Not For The Squeamish

This dress caught my eye the other day in a French magazine

Drape Neck Knit Dress

I like the unusual draping effect at the neckline and, as it’s in a knit fabric,  I am once again able to avoid my nemesis, the zip.

I might make it for my youngest or, add a few inches to the hem, and make it for me.  I have just the right fabric.

Jersey Dress Pattern

This is quite fine knit fabric and very drapey and Mlle Tialys likes purple so I thought it would be the perfect project.

Until I saw the pattern.

Magazine Pattern to Trace

Really?!  It’s bad enough tracing off an individual pattern but can there be any excuse for this?  Plus, the instructions are in French of course which is not beyond my capabilities but yet another unnecessary obstacle to be overcome.

Ironically, I think the pattern is by Simplicity.  Anyone know the pattern number so I can buy the blooming thing and not go cross eyed in the process of making it?

In other, totally unrelated, news – my dog, Stan, has something nasty on his paw.  I thought it was just a grass seed causing a boil or some other simple thing but the vet says it’s a mass/nodule/tumour – yes, she variously used all three of those words none of which was less scary than the others.  She gave me some anti-inflammatory tablets and a spray to administer once a day during which time I have to put a sock over his paw and sit with him so that he doesn’t try to lick it for at least half an hour.

image

If it hasn’t gone by Monday he might have to have surgery which worries me as he has had a few fits and I’m not sure whether a general anaesthetic might exacerbate them.

stanreadyforwalk

He’s mostly hopping about on 3 legs at the moment but he’s missing his long walks and, most of all, running after his tennis balls.   Fingers and paws crossed for a non-surgical outcome.

 

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Another ‘Quick’ Project – Yeah, Right.

Whenever I see phrases  like ‘quick project‘ , ‘make it in an hour‘, ‘I made a ball gown during the ad break in Eastenders‘ (o.k., I’ve never seen that last one) I should know not to touch it with a barge pole.

If I ever say, I’m just going upstairs to run up a quick bit of gear to take on holiday or to wear for a ‘do’, my sewing machine and overlocker  (but especially the overlocker) somehow hear me and, in the time it takes me to get up there, they have conspired together to make any quick project as long and frustrating as possible.

Take the summer cardigan pattern which I saw on Girl Charlee’s blog and decided to make with a piece of jersey, dotted with cute gold fawns, that I had bought from them a few weeks before.

 Firstly, I had only bought a metre and the pattern calls for just over that so it took me (and a friend) at least an hour to try to lay the pattern out economically – although if it had been a non directional pattern it would have been a lot easier.

Secondly and most importantly, my overlocker decided to thwart my plans and chew up the seams.

 I had to wait until I saw my friend again to use her overlocker and took mine with me to see if we could work out the problem.  Her husband tutted at how ‘sale’ (French for ‘dirty’) my overlocker was and wanted to know how long was it since I’d cleaned it.  I said ‘jamais’ (French for ‘never’).  He tutted some more and swept out of the room bearing my machine aloft and did things to it with little brushes and blowers and things and I trusted him because I’ve seen under the hood of his car and the engine looks like something you could eat your dinner off.

Anyway, despite his ministrations, it still didn’t work properly so I re-threaded it for what seemed like the zillionth time and, obviously deciding it had p***ed me off enough for one week as I had started muttering darkly about buying a new one, all was well.

Anyway, I made the cardigan for Mlle. T. the younger but she’s not keen on modelling so I asked Mlle. T. the elder – who’s not keen either but she is more bribeable biddable.

dsc_0001Next time, I would make the cuffs a little looser and alter the pattern slightly so that it is slightly wider at the bottom edge.

dsc_0006

…..and if anybody tells me the fawns on the cuffs are upside down I might get nasty.

I am determined to get my F2F blocks made into a quilt for Mr. Tialys’s London flat before  winter – although he has central heating there which we don’t have here so I don’t know why I worry.  Anyway, yesterday I took all the blocks and the squares of wadding and backing out into the garden and went crazy with the basting spray so they are now all ready to quilt.

Quilt As You Go Blocks

I think one of the cats has a more bristly tail than she should have as she may have got in the way of me and my spray at one point.  I’m sure it’ll brush out.

Cat in Antique Bowl

Here she is, giving me the stink eye, in the antique french confit pot that should be for sale in my shop but is not as she has adopted it as her own and, having raised her from a 3 week old scrap with cat formula milk and bottle, I find it hard to deny her anything at all.

I’m off to see if I can make a skirt – complete with zip – in under an hour.  (The word zip is a clue here to the likelihood of my succes).

 

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How Not To Do A Tutorial and Some Pillow Talk

You might remember me saying I’d got just a little bit ‘into’ paper piecing’ and it’s still true.  I like the designs you can achieve and it gives me a better shot at accuracy.  In last year’s F2F quilt block swap, Avis sent me a gorgeous block featuring a dog – perhaps she thinks I’m a doggy person, can’t think why😉  I thought I’d give it a go myself and ordered the PDF pattern by Sew Fresh Quilts.  Anyway, because Avis is very clever, she managed to adapt the rectangular block into a 12.5 inch square in order for it to be suitable for the F2F quilt.  I am not very clever, so mine remains a rectangle.

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Before I go any further I will tell you that the pattern is not a paper piecing one but a stitch and flip one.  What is ‘stitch and flip’ ? I hear you ask.  I daresay nobody is asking but I’m going to tell you anyway and so, when I started making the above block, I started to take step by step photos for your delight and edification.

Everything in stitch and flip is made with squares and rectangles which you join together to make other shapes.

Here follows a (very) short tutorial which you are advised to take absolutely no notice of at all.

dsc_0009-6Step One:  Take a rectangle and a square, place right sides together, draw a diagonal line.

dsc_0010-1Step Two:  Using a 1/4 inch seam allowance cut along the diagonal line.

Step Three:  Do the same thing on the other short edge of the rectangle.  Then flip the triangles open.

dsc_0012-5Step Four:  Realise you have made a hideous mistake – do those look like ears? – abandon any thoughts of enlightening anybody on stitch and flip and concentrate on what you are doing.

Stitch and Flip PatchworkThen you might get it right.

stitch and flip dog cushion

Anyway I got there in the end in my own befuddled manner and made it into a cushion for a raffle prize at the annual fund raising event my friend hosts for Dog Rescue Carcassonne  (we made over 2000 euros in total which will be used to install proper fences around the pens where the dogs can have a proper play and spend some time outside of their concrete kennels.)

Tardis Cushion reverse

I don’t know what I was thinking of when I bought this strokeable fabric – Tarzan’s loin cloth? –  but I knew it would come in handy one day.

Hand made leather mini satchel

Mr. Tialys made this mini leather satchel for the raffle.  I didn’t really want to part with it but a woman can only have so many bags (he says) and there is a limit to the amount of times I’ll be able to get away with saying ‘I’ll test run it for you’ before he realises he never actually sees the bag again –  apart from over my shoulder.

stitch and flip dog

I really like the stitch and flip method – it’s easier than paper piecing though not quite as intriguing – and I made another dog for myself.  This time I think I will put a border round it as I was a bit worried the face didn’t stand out enough on the first one.

Talking of pillows (or cushions as we say in the old country), you might recall my Dr. Who’s Tardis which was a paper piecing project.  It is now completed as a cushion and lives in London with Mlle. Tialys the Elder who is a big Dr. Who fan.

Tardis CushionI thought the spots could be little planets (albeit unbelievably evenly spaced ones).

TardisCushion (2)Avoiding zips wherever I can – hence my current mission to make all clothing using knit fabrics – I made an envelope back edged with more of the Police Box ribbon.

The only problem with stitch and flip – as with paper piecing – is you do end up with quite a few small scraps and, bizarrely, as I’m not at all mean with money, I am very parsimonious with fabric and this sort of thing upsets me.

Stitch and Flip ScrapsI know I could use them to make something even scrappier but, what can I tell you?  – I won’t.

 

 

 

I did make the first cushion (the top anyway) with scraps so can, finally, join in with Gun and Kate’s monthly Scraphappy project and you can see the other participants’ work here:

Usually has a scrappy post:

Kate at https://talltalesfromchiconia.wordpress.com/  (in English only)

Titti at http://tittisquiltlek.blogspot.se (in Swedish only)

Heléne at http://quiltochsom.blogspot.se (in Swedish only)

Eva at bambisyr-evaj.blogspot.com (in Swedish only)

Sometimes has a scrappy post:

Sue at sewingmagpie.blogspot.com (in English only)

Nanette at http://stitchandsow-homeandgarden.blogspot.com.au (in English only)

Norma at https://shesewsyouknow.wordpress.com (in English only)

Lynda at: https://pixilatedtoo.wordpress.com (in English only)

Birthe: http://birthesrom.blogspot.no (in Norwegian only)

Turid: http://densyendehimmel.blogspot.se (in English and Norwegian)

Cathy: http://nanacathydotcom.wordpress.com (in English only)

Jodie Zollinger: https://homesweetdreaming.com (in English only)

Susan: https://desertskyquilts.wordpress.com (in English only)

Helena: http://www.helenaåhman.se/  (på svenska)

Debbierose: https://sewrosey.wordpress.com/ (in English only)

 

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Let’s Get The Holiday Snaps Over With

I think I mentioned we were off on our holidays and, as I signed off with ‘hasta la vista’, most of you realised we were going to Spain – unless your Spanish is even worse than mine.

If you’ve managed to get this far after seeing the words ‘holiday snaps’ in the title, well done and thank you for persevering especially as, although I did take my iPad and tried to read my emails occasionally, when I got home, I still had over 400 waiting for me so, if I haven’t commented on your blogs, please forgive me but I did read them all, honest.

We went to Empuriabrava which with nearly 24 kilometers (15 miles) of canals, and 5,000 private jetties is, apparently, the largest residential marina in the world.  It is only about 40 years old so if you want quaint fishing villages or picturesque bays you would need to nip up the road to Roses or Cadaques (which we occasionally did) but it has a fantastic large sandy beach, lots of restaurants and many millionaires’ boats to gawp at so what else do you need on holiday?

We stayed in a villa meant for twelve people – there were only five of us but we booked late!

Empuriabrava Villa

This was the barbecue provided!!

Barbecue for 12

It stood out like a sore thumb in an otherwise immaculately presented property.  Luckily, we had our own bar – imagine Mr. T’s delight – (I know you can Sheila Sewchet😉 ) which also housed a chimney and, once the security shutter was up, it looked out onto the pool so was a semi-outdoor barbecue and we were able to cook more than two burgers at a time.

Empuriabrava Villa Bar

We hired a boat for an hour.  None of us have a Skipper’s licence so we could only go at 3mph around the canals – no sea-faring adventures – which is just as well as I get seasick.

Mr. T, Mlle. T. the elder and her boyfriend went and collected the boat and arrived to pick up me and Mlle T. the younger up at the bottom of the garden.  As you do.

Empuriabrava Residential Marina

Empuriabrava is also home to Europe’s most famous skydiving school, considered to be among the three best in the world.  They have the equipment (don’t know the name) where you enter a vertical tube with a powerful fan in the floor and it simulates freefalling from an aircraft which we saw people doing practically constantly every day.  Eek!!   I didn’t try it out myself because I was accompanied on my holiday by an enormous infected swelling just underneath my eye which meant I had to wear sunglasses all the time – even at night! – in case I put people off their food.    However, Mr. T., one of my madamoiselles and her boyfriend all had a go – albeit briefly as you pay by the minute!!

We had never met ‘the boyfriend’ before and it was perhaps a bit rash to go on holiday with him for a week but he proved to be a lovely chap and, although I also have photos of  my husband and daughter in the wind tunnel thingy – the one taken of him best expresses the thrill and joy the experience apparently gave them.

 

windoor-dan

Just as well they didn’t try it earlier in the week otherwise all our holiday funds would have gone on this one activity!

Anyway, that’s the holiday photos over with – you certainly wouldn’t want to see any of me and my eye.

Just before we left, I decided to make more practical use of the space in my workroom.  I asked the Depot-Vente down the road if they wanted to try to sell my big, lovely oak cupboard and, even though they take 30% of the sale, she said she didn’t want it as it was not ‘à la mode’ and why didn’t I paint it.   I had to laugh as the place is full of crap and I can’t imagine that much of it is ‘à la mode’ but I didn’t really want to paint it the ubiquitous chalky grey that is trendy at the moment, firstly because it’s oak and quite old and it seems a shame and, secondly and more to the point, there are gazillions of carved pieces and twisty turny bits which would be a complete pain in the arse to paint.

Dresser

So, we manhandled it down two flights of twisty stairs and gave it – sort of on loan so that no money had to change hands – to some friends of ours who have a holiday home here.

I replaced the object of beauty (or not depending on your taste) with some ‘à la mode’ stuff from Ikea which is definitely not beautiful but is eminently more practical.

Ikea Sewing Room

It looks so ‘fit for purpose’ now I feel as if I should be running classes or holding crafty ‘get togethers’ but, if nothing else, it should encourage me to get a move on with all the projects I have in hand so that, next post, I should be able to show you some finished work.

 

 

 

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I Used To Wear High Heels

As I sit here typing this short post and listening to my dogs expelling the noxious gases that have resulted from them eating all the fallen plums in the garden, I find myself reflecting on how the townie I once was could have ended up in rural France with too many dogs, cats and chickens.

You may remember the cockerel, Darth.  I included a bit about him in a previous post when I was researching humane ways to put him out of his misery as he kept falling over and having problems getting up again.  Having rejected the suggested methods, one of which was putting him in a bucket attached to the exhaust pipe of the car, I decided to let nature take its course and see what happened.  Fifteen months later he is still strutting around and making a racket – maybe somebody tipped him off to what I was thinking.

CockerelAged 9

Mlle. Tialys the Younger phoned me when I was at my friend’s house the other day because, on one of her rare trips into the light of day, she noticed Darth was falling over again.  When I got home I had a look at him and realised his spurs had grown so long he had to perform a ridiculous high step to get one leg past the other without impaling himself on them.  I Googled.  I put on my waterproof walking trousers in case of blood or chicken poo, armed myself with a thick towel, virginal garden gloves (Mr. Tialys buys me them in the hope that I might actually do some gardening), the dogs’ nail clippers, some kitchen roll, some disinfectant and one of these –

Baked Potato

Well, my one wasn’t cut open and didn’t have butter on it but a baked potato it was.

As directed on YouTube, I stuck the overgrown spurs of my astounded cockerel into hot potatoes (I took two up with me – one for each leg), patiently waited a few minutes and then had a bit of a twist with the nail clippers.  I should have had pliers but couldn’t find them in Mr. T’s fiendishly disorganised shed.  I didn’t think anything was going to happen but then, suddenly, I felt it give and I got myself a little trophy.

Removed chicken spur

(cotton reel for scale)

This procedure exposed a couple of little bloody stumps  which I squirted with animal disinfectant and, almost immediately, he appeared much more comfortable.

If you had known me back in the day, you would never, ever have believed this was the sort of thing I would end up doing.

Ain’t life funny?

A short post (for me) as I’m off on my holiday soon and I didn’t want you to think I’d given up blogging as I gave up Facebook this week (not difficult) but that’s another story for another time.

Hasta la vista (guess where I’m going).

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Time For A Good Rummage

This isn’t the post I meant to do but, the two I have in the wings need a bit of explanation and I haven’t got time today.  So, as I haven’t been around for a while and I didn’t want you to think I’d perhaps had a fainting fit and been crushed by cats and kittens and then eaten by dogs, I thought I’d reassure you I’m still alive and kicking with a bit of a quickie, picture heavy post.

By the way, don’t you just love the word ‘rummage’ – it sounds so English somehow, although somebody will probably tell me it derives from some far flung corner of the world but that won’t change my mind.  I also like ‘cribbage’ and ‘pillage’ but wasn’t doing either of those on Sunday morning, it was definitely a ‘rummage’.

 

French Red Transferware Bowl Birds

There have been few chances this year to fouiller (the French version of rummaging which is also a good word but devilishly hard to pronounce properly).  If the vide greniers (empty attics/yard sales/boot sales) so far this year have not been too far away they have been rained off or ill attended by sellers or by me as I have woken up on several Sunday mornings the worse for wear.   Nothing to do with the wine.

Anyway, last Sunday, there was a vide grenier within half an hour’s drive which also had the benefit of being in the village where some good friends of ours have a holiday house and they are ‘in residence’ at the moment, so I knew there would be a cup of coffee and a loo should desperation set in.  Which it did.  Twice.

These are some of the things I found amongst the used bath mats, second hand baby clothes and inexplicably popular albums full of bottle caps.

French Butchers Hooks

Who doesn’t need a sturdy set of hand forged butcher’s hooks?  I did read somewhere that these are often mistaken for something called a ‘cherche’ which was used to lower down a well to retrieve buckets lost by previous water gatherers.  I’m not entirely convinced.  What do you think?

French Soda Syhon in Copper grid

A beautiful turquoise soda syphon with the glass encased in a metal grid – this one copper coloured.  Very art deco.  The pewter top is marked as being from a Brasserie in Amiens which is in the Somme department of France.

L Houzeaux Pewter Vase (4)

A nice example of an Art Nouveau pewter vase signed L. Houzeaux.

French Cutting Board

Because everyone needs at least one French cutting board.

 When I was in the U.K. recently I found I was rarely given a plate to eat from in restaurants – always an oversized rectangular piece of white ceramica, a slate tile, a wooden board or a conch shell.  (I lied about the last one)

You won’t be surprised, especially as I had already bought the red transferware bowl in the top photograph – who could resist those birds? – if I tell you that Mr. Tialys , who usually accompanies me in the vain hope of finding leather working tools at these things, had to go back to the car at this point in order to make room in our bags and arms for more.

Which was just as well…….

French Tian Bowl

this bowl weighs about 3kg.

I couldn’t resist this foxy piece which also weighs a ton but then it is supposed to be a doorstop

Brass Fox Doorstop

I’m pretty sure this is English though being that it represents a fox and a whip.

No leather working tools were to be found but Mr. T. did buy a bayonet knife which also serves as a belt knife.  I do worry sometimes but ask no questions because if,  in some dystopian future, we have to retreat into the mountains and live on our wits, at least we’ll have something with which to both defend and feed ourselves.  That, and the machéte he bought on a previous outing.

Should I be worried?

 

 

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Dr. Why

 

Paper Pieced Tardis Pattern

Do people sometimes ask you why you make your own clothes?  Or why you knit your own jumpers/socks/blankets?   Or why you make quilts or greetings cards or paint pictures.  Does there always have to be a logical answer to questions about why we want to create certain things?

Mr. Tialys cannot see the point in buying perfectly good fabric and then cutting it up into smaller pieces and joining it up again – this is a very common ‘man’ question I believe.  If I were smashing plates and making mosaics, I don’t believe he would ask the same thing.  Although he might look askance come dinner time.

Another question he often asks is why I have so much fabric that I would have a job using it all up in my lifetime (no matter how long that might be) yet still, occasionally, well quite often actually, buy more.  This, I don’t really have an answer to except that it makes me happy and keeps me out of the casinos, pubs, betting shops and places of ill-repute that I might otherwise frequent and spend my money in.  Unlikely scenarios but you get my drift.

Sometimes I make things ‘just because’ – although I do usually have some sort of vague idea why I want to make something even if it’s to try out a new skill or method to see whether I want to continue down that road or never touch it again – needle felting anyone?

Needle Felting Equipment

NeedleFelted Chick

(This is not to denigrate the craft of needle felting in any way because there are some awesome needle felting artists out there – just my own lack of proficiency at it. Just saying..)

Anyway, I recently got the foundation paper piecing bug which, for anybody who doesn’t know what that is, involves laying small pieces of fabric on to the reverse side of a printed paper pattern, then flipping it over and sewing each, sometimes teeny piece, onto the piece adjoining it in the order stipulated by the pattern, until you have a completed patchwork block or image.  Then you have to tear all that paper off which has hopefully been thoroughly perforated by your sewing machine needle and, voila, a finished work that should be very accurately pieced.  You may well ask ‘why?’.  Well, I like it because I sometimes find accuracy fairly hard to achieve using other piecing methods and this appears to be my best shot.

Here is how a piece looks from the reverse side with some of the papers removed.

Tardis Paper Piecing Pattern

So, inspired by a recent project by a blogging friend Avis of OhSewTempting,  and because my Dr. Who loving daughter has just moved into her post-university flat and needs a few soft furnishings in her life, I decided to make a paper pieced Tardis and then incorporate it into a cushion.

So far so good.  I had a project with a purpose and could use some stash fabric to make it.

I found some ‘constellation’ fabric that had come in a ‘stash building’ bundle of ‘blues’ I’d ordered online and didn’t even realise I had.  (Slight pause while we all stop laughing at the very idea I need any ‘stash building’ ).   This would made a perfect background for the Doctor’s tardis hurtling through space and time.

DSC_0004 (5)

Then, I remembered I had some ‘Police Box’ ribbon I’d bought for making quirky dog collars.

Dr. Who Ribbon

It was meant to be.  My life was complete.

The first mistake I made was not checking my printer settings so the pattern printed out to finish at 9.5 inches instead of 10 inches which I didn’t realise until I’d already started piecing and, as it didn’t really need to be a specific size as it’s not going into a quilt, I let it be.  This, despite the fact that, two posts ago, I wrote about this self-same thing.

PDF file instructions

The second mistake I made was believing the designer had made an error  and put the outside written notice on the wrong side of the tardis – something my daughter would have immediately picked up on.  So, I reversed the pieces, forgetting that because you sew the fabric on the reverse, the reverse eventually becomes the front.  I expect your brain hurts now.  I know mine did.  Anyway, trying to be clever made joining those window and door pieces more difficult than they needed to be but I got there in the end.

It was all coming together so well.  All the individual sections looked good.

Detail Paper Piecing

Then I started to join them together.

This was the first result.  I had noticed the slight overhang on the right side of the tardis wasn’t overhanging slightly or in any way at all on my version but thought it wouldn’t matter too much as the rest wasn’t bad.  Then, what wasn’t that obvious in ‘real life’ became glaringly obvious in the photo – the right hand side of the tardis was in its own time warp and waving about all over the place and there was bagging in the background fabric.

Paper Pieced Tardis

It was around about that time I found myself  asking the question ‘why?’ and also cursing quite a lot in a very unladylike manner.

I had to unpick many many teeny stitches and, after a couple of attempts at re-doing it through the papers, eventually  took the seams apart up the sides,  separated the mid section, redid the ‘police box’ line, took the papers off and then joined it all up again with 1/4 inch seams of my own devising.

Well, I am older and wiser yet again and have now tackled teeny pieces in a pattern and have ended up with a vaguely acceptable tardis.

I’m going to put a border round it to make a bigger cushion and do an envelope back edged with more ‘Public Telephone’ ribbon.  Any ideas for the border colour? I’m thinking of the navy I used on the box itself  or maybe some navy with little white stars but other suggestions welcome.

Dr. Who's Tardis in fabric

O.K., there are still a few areas I could improve on and, if I made it again, I would stitch those little window frames as Avis did as it looks a lot neater (as does her whole project but I have aspirations), and the good thing is that the pattern – printed free from Craftsy here – says ‘intermediate level’ so perhaps I can now feel I’ve graduated from ‘beginner’.

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Like The Queen

DogwithCrown

Like the Queen, I had a big birthday in June and, also like the Queen, I managed to spread the celebrations throughout the whole of the month of June.  Unlike the Queen I at no point wore a tiara or lime green outfit and I didn’t turn 90 – but one day I just might.

Anyway, that’s my excuse for not blogging myself, not commenting on some of your blogs as much as I usually do and generally being out of cyber circulation.  In order to get myself back in the swing of things and start posting again on a vaguely regular basis, here is a brief whizz through some of the things I got up to.

I flew over to Bristol and met up with Mr. Tialys in the beautiful city of Bath , with its Roman baths and wonderful Georgian architecture, where we stayed for 3 days in a delightful ’boutique guest house’ called Dukes which is run by the most charming people and, if and when I am next in Bath, I will refuse to stay anywhere else.

Flowers & Champagne

A bouquet of flowers (from himself) and a bottle of something sparkly (from my friend) were waiting for us when we got into the room.

Here’s something I can cross off my bucket list.

Four Poster Bed Dukes Bath

The left hand pillow was not crumpled when we arrived but Mr. T. couldn’t resist flinging himself on to the bed when we arrived and I forgot to straighten it before the photo.  But you get the idea.

After a lovely weekend of eating good food, visiting the American Museum (mostly for the quilts but it was all interesting), admiring the city generally and avoiding the Euro 2016 matches being shown in almost every pub,  Mr. T returned to France to take over the dog wrangling from my friend who was house and dog sitting and I took the train up to London to spend some time with Mlle Tialys the elder who has just finished University and therefore not averse to hanging out with me for a bit.

We went to Camden Market and did five circuits of the street food market before we could decide what to eat but, on the actual day of my birthday we went to one of my favourite places (Brighton) and had fish and chips on Brighton Pier with a glass of sparkly.

DSC_0297

I couldn’t eat it all😦

…. and I certainly couldn’t go on the helter-skelter afterwards.

Fish & Chips on the Pier

My daughter wore a dress she had made herself which had a foxy print and people kept complementing her on it so she was very pleased and encouraged to keep on with her sewing.

Fabrics From Ditto

We went to Ditto Fabrics (as I always do when I go to Brighton) and I was very restrained and bought three pieces of fabric with a specific purpose in mind.  The purple jersey on the left (obviously Liberty but not priced as such), will be a sleeveless skater dress for my other daughter.  The middle navy and white cotton will be the backing for a quilt I’ll be making for Mr. Tialys and the one on the right will be a skirt.  Does anybody recognise it from the penultimate episode of the Great British Sewing Bee?  When I bought it the assistant told me it would be on the show that week but I thought she’d got it confused with the African Wax Fabric section in a previous week – not because it is wax fabric but because of the pattern – but then it appeared.

We went to see a girly film –  Me Before You – because we knew nobody else would ever want to watch it with us – and had a weep, along with the rest of the (almost uniquely female) audience.

I then went to see my Mum and had dinner with an old friend who I’m hoping I can persuade to come over to France for a visit now that her son is off to University.  I’m talking to you Alyson!!  We didn’t get anybody to take a photo – I refuse to take selfies – but here is one of us both in Brussels from back in the day when we both worked for an airline and got ‘staff travel’ so could zip off to European cities for a day trip at weekends for next to nothing.

Me and Alyson

We looked everywhere for that bloody Manneken Pis – expecting it to be much bigger (these were the days before Google!) – and were mightily unimpressed when we found it.  I have no idea why we are both wearing cords and something resembling a hacking jacket but it probably made sense at the time.

On the Saturday morning of my flight home, I had booked myself into a Tilly and the Buttons workshop on Freestyle Machine Embroidery.  I have messed about with it a bit myself but wanted to learn from scratch and pick up some tips and I do love a workshop.

Free Motion Embroidery Course

 We were given a choice of two designs to work on – a pair of scissors or a cat – but I went off piste and did my own for which I had a good reason – to be revealed at a later date.  It was good fun and we had a lovely, enthusiastic teacher called Sophia Palmer of Jessalli.   I will definitely be playing around with this technique on some future projects but am also hoping it will be useful with my attempts at free motion quilting.

I flew back to France with a planeload of Welsh football supporters who were coming over for the Euro 2016 match against Russia – which was fun!

Then I had a birthday lunch with some friends here but the photos the waitress took of us are too terrible to be displayed in the public arena.  They were made worse by the fact that it was a hot, sunny day and we are all bathed in the blood-red light caused by the scarlet parasol shading the table so we look as if we are all having a hot flush at the same time – which could have happened actually but that’s beside the point.

The following Thursday I treated my friend and house-sitter to dinner at the amazingly beautiful l’Abbaye-Chateau de Camon and we were a little early so had our aperitif on the terrace in a bower of  lush greenery.

L'Abbaye Camon

Then, my birthday present from Mr. Tialys finally arrived home with him from the U.K.

Daisy Dog Sculpture

This is a sculpture by U.K. artist Christine Cummings which he had ordered back at the end of April in order for it to be ready for my birthday but, what with one thing and another, he didn’t actually receive it until a couple of weeks after my birthday so he wasn’t best pleased.  However, as I had used the fact as an excuse to keep on going with the celebrations until I had my present,  I wasn’t worried at all!   Isn’t he gorgeous?  If I could ever bring myself to buy a dog from a breeder  – this is the dog I would have.  As that isn’t going to happen, I will content myself with one that doesn’t dig up the garden, poop and bark at inappropriate moments as I already have three who fulfil that brief adequately enough.

My liking for these dogs goes back to when my daughters were tiny and I used to read this book to them.

Daisy Book

Which I still have – obviously! Along with most of the other books we read together.  Some things you just can’t part with.

The Queen at 90

Anyway, I might not have had as much pomp and ceremony as June’s other birthday girl but I enjoyed myself and, according to my mother who knows about these things,  managed to spread it out even longer than I usually do.  I can’t think what she means.

 

 

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When An Inch Makes All The Difference

Now, now, settle down.

This is what I mean

PDF file instructions

With the amount of independent designers creating patterns to be printed off as PDF files these days, those of you who use them for dressmaking, patchwork  or other crafts will know what I mean by the all important inch square when printing patterns.  There is no use briefly wafting a tape measure in the general direction of the square and saying ‘yes, that’s about right’ because a minute fraction of an inch bigger or smaller is a mistake that will multiply itself throughout the whole pattern and you will end up with something too big, too small and possibly unusable.

I don’t really hold myself completely to blame as I have never set any scaling on my printer but it seems to have taken control and robbed that inch of a teeny tiny morsel so that after two or three hours of painstaking cutting out, sewing on, joining up and congratulating myself on a beautiful bit of paper piecing, I placed my 12.5 inch square ruler on top of it and realised it was the wrong size.

So this block that I had been so proud of only minutes earlier…..

Foundation Paper Piecing

….. had to have a border put round it to bring it up to the requisite 12.5 inches as it is for the new round of F2F Block Swap which starts this month where all the blocks need to be the same size.

MyBlocksforSandra F2F2016 -17

So, it’s still not perfect because those outer triangles have had their inner points a little truncated because of the sizing but I think I might still give it to the person I made it for either as a spare block for her eventual quilt or to make a cushion to match.

I know I’m a European and all (for now, anyway😉 ) and should be speaking in metric tongue but, with patchwork, it really is easiest to keep it in inches.  It seems to be the universal language of patchwork – except in France.  (How is it in the rest of  non-British Europe?  – can anybody enlighten me? Do inches rule?).  When I was cutting out fabric for another FPP block the other day at my friend’s house, she only had metric rulers and cutting mats.  Quelle horreur!   However, in a desperate attempt to get on with it, I converted the centimetres into inches and cut the pieces out accordingly.  When I got them home and measured them against my imperial rulers, they were all wrong.  I think I said ‘merde’ because it is one of the few French swear words I know which is not too rude.  Although no French swear words are as bad as some of the ones I know in English (again, unless somebody can enlighten me😉 ) So, in future, when I go to sew ‘chez Sandra’ I will be taking my own mat and ruler.

I am the first recipient of the blocks this time round and I have already made my three, two of which I have already shown you but here is a ‘little’ reminder

Practising Paper Piecing

Paper Pieced Star for F2F 2016/2017

and this is the third one

Paper Pieced Block Esther Franzel

This is called ‘Building Blocks’ – guess why.  The darker ‘side of the block’ is actually navy blue but you get the idea. I just love those little dogs.   The pale grey background, morphing into a slightly darker grey is not because the colour ran in the wash but is part of my haul of beautiful Gelato ombré fabrics.  The colour starts dark(ish) at one selvedge edge, fades gradually into the middle and then starts getting darker again.  I bought a half yard bundle and so have a lot of colours.  It is actually very useful and you can see some more of it in the pale greens I used in the ‘failed’ block I showed earlier.

I’ve decided that the colours I’ve chosen for my blocks this time round are quite ‘masculine’ and realised I have never asked Mr. T. whether he would like a quilt to have in his weekday U.K. apartment as a reminder of home comforts – or perhaps he likes to get away from the fabric fest during the week.  Anyway, he liked the idea so that is where my eventual quilt will end up – in the London flat frequented by my husband when he’s not here, shortly to be shared with Mlle. Tialys the elder who has just finished University and has landed a job in Shoreditch which, I am reliably informed, is dead trendy these days.  At least I know she will be fed properly three evenings a week.

A bit early – Sandra isn’t due to receive her blocks until July – and in the full and certain knowledge that she will not see this blog – here is the block I re-did for her after I re-sized that inch.

'Out There' FPP Pattern Esther Franzel

I know the stripes go in different directions on alternate corners but it was deliberate to give the block a feeling of movement – like the blades of a windmill turning.  (Yeah, right)  However, that did make sense to me once I thought of it as an excuse  so I’ll stick with it.

This lovely pattern is by one of our talented F2F Block Swap members, Esther, in the Netherlands.  She is so talented and I’m glad she’s participating again this time because she sent me such amazing work last year and it was what inspired me to try foundation paper piecing out for myself.  Now, I’m hooked.  She has lots of beautiful patterns available on Craftsy and you can download this one called ‘Out There’ for free on Craftsy here.  (Esther – I hope I’ve made you proud🙂 )

Have you ever had a disastrous experience with PDF patterns?

I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish Kate of Tall Tales from Chiconia – a blogging friend and one of the organisers of the F2F swap – a full and speedy recovery from the back surgery she underwent this morning (Australian time) and hope she gets back to a normal, pain-free life and continue with the things she loves to do as soon as possible. 

 

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Some More Practice, A Bit of Tidying and Some Sadness

 

F2F Quilt Label

As you will know, if you come here often, I have just finished putting together my quilt from the F2F Block Swap and I have inexpertly written out a label in permanent ink on fabric and attached it to one of the back corners to prove it.

So, that’s done then.

I was the first out of the hat to receive blocks for the next round so I decided that, before getting going on the next nine months of making three blocks for each participant, I’d better get my house in order.  Well, the part of my house that is my sewing room anyway – the rest of it lies sadly neglected as usual although I do have to do a bit of ‘damp dusting’ this afternoon as my Mum’s coming to stay.  Her eyesight isn’t what it used to be though so she won’t be able to see the rugs closely enough to know that one of my dogs is severely in moult at the moment.

Despite the fact that I’ve made any number of fabric storage boxes and bought shedloads of Ikea’s ‘fold this bit of floral card up into a box shape’ triple packs, I have come to the realisation that nothing really does the job like a bit of see-through plastic and a label.  So, I bought some, promptly filled them, then had to go and buy some more.

Plastic Storage Bins

These are most of them, but not all – there are two large ones labelled ‘Liberty Tana Lawns’ off camera:/  A fabric that I rarely use for anything but one that I can’t resist when I see it, still less when I feel it and at least I can get it out every now and again, Golem -like, and indulge in some stroking.  Still it all looks more ‘accessible’ now and is mostly divided into colours so when I’m reaching for the specific tones that people have asked for in their F2F blocks, I will know exactly where to find them.

In a slight digression – wouldn’t be my blog without at least one would it? I share my workroom with lots of vintage haberdashery items.  I’m not always sure why but, when I see them, I can’t resist adding them to my collection (are you noticing a trend?).  Anyway, you may or may not remember the fabric I bought that screamed ‘Hexagonal Sewing Box’ at me – well, I listened and it has come to pass.

Hexagonal Sewing Box - Haberdashery

See! I knew I’d need an old printers’ drawer some time.  I actually have another one mounted on the wall downstairs with which I amuse myself by trying to find teeny tiny things to display in those teeny tiny compartments.

Anyway, back to the patchwork blocks.  I have been practicing my paper piecing and behold my second attempt.

Paper Pieced Star for F2F 2016/2017

In case it turned out O.K. I made it in the colours I’ve chosen for my next quilt and I’m pretty happy with it.  There’s something about designs like this one – where it looks as if the square is threaded through the star – that make me absurdly happy in a childlike kind of way.  I can’t draw or paint but I love the fact I can achieve this effect in fabric.  I know, I’m easily pleased but there are no grilled, salted almonds or alcohol involved so I count patchwork porn as one of my lesser vices.

In a sudden change of mood I have had some sadness lately.  My lovely cat Beau, plucked from the refuge as a kitten with his sister Betty and bought home to live with us for the past nine years, has been missing for four weeks.

Beau - chat perdu

He is identified with a tattoo in his ear (which they do a lot in France) and is sterilised.  His photograph and details are on Pet Alert on Facebook, the Chat Perdu webiste and all the bins, bottle banks and poster sites in the village.  There is no sign of him.

He has always reminded me of the fish ‘Dory’ in Finding Nemo who had a short term memory of about 30 seconds.  He would start eating, get distracted by something and wander off, only to forget he’d been fed in the first place and come back to ask for food.  I’m hoping he’s just sort of forgotten where he lives and, any time now, he’ll remember and come back.

If you see him,  let me know😦

 

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