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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Post Apocalyptic Catch-up

Apologies for the protracted silence from this blog - it hasn't been intentional.  The madness that is Christmas and New Year and the merry-go-round of travelling up and down the country to visit one set of relatives and then tolerating a different bunch of them down here has been more or less non-stop.  We have had a lovely 2 day hiaitus with just the kids which will come to an abrupt end tomorrow when my immediate family descends for a further 3 days. Although I love my family they do annoy the heck out of me.  My parents in particular bring decades-old family politics with them that I frankly can't be a*sed with.

My family.  NOT.

I should update you on the Christmas Fair, which was 3 weeks ago but somehow seems like a thousand years ago.  It is one of those odd things that I am glad that I did, to get it out of my system, but that I won't be doing again.  Here is my little stall:
I am grateful to all of the people who advised me to make lots of little things as parents are only willing to spend so much at school fairs.  This was entirely true as I sold lots of mini stockings, quite a few trees and sachets, and surprisingly quite a lot of hairbands (once one Y3 girl bought one and wore it, others came looking for where she had bought it).

I sold none of my big stuff but happily I had already earmarked it all for my lucky relatives and godchildren etc so I don't have a big pile of stuff left - everything has gone to a new home.  The remaining mini stockings and trees are on my Christmas tree right now.

The thing that I learned most was that whilst I enjoy sewing for its own sake, what I really enjoy is creating whatever it is that I feel like creating at that moment in time.  Doing the prep for this Fair turned it into a job instead of a hobby.  That's why I won't be doing another Fair!

As soon as the Fair was over, I started thinking about what *I* would really love to work on, and by coincidence (ahem) look what came in the post:
Spoonflower fabric yum yum yum .... I think I may make a Slouch bag out of this....

Echino purple Wish fabric ... this is going to be a bag too ... maybe a Nikki tote ...

Fun Matryoshka fabric ... only a FQ of this but I thought it would make a fun journal cover?

Ashland dress pattern from Sew Liberated ... I think I may shorten it to a tunic but this is exactly the style of top I like to wear.  And it's about time I did a bit of dressmaking.

Of course I haven't got started on any of this because of flippin' Christmas!  But at least the world didn't end.  So hopefully I will have time in 2013 (once my relatives b*gger off).

G x

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Nihongo o benkyoushimashou!

One of my lesser known talents is that I can speak conversational Japanese.  Post-school but pre-children (in that lovely interlude where I could do anything I liked), a friend asked if I would enrol on a Japanese GCSE course to keep them company.  And, in their words: "because you will make sure I don't jack in the course early, because you're such a swot.  You know, like Monica in that episode of Friends when they go on a reading course".
(Scroll forward to 4.40 and that's me in class apparently)

Since I was in my 20s with boundless energy and plenty of time, and because I am a swot, of course I said yes.  And it was really quite fun.

The Japanese writing system has 3 layers - 2 phonetic alphabets plus 1 pictorial system called Kanji (essentially nicked from Chinese characters and bastardised a bit).  Today I am going to introduce you to some Kanji:

Tree: ki
Wood: hayashi
Forest: mori

And now here's my sewing version:


Unfortunately I can't quite remember how to say "I can't wait until this &*@%£*$ Christmas Fair is over" in Japanese.

However, if asked at the Christmas Fair whether I will do it again, I will reply "chotto....".  We should have this expression in English.  It literally means "a bit", but in reply to a question it can mean "No, and I am not going to give you a reason why, and you can't ask me the reason why either because that would be unacceptably rude of you".

We were taught this in the context of how to say no to being asked on a date or something.  How much easier would it be to say "chotto" than to think of rubbish excuses like washing your hair or visiting your Great Aunt in Cheltenham?  Although now that I am old and grumpy (and in no danger of being asked on a date), I am perfectly happy to just say "no".

G x

Saturday, 1 December 2012

I love a deadline, me

Yes there's nothing quite like a deadline to scare you into finishing something:
This is a Christmas Angel (looking a bit casual, admittedly - maybe it's her day off) for the LMQG 2012 ornament swap.  Maybe I should give her some wings.  However given that it is quarter to midnight the day before the swap, perhaps it's a bit late for that. 

I am looking forward to the LMQG meeting tomorrow but I always feel terribly guilty for leaving my young family behind for the day.  Although the meeting itself is only 2 hours, once you add on the travel time it is more like 5 hours.  I know shouldn't feel guilty because I have the little anklebiters all day every day, but I know how tiring they can be and I feel sorry for my husband who is not as used to having them for prolonged periods.  I never used to understand my mother's permanent state of feeling guilty but now I do.

G x

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Mojo sighted

I'm not sure if my Mojo is completely back, but there is a glimmer of hope.

Today I did my shift at school and then came home and just sewed like the clappers for the Christmas Fair:

I whipped up this 14" cushion in under 2 hours - it is made with part of a panel from La Petite Ecole and trimmed with mini pom poms from The Village Haberdashery.  A big thank you to Angela at Fussy Cut for this excellent tutorial of how to attach pom pom trim to a cushion.

Then I moved onto more mini stockings, because if I am going to do this Christmas Fair, I might as well have things to sell: now I have 36 mini stockings, which I will be hanging on a 3 foot artificial tree that I got from Tesco.  The tree cost £2.44.  How on earth do they make stuff for nothing?!

Anyway, when I set off on the school run I was feeling invincible.  Raaaaaaaah!  Wonder Woman! 
 Me on the school run this afternoon

But somehow, like a tyre with a slow puncture, over the past 6 hours my Mojo has quietly slinked away and I am feeling deflated again. 
 Wonder Woman's Mojo after she has looked after my kids for 6 hours

I think it is partly because I need to finish my Christmas Decoration for the LMQG Ornament Swap on Sunday, but right now I am all Christmas deco'd out.  Come on, Wonder Woman - one last push!

Sneak peek (and partly because she doesn't have any legs yet)

G x

Monday, 26 November 2012


Zip.  Zilch.  Nowt.  Nada.  Diddly squat.

This is how much sewing I have got done since my last post (unless you count sewing name tapes into a pair of school gloves).
This depresses me greatly but I am trying to accept that it comes with the territory of having young children, who not only eat my spare time when they are well, but also have the bad manners to get ill quite a lot.  I will spare you the details of me getting covered in semi-digested bolognese at 3 a.m. on Saturday night apart from to mention that it was my toddler's tummy bug rather than any sort of drunken overindulgence on my part.

I hope this is not going to become one of those blogs where I just have to entertain you with other stuff I have read on better blogs than mine, but until I do some more sewing, you might as well have a chuckle at this old post from Hyperbole and a Half.

In the meantime, if anyone spots my mojo, please let me know.

G x

Friday, 16 November 2012

Other people's work

I can't take any of the credit for any of the work in today's post as they have all been done by other people!  But they are also all pretty so I thought I would share.

First, look what loveliness Mr Postman brought for my eldest daughter:
...expertly knitted by my mum.  I first saw this tunic dress on this blog post by Sandra Cherry Heart and in my typical impulsive way immediately went online and bought all the supplies.  I'm glad I did because (thanks to my mum) it is fabulous.

The pattern is Rye from Beresford Beach, a children's knitting pattern collection by Louisa Harding.  I bought the book and the yarn (SMC Pertinio) from Laughing Hens.  It is difficult to tell from the picture but the yarn has a very fine metallic thread going through it, so that when the light catches it shimmers ever so slightly. 

Next on the list ... a bit of long overdue Christmas shopping.  Look what I found in John Lewis!
It's only a notebook in Flea Market Fancy by Denyse Schmidt!  This is going to be a stocking filler.  In MY stocking.  Hands off, family and friends!

Hmmmm I have just spotted that Flea Market Fancy is on sale here at the Village Haberdashery ... hello credit card, I may be needing you.

The third and final thing that I can take no credit for whatsoever is this:

Hopefully this will be winging its way to me from Spoonflower in the next couple of weeks.  I noticed a few people have been ordering recently because of the "Free Shipping Anywhere In The World" offer they had on.  Good offer!  I just hope I don't get stung on the customs duty.

The pattern is called Vacuum Tube Retro.  Unsurprisingly, this is because the design is based on vacuum tubes, which in th'olden days looked a bit like this:
Thank you Wikipedia for the photo.  Massive old computers used to have hundreds of these but they weren't known for their reliability and so computing moved onto transistors and then microchips.  But they look good!  I am a sucker for dusty purples and pinks so this fabric is  right up my street.

I have ordered a yard of this in the heavy cotton twill with the intention of making a bag out of it.  I have so many intended bags now, I am in danger of turning into Christine, who calls her prolific bag-making "like a disease".  But at least Christine actually makes her bags instead of just thinking about it.  If I still haven't physically made a bag by 31 December 2012 I shall be giving myself a stern talking to.

Yay!  A whole post where I didn't mention the Christmas Fair.  Until now.  ARGH!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Belated Bee Blocks

Those of you who with good memories may remember that I signed up for a Bee earlier this year.  Some of my readers are in the same Bee and have had the good grace not to point out that, despite an enthusiastic start, I am now running behind on my Bee blocks.  Once again I am laying the blame squarely on the Christmas Fair.

This morning I wondered what I should make for the Christmas Fair but instead mutinied and chose to do my October Bee blocks.  I already had all the instructions printed out, and my chosen fabrics fussy cut and ready to go, so I decided to see if I could get them done this morning.

Two hours later:
These are Polaroid blocks for Twinkle Toes Jo - the outer block measures about 10" across the top.  The inner image + white frame are exactly Polaroid sized.  Jo says she wants to arrange the blocks in a 'scattered' formation, as if the Polaroids have been chucked onto the quilt.  I can't wait to see how it looks!

Now I might go and get started on my November selvedge blocks for Dandelion Liz.  God forbid I might actually catch up before the month is up!

G x

Monday, 12 November 2012

Giveaway Winner!

Hello hello,

It's time to announce the winner of my first giveaway!

Not having the technological know-how required to undertake a fancy computerised random number draw, I instead resorted to the traditional method:
namely chopped-up bits of paper in a bag.

And the winner is .... (drum roll) ...
Audrey at Hot Pink Quilts!  Congratulations Audrey - I will be emailing you to get your contact address so that I can get your Mollie Makes book in the post to you.

Only a very brief update re: what I have been up to - can you guess?

I will be so happy when this Christmas Fair is over and I never have to make another Christmas stocking as long as I live!

G x

Monday, 5 November 2012

Plum & June blog hop + Giveaway!

Plum and June
When I signed up for the Plum & June blog hop way back in June this year, I was given a hop date of November, which seemed like an awfully long way away.  Since then, I feel as though I have just blinked, and we are here already.  Argh!

Good thing I have been making my mini stockings as this has become my first ever Tutorial, which you can find posted here:

So a bit of background - I started blogging in June 2012 after attending the inaugural Fat Quarterly Retreat in London and discovering that I was just about the only person without a blog.  I had always been a bit wary of sharing too much online, and so I had just avoided having a blog altogether.  After chatting to many lovely ladies at the Retreat, I realised that you can have a blog and share one aspect of your life whilst keeping the rest of it offline.  So here I am!

This then led to me joining the London Modern Quilting Guild, which formed in February this year but which is already a lively and diverse group with lots of happy stitchy chat.

Now, where is my list of questions?  Here we go...

(1) How long have you been quilting?
I bought a quilt kit whilst on honeymoon in 2004, purely because I thought it was pretty in the shop.  My choice of kit clearly demonstrates that I had no clue as to what constitutes a nice beginner's quilt and what might turn out to be a little more challenging:
I only actually started piecing this quilt in 2008, partly because I was more of an embroiderer beforehand, partly because I didn't know where to start, and partly because our first child appeared in 2006, putting an abrupt stop to any crafting for a while.

(2) Favourite quilting tip
Carrie Nelson of Miss Rosie's Quilts mentioned using starch on fabric before you cut it, so that any shrinkage it causes is done before the cutting stage.  I think starched fabric is so much easier to handle and is less liable to be pulled out of shape.  I pick up this starch at CostCo and it is cheap as chips but makes a big difference to my piecing.
(3) Favourite blogging tip
Leave comments, and reply to comments you receive.  It doesn't take long to write a quick but happy reply, but it makes the world a much happier place :)  And I have made some lovely friendships that have had their beginnings on comments on blogs.

(4) Favourite fabric
There really are too many to list ... but past favourites have been Circa 1934 by Cosmo Cricket  (WHY did I not buy this when it was out...?) ; Curio by BasicGrey (see this post where I got hold of some layer cakes at the last minute) ; Chicopee by Denyse Schmidt ... I could go on ... and on ...

(5) Favourite craft book
I love Schnibbles Times Two by Carrie Nelson ... excellent for pre-cuts and nice clear instructions.
(6) Favourite books
I love reading and generally I like books that are thoughtfully written and that either make me laugh occasionally or make me think "that's very clever".  My favourite books are those that manage to do both!  I love these books:
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
Winter in Madrid by CJ Sansom
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

This post is already getting very long, and I am in danger of sending readers to sleep, so I will sign off very soon ... but not before a little

I have bought a brand spanking new copy of Mollie Makes Christmas, from the fine folks who publish the lovely crafty magazine Mollie Makes:
...which includes lots of lovely projects like this one:
All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave me a comment about anything you like!  I will pick a winner at 8pm on Monday 12 November.

Gertie x

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Mini Stocking Tutorial

Tuesday is my day for the Plum & June Blog Hop so I thought I had better cobble together a little tutorial before my hop day!  Given that I have been making what feels like a zillion mini stockings to sell at the school Christmas Fair, this would seem to be the obvious suspect.

Plum and June
Can I just say at the outset that the fabric I am using in this tutorial is not my choice.  It is some fabric I got given and I used it for my mini stocking prototype.  It doesn't look quite as bad in mini stockings as it does in yardage, but I am struggling to see any other use for it.  So, mini stockings it is!

First, cut 2 stocking shapes - a front and a back - and 2 cuffs.  I drew a stocking shape onto tracing paper and used that as my template.  If I can work out how to upload my template I will do!  Dimensions:  the stocking top is 3 inches across, and from the top corner to the opposite toe it is just shy of 7 inches.  The cuffs are 3 inches x 2.5 inches.
Next, fold over the cuff a little less than half way.  I found this the best way to give the illusion of a full cuff without bulking up the top seams.  Also my stocking fabric here is much darker than my cuff fabric, and folding the cuff up to just below where the seam line will be means that you won't see any of the dark fabric peeking through the cuff.

Pin the folded cuff to the WRONG SIDE of the stocking, with the folded bit facing UP:
... which means that when you have stitched the top seam, you can flip the cuff over and press, and it will have a nice tidy edge:
If you like, you could topstitch this down - however, because they are so teeny, and because they are for the school fair, I haven't done this on these ones.

Place 2 stocking pieces right sides together and pin:
Then sew a narrow seam all the way around, backstitching at the start and the end.  I did about 1/8" because they are so small, and it means no clipping curves or anything at the end.  But you could do a 1/4" seam.  I used cream thread to match the cuff as this is the only bit anyone is likely to see:
Turn the stocking the right way out, and press with an iron.

Next, cut about 8 inches of ribbon, fold in half, and pin to the inside of the stocking at the back seam:
Stitch across just above the pin to secure the ribbon to the stocking with a few stitches.  Again, I used cream thread as the only thing someone will see is a few stitches at the back of the outside of the cuff.

Press well, and:
....ta-daaa!  Ready for the tree!

But while you're making them, you may as well make a few:

Or a few more .... (though you risk it getting a bit like the Muppet Show title sequence....)
So there's my first tutorial!  And possibly my last.  But do pop back Tuesday for my Blog Hop day.

G x