Sunday, 30 December 2012

Christmas Goodies

I bet I'm not the only one who, despite loving Christmas, always feels like I've run a marathon!

We had a pretty quiet Christmas for us, only 7 for dinner, but we've been visiting friends and family, had family to stay and then rushed back to work. I'm tired, and missing the fact that I've got no crafting done at all, but we had a good time and I got some lovely presents, these are just the craft related ones.

All these from my OH

This book from my Wish List from my in-laws - now perhaps I can figure out what to do with all the excess fabric in the back of bodices!

And another from my son - I am very keen to get to grips with knits but I've been putting it off as I don't have an overlocker. Time to up my game I think, perhaps this is the best route to avoiding fit issues?

These from my daughter, isn't the hanger fab?

And these surprises from my good friend S

I know, spoilt rotten.

Despite this bountiful haul I might just have bought myself a little something from America ...

Isn't it beautiful? Totally inspired by the exhibition at Somerset House I've been trawling for patterns, vintage Valentino, fab-u-lous! I have just the fabric from Japan, what a happy coincidence.

I have so many plans for the New Year, I'm really looking forward to getting going.

I'm planning on making the version in red on the pattern envelope

This is Plan No 1, totally inspired by Sam's coat I'm going to tackle a simpler project but my first outerwear. I loved this version over at Kestrel Finds and Makes, when I first saw it nearly a year ago. I'm planning on lining it, although it doesn't call for that in the instructions. Now I just need to figure out the best method for pre-shrinking/steaming the fabric which is 70% wool.

Realistically, nothing much is going to get created until all our visitors have gone and we're back to what passes as normal round here. In the meantime I've made a start, I've watched the first 4 episodes of the Project Runway dvd - small steps!

Right, I'm off to Brighton for a surprise lunch for a great friend who is celebrating A Birthday of Significance. I'll finish with an entirely gratuitous Christmas photo of my OH and my little niece - just when I was all puffed up with pride that she can say my name I discover she thinks he is Auntie Jacq!

Wishing you the very best of everything in the New Year, Happy 2013.



Saturday, 22 December 2012

A Christmas Tutorial

I'll be honest, there's not much crafting going on around here, definitely not as much as I'd like, but it's OK, I've decided to cut myself some slack. I have made 1 very complicated item, other than that I'm going to start afresh in the New Year, I have plans and lists.

Here it is:

A thing of beauty, don't you agree?

Now I'm sure you all want to make one so here goes, my first tutorial ...

1. Find an old hairband

2. Search your house for any old bits and bobs of Christmas stuff

3. Hot glue gun everything to the headband

4. Cover it in glitter

5. Add a bit more stuff and extra glitter

Optional extra - add bells for festive sound

And finally, go to dinner with your buddies

I've really enjoyed connecting with other crafters through blogs this year, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope that 2013 is a peaceful and happy New Year.



Sunday, 9 December 2012

Valentino - A Sewing Adventure

Yesterday I went on my first sewing/blog related adventure and it was a great experience. There are 2 halves to this post really (1) meeting a fellow blogger and (2) the actual exhibition.

Some months ago Sam, blogging at A Little of What You Fancy, suggested a trip to the Valentino Exhibition at Somerset House. I really wanted to go, I don't have any IRL sewing friends who would want to go for the same reasons as me, even though they'd happily come along.

It's a funny thing, this blogging lark. You kind of know somebody but not really. I'm not always very brave and tend to talk too much to overcompensate (I suspect I did do that - sorry Sam!). Well, my recommendation is - be brave! Sam as is lovely as her blog suggests and it was a joy to go to the exhibition with another sewer. We exchanged emails and a phone call beforehand and all the arrangements went really smoothly. It helped enormously that we've seen photos of each other and she was wearing her new coat which is beautiful (and lined - more on that below!), saves wearing a pink carnation!

We'd never have met if it wasn't for a shared love of sewing and having new blogs. Even if this blogging business has been harder than either of us had expected. It was a great ice breaker to go to an event we were both interested in and we had lunch afterwards and a good chat. My OH picked me up at the station and said "I can tell you had a lovely day." - I did, thanks Sam.

So, to the actual Exhibition - it was wonderful. Of course you can't take photos, the ones I've used here are the official press photos. It was £12 for a ticket, I think it was worth every penny. And Somerset House is easy to get to, Sam and I travelled in to different London mainline stations but it's a straightforward tube journey. The exhibition is at the Embankment side of Somerset House so aim for that entrance.

There were far more garments than I expected to see and although behind barriers they are not behind glass. This was a real positive, you could actually get quite close and see details. The guide book contains a brief description of each garment and the collection it came from. Also, there's a glossary in the back for all the couture terminology - very useful.

The clothes weren't arranged chronologically but rather by technique or theme (eg all the handpainted fabric garments were together, spanning decades). I loved it and would recommend it, you get a morning or afternoon ticket which lasts 4 hours - Sam and I were in there over 3 hours so allow yourself time.

One of the best bits for me was the last section of the exhibition. There were examples of different techniques, some unique to Valentino, and then screens showing how they are achieved. We even identified a couple we thought we could do - although we weren't sure how we'd turn them into a garment!

There were a couple of things that really struck me:

Attention to detail - I guess this is obviously going to be the case for couture garments but, oh boy, the work in some of those dresses was amazing. And, just because you can do all the techniques doesn't mean you should, sometimes the absence of something is what made the garment stunning. Some of my least favourites were from the 80s/90s when there was a definite fashion for throwing everything at it - just not my cup of tea. My favourite tiny detail was on a shirt cuff - I'm going to give it a go and blog about it in the new year.

Don't be too hard on yourself - there were details both Sam and I picked up on that we would have fretted over if we'd made the garment - isn't that bizarre? Now Sam is a much more skilled sewer than I but neither of us would have had a bias binding hem on a skirt with the bias join practically in the centre front, I'd have had to do it again! And there were unlined coats all over the place. Now I'm going to try to take a different view - 'if it's good enough for Valentino' is my new mantra!

And finally, an important message:

Dear Father Christmas

I haven't actually been terribly good, there's no fooling you. But, if you're feeling forgiving, please could I have the outfit on the left in this photo, cream organza with flower detail, as worn by Audrey Hepburn in 1968. It is absolutely perfect.

Thank you




Saturday, 1 December 2012

Happy John Denver & The Muppets Day!

I've mentioned before, and I know we're not alone, my family have many traditions at Christmas time. Some started when my children were small, others got added as new people joined the family - we like to be inclusive, there's always room for another special tradition!

This one dates back to 1976. I was 10, it was Brother Number 2's first Christmas and my Dad brought home a vinyl album. It has been played from December 1st every year since, on a daily basis through the Christmas period. It got a bit scratched over time, it jumps on one track and Brother Number 4 always sings it that way because that's how he learnt it!

As we've grown up and moved all over the place everyone has got their own copy. In Wales, London, Kent & California today is John Denver & The Muppets Day. We play it to put up the tree, we open presents to it, I wrap gifts to it, this is the background music for my family.

It's a proper singalong album - you cannot help but be festive. The world over we're all belting out The Twelve Days of Christmas - and Mum does the 'b-dum, bom, bom' Miss Piggy bit wrong every time ... For 36 years!


JD & The Muppets 'Twelve Days of Christmas'

Monday, 26 November 2012

2 Projects finished!

Well I declare my first non-working day a success!

I did a bit of pottering (washing in, loading dishwasher etc) but tried to maintain focus.

1 washcloth finished:

I can't remember where I got this particular pattern from, I've scribbled it down on a piece of paper. However, there are loads of free patterns on Ravelry.

I used Sirdar Simply Recycled DK, it's a good texture as it's a cotton acrylic mix. I've made up a few different patterns which use different amounts of yarn, I can get 2 from a 50g ball. I bought the yarn in the sale so this cost about 80p I think.

1 Denim Do-It-All Bin for my brother to store his project stash in:

(Please excuse the terrible photos, so dark and miserable today)

I'm really pleased with how this turned out. I wanted to make the bigger size (this is the medium version of the tutorial) but sadly my husband's choice of jeans will not be influenced by what I hope to make out of them when he's finished with them! I'm on the look out for family members who prefer wide-legged denims.

I'm pleased with how the Levi's badge and red tab look. I couldn't match the yellow/orange stitching thread exactly but it's pretty close.

The lining fabric is a repurposed shirt (I stitched the button sections together).

So, totally free! There are 8 balls of yarn in there (also part of his gift from Santa) but it will hold more. And this will suit the decor of his flat much better than a wicker basket.

Right, off to cut out the crochet rolls!


Start as I mean to go on

Well the day has arrived, I officially start my new job this week - I am very excited.

There hasn't been a great deal of crafting round here as I've spent the last couple of weeks juggling both roles. I made some cards for my close colleagues at work but haven't photographed them.

It's been an emotional few days, I'm really positive about my new job and am only moving to another office in the same organisation but I've worked with a great bunch for 7 years and there have been a lot of tears - mostly not from me funnily enough! I wasn't well prepared for other people's emotions - I just thought about keeping myself together.

I have today as my non-working day this week but from this point onwards I have Wednesday off. So I'm starting as I mean to go on, my precious day off is not going to be for chores.

Today I am working towards:

  • finishing a crochet baby blanket - I can't do the border as I'm waiting for one ball of turquoise yarn which is out of stock but I'm determined to finish the stripes this week
  • Finishing up a couple of crochet washcloths that I've carried round on journies. I think they'll be good stocking fillers
  • Making a storage bin for my brother, Han Solo. I taught him to crochet last Christmas and he's asked Father Christmas for a yarn stash! I'm using this pattern for Denim Do-it-all Bins using a pair of my husband's old Levis. I've bought some denim needles for my machine. Fingers crossed I can do it
  • Making 2 crochet hook rolls, one for Han and the other for my good friend S, I taught her to crochet in January she now has significant stash storage! She's stuck to blankets this year, I've promised to help her get her head round working to a pattern this year. I've not decided on which pattern to use for the crochet roll yet, might be this one from Sew, Mama Sew!
Right, I'd better crack on! :)

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Public Indecency?

No, this is not a reference to Karen's hilarious True Confessions posts over at 'Did you make that?' - apparently there are a lot of near naked sewers out there!

I'm talking about crafting in public, I have a crochet hook in my bag at all times and I'm not generally afraid to use it. However, it occasionally provokes some strong reactions, so when is it OK to whip out a bit of knitting or crochet? Are there social conventions I'm not aware of?

I started to think about this the other day, I was copied into a comment thread on Facebook. It went a bit like this:

  • I'm in a seminar and whilst the speaker is talking I can see a lady in front of me knitting/crocheting!
  • Wow, that's a bit cheeky.
  • If I was the speaker that would really put me off!
  • So she's not even paying attention!
  • I can see her too!
  • Is it Jacq? (this is the point I got copied in by my bestest friend - who staggeringly can knit with her eyes closed, blows my mind!)
I did reply, said I'd quite like to be crocheting in a meeting but it wasn't me. I pointed out I actually found it helped me concentrate (I wouldn't pick a complicated pattern or take a king size blanket project!) and that there was a lot of evidence to back that up, especially if you were skilled (like my J with her eyes shut).

What I didn't say, because my politeness gene does sometimes kick in, was I bet the lady knitting/crocheting (why can't people tell the difference? I don't much care for sport but I can distinguish between football and rugby!) was paying more attention than the attendees posting on Facebook ... And I've been fuming with myself ever since for not making that point and defending that anonymous crafter more robustly. Especially as it was a conference for educational professionals - I'd hope there would be some understanding of kinaesthetic learners :(

So forward wind to this week and it's still bothering me. I'm in the handover period between my old and new jobs and attended a Conference in London on Monday with my new boss. I've got a little crochet project in my giant work bag. I happily did some on the train, most people don't comment at all and, if they do, I've generally found it to be along the lines of "oh that reminds me of my Gran", which I think is lovely.

But I restrained myself at the actual Conference, I'm still in my handover period and wanting to make a good impression. I'd met lots of new people and was really focussed on taking in new information. I spent the morning taking copious notes. But in the afternoon session I would actually have listened better if I'd crocheted. And I looked round the room at people tapping away on iPhones, iPads and laptops and wondered how many were taking notes and how many were catching up with Facebook or writing their shopping list.

Would you be offended if you were a speaker and somebody started to knit or crochet? I've delivered lots of training, it wouldn't bother me at all although I don't tend to go for the 'stand at the front and talk' method of training so there wouldn't be much crafting time. Interestingly I know trainers who get irritated if delegates eat snacks too. That doesn't bother me either, a hungry person is not paying attention. Perhaps I'm just more tolerant than I thought!

I know when I get settled in my new role I'm going to get to a point where I'm going to need to decide to just do it, this is who I am. Perhaps I start small at a little internal meeting and see how it goes. I spoke to some colleagues and one of the young men in the office (not a crafter) said "you're always juggling several things at once, passing me notes with the answer to questions I have when you're on the phone dealing with something else. Why wouldn't you be able to crochet as well?". I quite liked that, I might make myself a badge!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

No crafting - and I don't mind!

My 'boy' is home from uni for the weekend, he was 23 yesterday.

It's been a flying visit so I've not a single crafting minute - totally not a problem.

Love you Fruitbat.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Great Christmas List Debate

I made what I thought was an innocuous comment at work and seem to have stumbled across a contentious issue!

My family all write Christmas Lists - apparently this is sometimes frowned upon.

The children don't, mine didn't when they were small, but there are so many of us we've all found it a really helpful thing to do as adults. Nobody expects to get everything on their list, there's still much whispering and secret planning because somebody has thought of the 'perfect thing' that's not on the list. But from a practical point of view, especially when many people are really cutting back on expenses, it's lovely to spend my hard earned cash on a gift I know my brother would love to receive.

My sister-in-law and I held the annual family Christmas draw on Saturday - instead of buying for all adults we each buy for one other - it's a fundamental part of our traditions, Christmas has begun!

This is absolutely on my Christmas list this year - does that make me 'greedy'? (source)

Does anybody else write a list?



Sunday, 4 November 2012

Apronalong - Scrapron or Mapron?

Well I made it - I was looking really iffy on taking part in Karen's Apronalong over at Did you make that? but then had a eureka moment.

I made myself a promise that I wouldn't buy any more patterns until the New Year (things might be getting a little out of control on the pattern front!) and after a craft show and fabric buying frenzy in Japan I had to impose a fabric ban too.

So I saw all the fab apron patterns and fabric choices and couldn't join in. To be honest, my creative mojo left the building. I have plenty of fabric but it's earmarked for other things - I have plans.

This week, nothing like cutting it fine, I turned to the bottom of my fabric filing system:

I have zero experience with patchwork, and the bits were odd shapes and sizes but by the power of Youtube I started a crazy patchwork shape ...
I always planned to try patchwork, the kids bought me the cutter and ruler last Christmas, and who needs a fancy template when you can cut up a gift tag?

Embracing the 'use it up' mentality to the full I even finished up odd coloured threads on my bobbins - I'm forever buying new bobbins, I've liberated 8 making this apron. It felt really wierd using mismatched thread but none of the fabrics matched so I think it worked.

Look at these tiny, weeny scraps for the bin - love it!

And here is Doris strutting her stuff. P says this is a Scrapron because of used up all my scraps ...

... even the tie is made of bits.

But I think it's a Mapron, as it charts the things I've made this year. The square above is made of the dress I made for my daughter, 2 Sorbettos, 2 A line skirts, 3 dresses for me, a beach cover-up, a craft bag for Auntie S, a dress for Little A's rag doll and some lavender bags! I love that, I can see lots of patchwork in my future - I probably need to learn how to do it properly first!

Definitely a cleaning apron, it's not glamourous like some of the beautiful baking aprons other people have made. But I love it. Thanks Karen.


Friday, 2 November 2012

Ups and Downs

I have a start date for my new job, I finish in my current role on the 23rd definitely an 'up', new laptop bag to celebrate! :)

However things have been really busy/fraught with family stuff and my crafting mojo went AWOL again, look at my poor 'nearly finished skirt ... :(

If anybody has any suggestions about how you get your parents to understand you're a grown up with a life and family of your own (ie you can't drop everything and host a gathering of family and strangers at 24 hours notice mid week and give them all a bed for the night) I'd be glad to hear them! And I've tried the direct approach of "I have a life and family ...etc"! Deep breaths! Finally settled on 'No' - it's not gone down well :(

So I thought about dropping out of a sewalong altogether but then bingo! Creative synapses fired up and I'm back in the game! It might be a car crash but I'm rolling! Totally outside my comfort zone, no co-ordinating and pre-planning (OCD - what OCD?). Total stashbuster, I'm even using up leftover thread and bobbins, they're not even matching - woo hoo! Look at me flying by the seat of my pants! :D

I have found a use for them, totally worth saving :)

And finally, totally gratuitous photo of Elmo, I think she's feeling the cold ...

I'll be back with my finished project, be it a success or a failure!


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Starting, finishing, sharing & meeting up

Hello there!

I've come to the conclusion that my creativity dries up when I feel a bit stressed. Being released to start my new job is taking longer than I'd hoped and I can't seem to settle to anything, I'm as much use as a chocolate teapot! I've avoided blogging because I've been such a grump!

I'm trying to be a bit productive, even if I'm having to push myself, I know ultimately it will make me feel better.

I started this new skirt on Sunday ...

I wasn't sure about the size so I made a muslin and was happy enough with it to cut it out of some fabric I bought in Japan. I think it will go together pretty quickly but I'm going to do that at the weekend in natural light, I do struggle to sew in artificial light. The shape is pretty flattering, I'm using the back view in the photo.

I think crochet is my 'comfort craft'. I've been finishing off this Ripple blanket ...

it's for a little boy who has a seaside themed bedroom. I'm about 70% done now, this is perfect to work on in front of the TV on a dark evening.

And a colleague left a gift on my desk ...


Does this seem familiar?

This was really kind of her but I don't need two! They're both the same size (6-14). I've not made it myself yet but have read good reviews. I don't know any other dressmakers locally and it seems a shame for it to go to waste. So, I'm passing the kindness on, let me know if you'd like the spare (to use, not to pop on eBay!) and I'll post it. If there's more than one request I'll pick a name out of a hat :)

I am very excited about the meet up that Sam has proposed over at alittleofwhatyoufancy - an exhibition, a real life meeting with a fellow blogger, tea and cake - perfect!