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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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 ;)

newsprinthexbox (6)

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.

DSC_0128

and this one

DSC_0131

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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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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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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How Not To Make A Dress

My Wednesday sewing buddy was having a clear out of her fabric cupboard and unearthed some fairly thin stripy jersey fabric which I commandeered to make pull on pyjama pants (or slob around pants as they are known in our house) for me and one of my Madamoiselles.  There was still loads left so I thought it might make a light and easy to wear  (not to mention free) summer dress and remembered the pattern by Deer and Doe – ‘Reglisse’ – which I have made before and  is a versatile and comfy dress although it uses a lot of fabric as it is cut on the bias and the neckline and hem are finished with more than 4 metres of bias tape.

reglisse dress pattern

My tips for how not to make a dress are these:

1.  Use totally different fabric from that recommended so that the instructions don’t match what you are having to do in real life.

2. Use stripy fabric in order to make life more difficult

3.  When cutting out and trying to match stripes completely forget that the dress has darts and that these must be taken into consideration

4.  Use thin jersey fabric with edges that roll so that the overlocker does all sorts of weird things with the seams

5.  Don’t bother to match the stripes that will be visible across the front and back bodices.  After all the tie will hide the front mismatch and nobody looks at your back anyway and, if they do, you won’t see them sniggering.

6.  If you notice a tiny hole in the fabric, ignore it.  Perhaps a tiny fairy seamstress will appear during the night and fix it for you.

7.  Get the right and wrong sides of the fabric confused and have to redo one sleeve.

However, even having followed all these tips and more,  by some miracle, I did actually produce a wearable dress.

Deer and Doe Reglisse Striped Version

Some good things I did: –

By using a jersey fabric I avoided having to cut the dress on the bias and so didn’t need so much fabric.  I cut the back and front bodice pieces on the fold instead of in two pieces each which avoided the seam down the centre and the matching difficulties. As this is a stretch fabric I remembered to stabilise the shoulder seams with clear elastic tape.  I fixed the tiny pinhole in the fabric by ironing a small piece of lightweight fusible interfacing on the wrong side to prevent it getting any bigger.  I decided, on several occasions, against throwing the whole thing in the bin.

Concentrating on my jaunty rear view pose, surely only the mean spirited among you would notice the fact that the waistband is plain at the front and has a stripe through it at the back.  Not to mention the stripes on the sleeves don’t match.

Deer and Doe Reglisse Striped Stretch Version

and, Oh look!  One side of the bodice doesn’t match (although the other does – honest!) and the armscye is too deep (though that is a bit of  a ‘thing’ with this particular pattern).

Deer and Doe Striped ReglisseHaving just bought a 25m roll of Liberty Lookalike bias tape, the fact that it has red in it was a good enough reason to use it to finish the neckline rather than going out and buying some plain white or red – by this stage I was past caring.  However, I drew the line at using it for the hem and finished that with a double needle stitch instead.

Deer and Doe Reglisse Dress in JerseyAs it happens, my younger Madamoiselle has her eye on this dress and I did actually make it in her size but she won’t model for me unless I engage in strong arm tactics and/or bribery – and even then only from the shoulders down – so you got me again.

Deer and Doe Reglisse Dress (2)

 This blue and white version was the first Reglisse I made when I didn’t ‘go maverick’ and I probably get more compliments on this than anything else I’ve made.  The fabric was one euro a metre in the local market and I daresay it has never seen a shred of natural fibre nor an ethical workplace in its life.  I’m sorry about that – I stumbled and fell but am only human.

Next time I will make it in my size and pay for some decent fabric – although 3 metres is a lot.  It’s probably worth it though to save having to faff with buttons and zips and such.  I am getting very lazy in that regard.

Have you ever felt like ditching a project halfway through?  Or even after you’ve finished it?  It can’t just be me can it?

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