In A Big Nutshell

I haven’t blogged for a while not because I haven’t had anything to say exactly but, in the end, there was too much to say and I couldn’t filter it down into a blog post and also I haven’t had the time.

So, in a nutshell (a big nutshell – something like a coconut)

scalada cirque du soleil

We went across the border into Andorra for a free show by the Cirque du Soleil.  The heavens opened, a storm raged, we bought plastic ponchos and the rain stopped 5 minutes before the show started.  The show was magnificent and we were damp but happy.  The story behind the show was supposed to be something about the history of Andorra but, as with all the Cirque du Soleil shows, I don’t actually know what was supposed to be going on.  I only know that I am in constant amazement at what the human body is capable of if possessed of bendy limbs, muscles like steel, a body weight no heavier than a gnat and an apparent fearlessness of small spaces/high places/empty air between waiting arms.

Having recently had a travelling circus in this part of France boasting tigers, a lion and ‘the largest hippopotamus in Europe’ – and this in a ‘civilized country’ – I wonder why anybody would need to gawp at caged wild animals exhibiting unnatural behaviour when they can see fully consenting human beings in beautiful costumes doing amazing things with their super fit bodies.  That sounds wrong somehow but you get my drift.

Being a tax free independent principality, it is the done thing in Andorra to go and marvel at the enormous bottles of alcohol for sale at silly prices – or is that just us?

Giant Vodka Bottles Andorra

The next morning we drove down into Spain, forgetting that the first Saturday in August is the day that all of France decides is the start of their annual holidays, jump in their cars and pack the roads – this despite the fact that the kids have been on school holiday since the end of June.  We queued for an hour to pay for the privilege of using a toll road as did the rest of France apparently.

Cadaques Restaurant

 When we finally arrived at our destination – a port called Cadaqués – it was beautiful and we pondered buying something there for holidays, rental and eventual retirement.

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 Then we looked in a couple of Estate Agents’ windows, saw the prices and changed our minds not having upwards of two or three million euros to play with just at the moment.

Anyway, what they did have in Cadaques, apart from beautiful scenery, charming back streets and good restaurants, was their very own cat rescue called ‘Cats de Cadaqués’.  This is an association that raises funds to feed and, most importantly, sterilize the local cat population.  A lot of the shops and restaurants are supportive, display posters and sell cat themed items.

 This restaurant has embraced the theme in a very picturesque manner.

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Despite being a ‘dog person’ I do also have a soft spot for cats (I have 4) and agreed to be ‘admin’ on a new Facebook page set up by the feline equivalent of Dog Rescue Carcassonne which I sometimes blog about.  I don’t really ‘do’ Facebook at the best of times – I usually have problems just uploading photos – and now I am suddenly faced with the myriad opportunities presented behind the scenes when you are an ‘admin’.  I’m still working it out.  There are other ‘admins’ so I leave most of the dealings on FB to them and I am writing ‘the blog’.  If you want to see how I am now the crazy cat lady as well as a dog botherer, you can see my new blog here.  Some comments, likes and followers would be nice as I’m finding it hard to get it off the ground.

Cat Rescue Carcassonne

 

On the creative front, things have come to a shuddering halt because it was time to clear out my workroom again and, despite many black sacks and boxes of items being removed and deposited at the charity shop, the Dog & Cat Shelter’s vide grenier (boot/yard sale) stash or the bins, there still doesn’t seem to be any way for me to get to my sewing machine very easily.  No before and after pics of that, I promise, because even when I’ve finished it will not look like a magazine photo shoot workshop and, if it did, I’d never be able to do any work in it for fear of messing it up.

Also, I’ve lost my sewing mojo at the moment having made ‘the dress that nearly broke the camel’s back’ which is headed for the bin and had me heading off to Zara and other RTW outlets for a couple of items for my holiday wardrobe.  However, I might blog about that when I have more time so, for now, I’m saying ‘tchau’ which is how you say goodbye in Portugal apparently and that’s where I’m heading for some time away from the computer, the phone, the messy workroom and the dogs and cats and chickens.

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Christmas in July?

Back in May, my friend of umpteen years had a very significant birthday ending in a ‘0’ and I’m sure she won’t mind me saying that it wasn’t her 20th – or even her 30th – but I’ll stop there.

I knew I wouldn’t be seeing her until June as she spends half the year in the U.K. and half in France so I started making a gift for her.  Something fairly traumatic delayed her getting here until this month and, yesterday, we met up and I was finally able to hand over her present.   It would only fit in a humungus carrier bag that I had bought last Christmas for some reason I can’t remember.

Christmas gift bag

Any guesses?

Huge Cable Blanket no.3 Ginger (2)

I couldn’t resist knitting another giant blanket and, this time, I chose a rusty orange colour that I knew would go with the décor in her flat in the U.K.

Huge Cable Blanket no.3 Ginger (1)

When I gave it to her she cried.  I think it was because she was happy but it might have been because it is so hot here at the moment a blanket is about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

Then we went out for dinner here……

CAMON VILLAGE

and, after a glass of something sparkly on the terrace, went out into the cloisters of the abbey which was set up with tables for the evening meal.

SUMMER CLOISTERS 2_g4it12

Then, because we couldn’t drink anything else as I was driving (she could have but kindly abstained so as not to make me jealous) we polished off a bottle of sparkly when we got back to her house and stayed up until the small hours chatting and reminiscing and laughing fit to burst about things I can’t recall now.  I had a slight headache this morning but it was worth it.

Next blanket will be for my Mum who has a birthday in September.  The only trouble is, we are forecast to have even hotter temperatures in August so I’m not sure I’ll be able to survive partially submerged under almost 3kg of yarn – it might have to be her Christmas gift instead.

The photos of the beautiful Abbey are from the owners’ website (click on photos to see more) as is this description –  L’Abbaye-Château de Camon is an ancient Benedictine monastery dating back to the tenth century. It is situated in the beautiful village of Camon in the foothills of the Pyrénées. Surrounded by forest and pasture it is only a ten minute drive from the medieval town of Mirepoix. In the heart of Cathar country this historic monument is now a luxury chambres d’hôtes.

It almost makes me want to get married again so I could have my wedding reception there.

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23 Comments

Seeing Hexagons

After much cutting, gluing, sewing, photography, scribbling and testing, I have finally produced my Hexagonal Sewing Box Tutorial.

My two trusty testers, Kate and Lucie,  have given me their feedback and have made lovely sewing boxes for themselves.  I’ve made (most) of the changes they suggested and now it’s ready.

I’ve been making these for years – I love them – but I know lots of crafty people would rather have a go at making their own so I took photos of of all the steps as I was making this one

HexagonBoxToadstools (3)

and wrote down notes with sticky fingers as I was making this one

WritingHexTutorial

When you’ve been making something for a long time you forget the steps that need more careful explanation which is why testers are so helpful because they can remind you that things that might seem obvious to you after umpteen years of doing them aren’t necessarily obvious to the first timer.  So, after some tester cursing and unsticking – I’ve now made it clearer that those sides have a short and a long edge and won’t work if you try to put them up the other way – sorry ladies ;)

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Also, don’t use wadding that is too thick otherwise you will have a bit of trouble making things fit instead of just ending up having softly padded, lightly luxurious feeling lids and inners – sorry again!  My lovely testers made those mistakes so nobody else has to ;)

hexagon sewing box

Anyway, if you like assembling things, getting a bit gluey and sticky, can do a passable teeny whipstitch and fancy having a go at making your own sewing box, my tutorial is now ready in my Etsy shop here.

Cover Page Hex Tutorial

and, in case you decide to give it a try, put this code in for $2 off the price BOXCLEVER.  It’s an instant download so you can get started straight away.

If you do make one, please send photos and I’ll make a little gallery.

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Taking It Easy

According to Wikipedia Hot Yoga refers to yoga exercises performed under hot and humid conditions. Often associated with the style devised by Bikram Choudhury, hot yoga is now used to describe any number of yoga styles that use heat to increase an individual’s flexibility in the poses. In colder climates, hot yoga often seeks to replicate the heat and humidity of India where yoga originated

According to me Hot Yoga is when it’s too hot in the loft where we normally practice so you go outside in the garden instead.

Outside Yoga

 

Here we are giving a whole new meaning to ‘putting your head on the block’

It was still quite hot but, apart from a few insects settling on me and having a nibble, the fact I didn’t have any sun lotion on and the ground sloping a bit, it was wonderful.

I am usually slightly more ‘active’ than this photo would have you believe but this was taken at the relaxation stage at the end – honest!

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Rhetorical Questions

I promised Madamoiselle Tialys the Younger that I would take her to her favourite bookshop when college finished for the summer and, more importantly, providing she got some of the toot off her floor so I could walk across it and open a window to air out the health risk we call her bedroom.  Her favourite bookshop is one that stocks a copious amount of Japanese animé – or Manga.  Don’t ask.  Especially don’t ask her otherwise you will be trapped in a one sided conversation for several hours- a position I have been in many a time but have now become fairly well skilled in avoidance tactics.

Yoshiko Tsukioni

Roaming about the bookshop while she made her (extensive and expensive) choices, I must have had things Japanese on my mind because I spotted this book in the sale and, despite the beautiful young woman wearing what appears to be a box with sleeves on the cover, I had a closer look and discovered, not only was it in the sale but it held 26  patterns inside – 26!!.  I must like some of them surely!  So I bought it.

And there are some that I like.  This one for instance.

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and this one

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If only I were so cute and young and doll like.

But most of all I like these

Japanese clothing patterns

especially the one on the right.

Although I think I could shorten the one on the left and make it work for me too.  I was so pleased with myself that I left a huge sheet of 3mm cardboard that I had paid for on the floor propped up against the checkout counter and didn’t realise until I was nearly home – an hour’s drive away.

Just one question.  Why, oh why, did I have to buy this book the day after I saw these two cotton lawns and, not knowing what I was going to make with them, took only one metre of each and that shop is one and a half hours away.

Cotton Lawn

Either would have been just right for that blouse.  Grrr.

Actually, I have more than one question for you today.

Yellow Ironing Board Cover

Why did I take the trouble to make an ironing board cover when I only iron an item of clothing if not doing so would put the wearer at risk of arrest for vagrancy?*

Green Smoothie

Why does every smoothie I ever make turn out green, grey or brown?

Cat Face

Why does my cat hate me?

*  Of course, an ironing board (and iron) is an essential part of any sewing workroom which is where mine now lives so it must look pretty.  No more clothes will get ironed though!

 

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24 Comments

Block Swap Virgin

I keep meaning to tell you about the blockfest I’m a part of which has been organised by Kate over at Tall Tales From Chiconia  and Sue From The Magpies Nest and involves twelve people from all over the World.  It’s called Foot²Freestyle  because each block will have a finished size of 12 inches or a foot, get it?.  Every month, one of the twelve participants is ‘the one’ and the other eleven participants make three blocks and send them to ‘the one’ so there will be eleven parcels to open, each holding three patchwork blocks in colours asked for at the beginning of the swap.  I do love a parcel – it’s my turn in October.  Then, the recipient will make three blocks of her own, making 36 big blocks with which to make a 72 inch square quilt or whatever else you would like to do with twelve patchwork blocks (no rude suggestions please).

The first month, June, belonged to Esther from the Netherlands and her colour choices were backgrounds of white/light grey/cream and main colours of mustard,  jadeite/minty blueish greens, coral.

Many of the participants are habitual block swappers if their blogs are anything to go by.   I am not – this is my first and I was only tempted because it is being organised by Kate who has just won first prize and a best in show rosette for her beautiful hexagon quilt called ‘Worldwide Friends’ made, in part, using fabric sent to her from her readers and adorned on the back with some Haiku poetry some of which was also contributed by some of her readers.  I’m afraid, in the company of such talent, I have kept my blocks simple and concentrated on the colours and getting the finished size correct.  I don’t want to disappoint too much with wonky edges and non-matching points – although I’m sure everybody will be very polite about things, it is forcing me to be much more careful and accurate than I would be if I was just making for myself.  Which is a good thing, right?

Esther has now received her blocks so I can show you what I sent her.

Daisy Block

A Daisy with a touch of French in the centre.

Bug Jar Block

A Bug Jar

Anvil Block

and, my favourite, an Anvil

They are not perfect by any means but I’ve kept well to her colour choices and hope she’ll be able to use them in the quilt or even for a coordinating cushion.

Next month is Annett’s turn from Germany and her colour scheme is a white background with orange, turquoise and green.

Easy with the postage so far but there are participants from farther afield – Australia and the U.S. for instance but the three blocks fit in a  nice small package and will go letter post so not too bad.

Any suggestions for 12 inch blocks that are interesting but not too difficult (i.e. not too many points!!) would be welcome.

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18 Comments

Off The Cuff

 

 Sometimes Often I go into my workroom for one reason and end up doing something completely different.  Something I hadn’t even planned to do.  Yesterday was one of those times.  I have a pair of trousers – half done – which I keep seeing out of the corner of my eye and I know they need finishing but,  because they need altering and faffing with, I just can’t get my head round messing with them at the moment.  So an unplanned project got done instead.

Some might call it procrastination.

Sewaholic Renfrew Top

I made a Sewaholic Renfrew top.   Are you thinking that fabric is a bit ‘urgent’?  It is quite busy for me but I bought the fabric on Etsy a few months ago and thought I would move it on from my stash – I need the space.

Renfrew Short Sleeve Top

This is me in my customary ‘bring on the firing squad’ pose with the fabric appearing a bit pinker than in reality as I had to mess with the lighting a bit.   It is actually more of a salmon pink as in the other two pics.  I couldn’t go any further up or down as I was still in my early morning dog walking leggings and my dog walking hair and face, none of which is a pretty sight.  There’s no need for you to suffer and anyway it’s the top you are interested in if you are interested in anything at all here.

Matching the Side Seams!

Because of my abysmal attempt at matching one of my side seams on my Reglisse dress (see post), I wanted to  show you that I can actually do it if the stars are aligned correctly and I concentrate.  Sorry it’s on a mannequin – her neck is even scraggier than mine but she is probably more than 100 years older than me so I’m not judging – but I couldn’t really model the side seams and operate the remote gizmo of the camera at the same time.

I was in two minds whether to put the cuffs on the sleeves and round the bottom – more matching hell – but, in the end, I decided to go for it because I think the cuffs make it look more like a ‘top’ and less like a t-shirt which is what this fabric called for.  I won’t go on about the Sewaholic pattern because everybody has made it and, suffice it to say, it is fast, easy and gives good results and you can’t ask for more than that ;)

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20 Comments

The Whiff of Leather and A Good Book

Handmade Red Leather Belt (1)

Somebody in our house has started borrowing my rotary cutters, curved rulers, tracing wheels, hide mallet (from my ‘ upholstering period’) and has even earmarked a mannequin for a future project.

However, it is not one of the Madamoiselles but Mr. Tialys himself.  Thwarted in his plans to turn our downstairs storage room into a micro brewery due to an unforeseen and sudden attack of gout(!),  beer is now to be consumed in moderation – if at all.  Cheerful in the face of adversity and having discovered, after feverish and desperate extensive research, that wine is not included in the list of ‘undesirables’, he cheered up and went with his second choice of indoor creative activity – leatherwork.

I have to say that this is preferable as far as I’m concerned – I’m not a fan of beer to the extent that I need it brewing (and smelling) in a room beneath my feet – but I am a fan of leather goods, mostly in the form of bags and belts.

Anyway, this is my jeans belt he made for me.

Handmade Red  Leather Belt on Mannequin

He hasn’t been to any classes but is slavishly reading blogs, watching tutorials, buying equipment, designing patterns, looking at other peoples’ patterns and honing his craft – sound familiar?

And, when I finally got my Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday yesterday (I’d asked for it for Christmas but nobody remembered!), it came with it’s own, handmade by husband, leather case.

Handmade Red Leather Kindle Cover

Handmade Red Leather Kindle Cover

It beats beer in my opinion.

Talking of the Kindle, I am busy being mean and miserly and trying to find good books to download which are either free or cheap.  I will also download books I would have bought anyway but, for now, I thought I’d get some stuff on there in case – heaven forfend! – I should run out of reading matter and be stuck in a waiting room somewhere reduced to scanning the teeny screen of my phone as everybody else seems to do these days be it taxi drivers (dangerous!) or diners in restaurants (unsociable).  I have resisted the lure of the K for some time now – preferring the look and feel of a real book – but what finally decided me to go down this route is the space that all my current books take up.  I am at bursting point.  Local charities are awash with books to sell at flea markets and don’t really want any more.  I have donated some to the local library for their English speaking clientele but I am now down to my ‘classics’ and my ‘will read again somedays’ and I will be keeping all of those.

Overstuffed Book Shelved

This is half of the wall – the other half is almost as bad but with some bits of fabric I’ve managed to squeeze in as well.

So, my question is, does anybody have any recommendations for good books – free, cheap or otherwise – that I can put in my virtual library?  I have the space!

To give you an idea of my taste in books, here are the last few I’ve read and enjoyed:

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson     (I’ve read and loved every single one of her books so no need to recommend any of her others)

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies  by Hilary Mantel

Her Lover (Belle du Seigneur)  by Albert Cohen  (in English!)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Share your favourites!

Handmade Red Leather Kindle Cover

A nice touch on the back, bless him.

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26 Comments

Trying To Make Sense

Last time I made one of my hexagonal sewing boxes I took photographs at each stage so that, as requested, I could produce a tutorial.   I even asked for testers.  Then I sort of forgot about it for a bit but, when I started making another box I got out my notebook and began writing the instructions that will, quite soon hopefully, be married up with the photos to form a tutorial which will eventually be available in my Etsy shop.

WritingHexTutorial

Because I have been making these for such a long time, it’s difficult to think like a cartonnage ‘virgin’ so that’s why I needed people who don’t usually make them to give it a try before I release my instructions to a (hopefully) wider audience.

So, Kate and Lucie, if you are still up for it, get your glue sticks and cardboard ready and choose your fabrics as the day draws closer when I will ask you to ‘get sticky with it’ and try out my instructions.  I am sure you will be able to give me lots of constructive criticism and I just hope I can remember which file I put all the photographs in and how to put a PDF together.

What do you think of the latest combination of fabrics by the way?  I like the Parisian theme going on – you can’t have too many Eiffel Towers, French typography and handbags can you?

This morning, I woke up really early – 5.30 – and couldn’t get back to sleep so I cut the fabric out for another box with a slightly different feel to it using this Michael Miller fabric as I thought it would make a change from the more ‘traditional’ fabrics and be fun maybe for a young sewing enthusiast.

-Michael-Miller-retro-comic-fabric

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

 

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7 Comments

Like A Dog With Two Tails

Do you remember Blacky who did a ‘guest post‘ on my blog a few weeks back?

He is a dog at our Rescue Centre who was left behind by his owners when they moved house and has spent three years in a concrete run as, being an ‘ordinary’ looking dog he keeps getting overlooked by potential adopters.

Well look at him today

Rescue Dog Goes Home

He’s off home with his new owner.

Sorry, not sorry, for the grainy photo but I expect whoever took it at the Shelter today was shaking with excitement as everybody loved him and couldn’t understand why he was still there.

I thought I’d just let you know as some of you expressed an interest in hearing the end of his story which looks like it will be a happy one.

 

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