So, what to do next?
I searched around the web for other swaps but the few I managed to find had either already started or didn’t appeal.
Kate has started making a quilt – unusually it will be for herself – from a book both she and I have had for years.
We’ve both been in love with one particular quilt inside it – I even made the templates for it and one block back in the mists of time – but never got any further.
It’s rows of vintage hatboxes made to look as if they’ve been covered in wallpaper, as olden day people used to do, and each one set in the angle of a little cubby hole with a floor and two walls. So, lots of design decisions to be made.
Kate has been busy with it for a few months now – you can see her progress here – and I decided I would join in with her and we would aim to make three blocks per month and publish them on our blogs at the end of the month. This will be my motivation.
I am making a wall hanging for my bedroom rather than a quilt – there is an empty wall behind the bed and I thought this might go well there rather than a picture. I don’t want it to dominate the room or anything so I’m not making it too large, just four blocks wide x three blocks high. If I make three blocks per month, it should be ready to start putting together in May.
Each ‘cubby hole’ is constructed by joining two trapezoids, one reversed, plus an 8.5 inch square which is set in to the angle of the trapezoids. Eek! I was so pleased when I got it right first time and then realised my perfect seam would be covered up with the hatbox appliquéd on top – still, that’s patchwork for you. Here’s a ‘blank’ just so you know I can do it.
And here’s the block after the hatbox has been added.
I decided to use scraps for the backgrounds where possible and Liberty tana lawn for the hatboxes. I realised too late that, because the tana lawn is so fine, you have to be careful what you put underneath it. You can see the stripes of my ‘flooring’ vaguely show through but I thought it sort of looks like part of the design on the box so I’ve left it.
This one is a darker print so I got away with it here but, for the other blocks, I won’t use that particular striped fabric. I am not usually an ‘appliqué person’ but Kate has got me trying several techniques I’ve either never done before or previously said I’d never do such as foundation paper piecing so here’s one more to add to the list. I am using Bondaweb to attach the hatbox shapes and then using a turquoise thread and machine appliquéing on to the background.
This next one had to be re-done because I had used light coloured tana lawn for the hatbox and the ‘floor’ was showing through and making it look as if there was a shadow across the box. I had to peel it off – a tragic waste of both Liberty and Bondaweb -and use a darker design. You live and learn.
I’m enjoying making these hatboxes but my workroom is a mess – strewn with fabrics over every surface as I audition them for ‘wallpaper’, ‘flooring’ , the hatboxes themselves and the bands. Decisions, decisions……
I will finish by proudly announcing that I have managed to complete Dry January without a drop of alcohol passing my lips – apart from that used in cooking which doesn’t count because all the alcohol comes off as vapour (boo!) . I never usually touch Pastis – the favourite aperitif of the French – because wine is my poison and the aniseedy alcoholic tipple makes me go woozy very quickly which is a feat in itself. However, Ricard (the favoured brand of the French when imbibing their favourite aperitif) make a version called Pacific which has no alcohol, no sugar, no calories, no nuffink apart from quite a few E numbers but I haven’t looked them up to see whether they are dodgy ones. As with the real stuff, you dilute it with 5 parts water but, unlike the real stuff, it is already a cloudy colour.
This, and Bucklers non alcoholic beer (which is really Lager if you are British) , kept me on the straight and narrow when temptation threatened to overcome me. I don’t know whether you can get it (or Bucklers) outside of France but, if you can, and you are the designated driver or want an alcohol free evening for any other reason, I would recommend it.
I am writing this at an ungodly hour of the morning because there were cats yowling outside from around 3.30 a.m. which caused our dogs to bark, which caused us to wake up and throw missiles out of the window which, as we thought to open the window first, caused a blast of frosty air to render us wide awake so we decided to give up the unequal struggle, get up and get on with things.
I don’t know which cats were making all the racket but at least I know it wasn’t this one who, since turning up on our doorstep shortly before Christmas, rarely goes out and sleeps a lot, usually in a cute fashion.
Anyway, in case you started following my blog originally because you thought I was a fellow dressmaker but have since been regaled with cat and dog stories, knitting projects, patchwork blocks and various other random ramblings, I thought I’d reassure you that I do still occasionally turn my hand to clothing of the fabric variety.
Some time ago, on a visit to the U.K., I bought some fabric at Ditto Fabrics in Brighton. The blue and gold ‘teardrop’ effect fabric caught my eye because it reminded me of African wax fabric but in a more ‘manageable’ small design though still with those lovely bright colours. I always had it in mind to make a plain, straight skirt with it but all my skirt patterns had ‘features’ and I thought the fabric didn’t need anything else going on with it being busy enough in itself. It was added to the stash and left to languish. ( I love the word ‘languish’ almost as much as the word ‘lush’ – but I digress)
I suddenly remembered that Pippa over at ‘Beads and Barnacles’ had included a pattern in my ‘Stitching Santa’ parcel at Christmas for a very plain skirt so I thought I’d sweep the patchwork rulers and itsy bits of quilting fabric off my cutting table and finally make that fabric up into something wearable.
I know I could probably have drafted such a simple shape myself but
I’m too lazy I like to have a pattern to follow so I can blame somebody else if something goes wrong. I usually have a trawl around the web to see who else has made any sewing (or knitting) pattern I’m contemplating before I start so that I can benefit from other people’s mishaps and not make the same mistakes. I found that Beth over at After Dark Sewing had blogged about making this skirt and she had found the pattern piece for the waistband to be between one and two sizes too small. As I was squeezing the skirt out of a metre of fabric, I didn’t really want to have to cut a second waistband so that was useful to know in advance.
My ‘me mannequin’ was brought into service as a model as it’s cold outside and I would have had to set up the tripod and faff around with the camera and this was quicker! Anyway, it looks better on her than me (bitch!!). I didn’t make a toile as I thought I’d just baste the side seams and try it on which I did and it seemed fine but it is actually a little big for me around the waist and I could have taken the hips in slightly too – in fact, I should probably have made a size 8 rather than a 10 and I will do that if I make it again. With a size 10, I had to cut the waistband between a 12 and 14 to make it fit the top of the skirt. (I’m talking U.K. sizes here btw)
The skirt has a back split which you can leave open or you can cut an extra pattern piece to get a sort of kick pleat effect, which I did.
I shortened the skirt at the cutting stage by 3 inches but I still think it might look a bit ‘office wear’ for me (as I don’t work in an office) and, as others have said, the pattern doesn’t have you interface the waistband but I think – albeit belatedly! – it would be a good idea. So, what with those things and the fact it’s slightly big on me at the waist and hips, it might join my pile of ‘never worn dressmaking projects’ which is a shame as I do like it and, to celebrate the resuscitation of my dressmaking mojo, I had treated myself to these gorgeous pattern weights.
However, as you can see, I am easily swayed from my purpose.
I hope my Liberty fabric sale ‘heads up’ didn’t cost any of you too much money but I’ve not got too much sympathy as I’m always spending money thanks to other people’s blogs Sheila over at Sewchet – whom we also have to thank for organising Stitching Santa – blogged about a lovely teal cardigan she’d made and put on a photo of some matching boots she’d ordered. Teal Boots!! Really!? But I’ve been looking for some for ages! (well, navy ones actually but teal will do just fine). Done deal. I love them, however, so thanks for that Sheila and I hope you are enjoying wearing yours and your dogs love them as much as mine seem to 😉
Right, it’s almost 6.30 a.m. now – it’s going to be a long day 🙂
A bit of culture for you today – you can’t say my blog posts aren’t eclectic.
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
from The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot (1922)
Yes, yes, that’s all very well but it’s obvious that Mr. Eliot had never tried ‘Dry January’ because I can’t tell you how glad I will be when the 1st of February comes around and I can have a glass of wine. Here are my own thoughts on which month has a lot to answer for –
January is the cruellest month, drinking
Water is dead boring, mixing
Syrup and lemonade, stirring
Dull concoctions without wine.
from The Wagon, Tialys (2017)
Just to be clear – I haven’t got a drink problem but I do like a glass of wine (or two) when I’m cooking the evening meal (and when I’m eating it) – but only at weekends, although I do count Friday as being the weekend.
I expect my liver will thank me but there are four weekends in January – one more to go! – and it has seemed like an incredibly long month. Now I know how to slow down time.
If you are a Liberty fabric lover I just thought I’d give you the heads up that they have a lot of their tana lawns and silk satins online now for 50% off.
Here is my stash so far
(the top gold bit is the paper wrapping!)
I can’t promise I won’t go back again for more – somebody needs to help me out here!! My
excuse reasoning is that I have a project in the wings for which I have decided to use Liberty tana lawns – it’s not that I haven’t got a stash of it already but I couldn’t resist a few more at that price.
If you fancy treating yourself , you can find it here but don’t say I didn’t warn you that the temptation is great .
Well, I knew the blogging community would come through for me. I now have answers to all my questions – some of which I hadn’t even thought to ask – so thanks for all your help and I have added the correct names to the list below in bold.
- This is all metal with a hollow top that unscrews and a hollow tube inside – a retractable pencil? A hole punch for adding a crocheted edge to fine fabrics.
- A flat tool with cut out shapes at either end – one slightly wider than the other – and a slit at each end. A ‘toothbrush needle’ for making rag rugs.
- A pointy thing that looks like a little awl. An awl.
- A pointy thing with a tiny hook at the end. A hook for crochet lace.
- A thimble (there are no flies on me)
- Embroidery Scissors (I’m getting good at this!)
- Needle Case
- Flat tool with one pointed end and one rounded with a slot. Threading Bodkin
- A little hook – but what is the proper name/use . Button Hook
- Mini Knitting Needles
- A doubled oval shape which is open ended. Tatting Shuttle
Judging by the amount of lace related items and the fact that, when you lift up the tray, there are some examples of lace inside, I would imagine this belonged to somebody that made lace .
”No shit Sherlock” I hear you say but there you go.
I hadn’t really thought about that little hole underneath the tatting shuttle but, as somebody pointed out, that would have probably had a little ribbon or hook to make it easier to pull out the tray.
Also – why the mirror? It had occurred to me that it might be to check one’s appearance but dismissed it as madness. However, apparently, such madness did exist in days gone by when people didn’t go to the supermarket and drop their kids off at school in their jammes, but refreshed their make up and did their hair in case of unexpected visitors or in case the husband came home from work early and surprised them in their state of disarray. If I get unexpected visitors when I’m in a state of disarray I just don’t open the front door.
Also, it has been suggested that this set is from the early 1900s which is probably not too far off the mark although it could be as late as the 1950s. Not sure.
Anyway thank you to all who helped me identify those tools – I think we’ve got them all now by a combined sterling effort.
Unless you know different, of course.
Everybody loves a box, don’t they? It’s so intriguing to lift the lid and see what’s inside.
I spotted this lovely wooden box with inlay veneer – I think the wood is burr walnut – and once I opened the lid and looked inside – I just couldn’t resist it.
I think it’s quite rare to find one of these sets in good condition and also with all the original tools inside. Love the padded lid with the bevelled mirror – what’s the idea of a mirror in a sewing box by the way?
It needs a bit of a clean but, by and large, it’s in good nick considering its age which I’m guessing might be the 1930s perhaps, maybe a bit older.
As even I am not that old, I can’t identify some of the tools so, in case you don’t have anything better to do on a wintry Sunday, maybe you could help me.
I’ve numbered the tools in the photo below and have filled in the ones I already know – scissors anyone? 😉 – but some of them I have no idea. I think those little spools are maybe boxwood and the tools themselves appear to be some sort of bone.
Any help to fill in the list below would be appreciated.
- This is all metal with a hollow top that unscrews and a hollow tube inside – a retractable pencil?
- A flat tool with cut out shapes at either end – one slightly wider than the other – and a slit at each end.
- A pointy thing that looks like a little awl.
- A pointy thing with a tiny hook at the end.
- A thimble (there are no flies on me)
- Scissors (I’m getting good at this!)
- Needle Holder
- Flat tool with one pointed end and one rounded with a slot.
- A little hook – but what is the proper name/use
- Mini Knitting Needles
- A doubled oval shape which is open ended.
As you can tell, I don’t have many of these tools in my sewing box so although I’ve a vague notion of what some of the unidentified ones are for, I don’t know the proper name or the exact purpose.
By the way, the tray lifts out and there is a storage compartment beneath which holds some pieces of old lace . Lace is something else I know nothing about so there might be another quiz next week 😉
Despite having six cats and three dogs roaming around the place, we put up a large ‘real’ Christmas tree in one room and a smaller ‘artificial tree’ in another. They survived – relatively unscathed – until the new kitten (don’t ask) discovered he could shin up the centre of the artificial one creating havoc and mayhem among any food and drink stuffed, semi-comatose humans in the vicinity who were then forced to move at an unwelcome rate in order to prevent bauble breakage on a massive scale. I suppose he found it all very amusing as, once achieved, he repeated it ad nauseum until, last night, I got fed up and took it down.
Having mulled (and drunk) enough red wine not to want to count the empty bottles, I decided to get up off my arse while still possible and hike up a small mountainside with the dogs. I made Mr. T. take a photo of me to show me wearing my hat that came in one of my Stitching Santa parcels. Despite the dark glasses and luminous dog harness I am not registered blind – just saying as I suddenly realised it might look like that. Stan’s harness actually says ‘Ball Junkie’ and not ‘Guide Dog’.
Ignore the clove stuck orange – she didn’t send me that – I was on the way to mull (yet more) wine when the photography urge came upon me.
Pippa had made some very useful pouches and a bag for me to keep stuff in and even a length of bias binding she had made. Can you spot the blue fabric in the middle? I did take larger photos of it but the colour didn’t come out right so this is the best view of it. It is boiled wool jersey which I have never used before. Any tips or suggestions on what to make with it? Pippa suggested a sweater. I have 1.5m and it has a slight stretch to it.
Also in the parcel was a useful pattern and one of her lovely knitted hats which I am modelling for you in the above dog walking picture just to prove to her that I will actually wear it – she seemed doubtful for some reason.
As I’m a knitting person as well as a sewing one, I thought I’d go for the knitting Santa too and, just in the nick of time, a day or two before Christmas, my package from Anne in Australia arrived.
(There’s that orange again – don’t worry you won’t see it again as it is now saturated with spiced wine – a bit like me – at the bottom of the bin)
Anne chose two lovely hanks of wool from Plant Craft Cottage in the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne where the yarn is hand dyed – these ones with eucalyptus leaves apparently – so I’m now looking for something to knit with them – there is 25g of each colour, it is 8 ply Australian wool, needle size 4mm and gauge 22st to 10cm. Any ideas knitting friends?
Three beautiful ceramic buttons were in the package
Plus a lovely pencil drawing of a shell from Anne who is a talented nature and botanic artist so I’m very happy to have a little example of her work.
I was chuffed to bits to receive all these generous gifts and thanks again to Sheila for organising us all. Sign me up again for next year!!
There was another gift that wasn’t quite so successful. A few days before Christmas I went out to lunch with a friend of mine and we browsed about in some shops for a while. We went into a home décor shop where each section was themed by colour and, as we passed through the orange and yellow ‘retro’ section she said ‘I can’t stand those two colours – I wouldn’t have them in my house’
Which was a shame because this was what was in the gift bag I’d handed her to put under her tree when I picked her up at her house earlier.
A more successful gift was this satchel that Mr. Tialys made for a close friend of ours who spent Christmas Day with us this year.
It is modelling for me on the bonnet/hood of her car as she was leaving the next morning with the bag stashed in her boot/trunk and I remembered I hadn’t recorded it for posterity and made her unpack it again.
So, that is that for another year. I have made a couple of New Year’s resolutions but, after the disasters last year of my Firsty February (where I attempted not to drink any alcohol for a month and failed) and my Fabric Fast (which lasted 4 months instead of my pledged twelve) I will let you know what this year’s ones are if I actually manage to keep them and, if I don’t, nobody but me will be any the wiser.
Have a brilliant 2017 and I hope everything you wish for comes true.
Just a quick post to show you that I really did manage to finish my ‘man quilt’ in time to give it to Mr. Tialys for Christmas. Thanks to Kate for organizing nine quilters for the F2F block swap again this year meaning that, apart from the blocks I made for myself , I also received 24 blocks from Australia, the States, Sweden, the Netherlands and France all diverse and gorgeous in my chosen colours. This swap, just as last year, helped me to improve on my existing skills and develop some new ones – foundation paper piecing is my new addiction.
Thanks also to Kate for encouraging me to finish it by blogging about the Quilt As You Go method which we were both using to finish our quilts, mine for a Christmas gift and her own for another charity auction to raise money for Ovarian Cancer Awareness which you can see here.
Here’s the back in case he gets fed up with looking at the front where you can see more clearly – though not too clearly I hope as my seaming wasn’t always spot on (or anywhere near) – how the blocks are sandwiched together, quilted and then joined with strips.
This quilt will go and live in London to keep Mr. T. warm in his ‘commuter flat’.
Some lovely blocks were sent to me and, because the full length photo doesn’t do them justice, I folded the quilt in half and photographed them separately so you can see each block more clearly. Unlike Kate I don’t live in Australia and the quilt was too long to hang on the washing line without draping on the frosty grass so I had to take the photos indoors on a larger bed than the quilt is intended for – although it is fairly large at about 65 inches wide x 78 inches long (1.6m x 1.9m).
Here’s the top half
and the bottom half
The new – and unintentional – member of the family was testing it out for comfort while I was attaching the binding and I think it passed. (More about him at a later date!)
I just need to ‘sign off’ on the quilt by making and attaching a quilt label which I will do tomorrow and I will sign off on the blog now until just after Christmas when I will hopefully be able to share the contents of my Stitching Santa parcels with you. (Update – received the knitting one today – phew!)
I hope you all have a very enjoyable festive season with lots of good food and good company. Lynn x x