Monday, October 31, 2011

Goodbye old friend.....

Friends, today I feel unbelievably sad. My throat is aching from crying. At 11am this morning my friend and companion of over 13 years took his last breath as I held him.....

He's been with me through house moves, through heartache and through happy times too. And through all of it, it has never seemed to matter to him where he is, as long as he has been with me. Before Elliott and long before J, he would curl up under the duvet with me and put his head on my pillow and go to sleep. I'd wake up in the morning with his paw across my neck or my face, like he couldn't quite get close enough. And in times gone by I have gazed into those huge feline eyes and been convinced there was a human soul staring back at me. That's how close we were. Just a cat? To some maybe. But not to me
Perhaps part of the reason I feel so distraught is that in the last 12 months I feel I have let him down. I coudn't have him near me, or stroke him, or cuddle him as I have developed an allergy that means I am on medication and daily inhalers to keep it at at bay. I could have rehomed him but selfishly I couldn't bear the thought of him gone, so he has had a little house by the back door since last summer.
I'd been suspicious that something wasn't right for about a week. Early hours of this morning I heard him calling out. I went out to see him in the garden and I knew. I just knew.
He had a tumor that had filled him with fluid. His back legs were weakening.  The outcome would be the same whatever we did, I was told.  So today I held him, and I cuddled him, and I kissed him and I told him I loved him and that I was sorry. All whilst the vet did what she needed to do, and I said goodbye to an old friend.....
My friend was called Oscar, or OshkyBoshkyLemonSquashky for short. I'm so sorry I couldn't have cuddled you more....
Px

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Restyle # 24 - Pillowcase to PJ's

Elliott and I have both been full of cold these past few days. So while he slept yesterday afternoon, I whipped him up something cosy to snuggle up in for the evening..
I'd thrifted this vintage flannelette pillowcase a week or two ago with plans to make him some cosy Mini Boden'esque PJ bottoms. I just LOVE flannelette/brushed cotton. Unrivalled in terms of cosiness on chilly winter nights, in my humble opinion.  I planned to use a pair of his jeans to draft a basic pattern...

Then I remembered this PDF pattern from Made. Score! I made a few minor changes in terms of size/length and then joined the front and back piece together and cut them as one. Less cutting, less sewing! This way I needed to cut only 2 pattern pieces instead of 4, which negated the need to sew any side seams. Just the crotch seams, front and back, and the inseam.

He loves them but they only just fit him in the waist. Ooops. I miscalculated seam allowances, doh! They're so soft and cosy though and only took about 40mins to make including pattern alterations. Which is just as well because leaning over a cutting table and sewing machine when you've got a runny nose is not fun!Px

Monday, October 24, 2011

Yep, that's me....

I think MOST of you that had a guess got it right, lol. Yep I'm the one that looks like a little red headed pixie, ha ha! I don't think I've seen this picture for over 20 years but what pleased me most when I saw it, was that I realised I remembered every single one of my classmates names, and each of their personalities as if it were yesterday. It seems that time has not diminished the fond memories I have of my school days and of those that I spent them with. Sometimes I wonder if I am alone in this but I truly loved being at school....I was never one of the hip and trendy clique. But neither was I an outsider. I firmly occupied the middle ground and can honestly say I got on well with everyone. I worked hard to achieve the best results I could academically and am happy with what I achieved....
 I was one of those geeky people that got excited about a new term starting because each new term was a new beginning and full of pure potential, discovery and growth (and because I knew I'd see everyone again). I loved warm sunny days spent lounging with friends on the school field at lunchtimes, the smell of freshly sawn wood in CDT class, the more relaxed informal atmosphere of Mrs Palman's Art classes, and the neatness and clean lines of Technical Drawing. I loved starting a new excercise book with it's crisp white pages, (unsullied by tippex or red pen!). I loved English class (language is a wonderful thing, no?) but clashed with my stroppy redheaded English teacher Mrs Dellar. My form tutor Mr Allen (infront of me in the picture)seemed to sympathise. He wrote of me in our Yearbook "at last, a redhead that I get on with" a veiled dig at Mrs Dellar he later told me, ha ha! Mr Allen you are a dude!  Maths, science and Religious Education were good too, Geography and History not so much, but then my heart was always with the arts and even I couldn't love EVERYTHING.

It's strange to look at that picture now and if I'm honest it's got me feeling a little nostalgic with just a hint of melancholy. I'd had my family and emotional traumas even at that age, but by comparison, looking back, everything seemed so unblemished. There was everything to play for and nothing to lose. I hadn't decided on a career path at that stage. I wanted to be a Writer, a Designer, a Teacher or a Barrister, but at that stage I felt I could achieve any one or even all of those goals. I need to rediscover a touch of that teenage optimism...

It gives me a sense of the ceaseless march of time. When I reflect on everything that I've experienced since then, good and bad, I realise that that time has gone by in the blink of an eye. I want to cherish every moment of the years to come, and to give Elliott experiences and happiness that will stay with him for the rest of his days, even when I am no longer there by his side. I will be a contented soul indeed, if in the years to come, I can say that I have done that for him. God, how precious his childhood is! And it's entrusted to me. That just blows me away at times. Life could never bestow a greater honour on me than that.

What are your memories of school? Does it seem like a lifetime ago or like it was only yesterday? Would you change anything? Did you achieve everything you'd wished for when you were young or has your life taken an unexpected turn that you could never have imagined?
Px

Friday, October 21, 2011

Draft your own simple top......A Simple Tutorial

Firstly, forgive the top of my head being lopped off in this photo. I've been experimenting with pin curls and hadn't got round to taking them out when I took this picture. Secondly, yes Karen, you do recognise this fabric! Purchased at the Fabric Fandango, and mindful of Karen's warning about how much it creases (oooooh how it creases!!) I thought it would be perfect for a simple project like this so as to keep future ironing as easy as possible!
Now, back to the subject in hand....pattern drafting. My toile for the Top Draftalong is FINALLY finished!!!! (More on that to follow) Which means that the design drafting element of the draftalong is imminent, and not a moment too soon in my view. ( Have I mentioned how much I detest fitting...?) Anyway, I thought I'd limber up my drafting muscles with a fun and, yes, easy peasy lemon squeezy, quick and simple "freestyle" drafting project that anyone could do. Seriously. You could draft AND make this top within a couple of hours. Faster if you're not a slow coach sewer like me. Even if you have never put pencil to paper and drafted anything before in your life. Don't believe me? Here's how....

Start with a rectangle and calculate the length of the sides as follows:
A = Bust or Hip Measurement (whichever is the larger) + 2-3" (ease) divide by  4 and + 3"
B = Required length of top + desired hemming allowance
Mark which is your side seam and which is your centre back/front line....

A = Mark a point approx 8" down the side seam from what will be the top of your pattern. (This will be your armhole. I made mine 8". Your's may be slightly more or less depending on how big you want your armhole opening to be).
B = Along the bottom edge mark a point 3" in from the side seam

Join these two points up creating a curve for the underarm...this will become your actual stitching line/side seam...

Now for the neckline:
A = Mark a point approx 2"down the CB/CF seam from the top (depending on how low you want your neckline to scoop this could be more but wouldn't advise it being any less. As you can see from my top, 2" has it sitting just at the base of my throat)
B = Mark a point along the top edge where you want your neck opening to finish. I used my bra strap as a guide as I don't like to flash them!

Draw in your neckline curve either freehand or using a French Curve. Where the neckline curve hits the CB/CF seam needs to be at a 90 degree angle so as to avoid "peaking" when you come to cut out the pattern piece on the fold. I'd also advise a slightly less acute angle where it hits the top edge/shoulder seam too. I cut mine as shown here and it's resulted in a very slight pulling at the point where the neckline hits the shoulder seam of my top.

Add a seam alowance to the underarm/ side seam AND the shoulder seam...

Cut out your new pattern piece. Then cut 2 on the fold out of your fashion fabric and with RS together sew together the shoulder seams and then the side seams. Finish seam allowances.  I also put 2" slits in the side seams for a little extra ease at the hips, finished the neckline with self fabric bias tape,(see posts here and here) and just hemmed the bottom and sleeves with a narrow hem. Voila! Simple top perfect for layering under a cardi for the winter months. Go on! Give it a go! ( I'd love it if you'd let me know if you do!)
Px

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Class of '91

One of my classmates recently posted this photo on facebook.....
Kudos if you can spot the younger me....;)
Px

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sewing Basics # 15 - Using a Bias Tape Maker

I'm sure that there are many good tutorials of how to use this little super gadget out there on the web. But since we have been on the subject of bias strips I thought I may as well follow up with a brief explanation of my own to round things off nicely on this particular subject....

Placing RS together with the top strip perpendicular to the one underneath, pin like so....

Sew diagonally left to right, (corner to corner if you imagine as a square, the area where the two strips overlap) at a 45 degree angle...

Press the stitching line, then press the seam allowance open, then press the seam on the RS too...

Trim seam allowance close to the stitching....

The RS......

RS down/WS facing up, insert one end of the strip into the widest end of the bias gadget ensuring the fabric strip is as central as possible.....

Gradually feed the fabric strip along until it pokes it's little nose out the other end of the gadget (I found that the strip would sometimes get stuck a little way along so I gently poked the tips of my thread snips through the gap along the centre of the bias gadget to help move it along)...

Press the tip of the strip as it pokes through...

Then pin in place on the ironing board...


Take hold of the handle of the gadget and gently slide it along the fabric strip...

...bit by bit, pressing as you go....the first bit is the trickiest....

Keep going all the way to the end of the strip. Depending on how long it is you may have to shift it along the ironing board and re-pin it several times along the length of the strip...and there you have it...nice neat bias tape ready to use on your next sewing project :)
Toodle pip!
Px

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sewing Basics # 14 - Easy Peasy Bias Strips

I don't know about you, but the prospect of accurately marking out and cutting narrow strips of fabric on the bias seemed a bit too fiddly and a bit too much like hard work for my liking. So for ages I relied on my stash of ready made bias tape for projects. Then I had a minor brainwave and tried out the basic idea here. What d'ya know...it worked! Alot of you seemed to think it was a pretty neat idea, so I thought I'd share my  bias strip technique in a little more detail in case, like me, you can't be arsed to faff about ;)

I used one of these bias tape makers to make my bias binding.  This particular size requires strips of fabric 1" wide. So I got me some 1" wide low tack masking tape (masking tape comes in several widths in our local hardware shop. If I need 2" wide bias strips I just use 2" wide masking tape)...

The fabric pictured is cut in a perfect square. (See here for an easy way to do this. The technique applies the same way to fabric as it does for paper!)  Now for a little geometry. Bias tape needs to be cut at a 45 degree angle to the grainline. On a perfect square, from point to point diagonally across the square, is exactly 45 degrees. So the strip of masking tape below, marks out a 1" wide strip of fabric at a 45 degree angle...

Every subsequent piece of tape lined up against it will therefore be at the perfect 45 degree angle too. I just kept adding strips of tape either side until they became too short to be of reasonable use. (For zero waste, the resulting corners/trianges left over at the end.could go in your scrap pile until you've enough to make some bunting)....

Leaving just enough gap between each strip of tape for your scissor blades...

...provides a super accurate cutting guide and stabilises the fabric whilst you are cutting (bias by it's nature is prone to stretching) this is especially useful on fine and/or slippery fabrics....

You end up with a load of strips backed with masking tape. Exactly the right size, with poker straight edges and cut precisely on the bias....

Square off the ends....

...and there you have them. Lovely neat bias strips. Ready to use to make your own bias tape. (I've been making up more than I need, then peeling off the masking tape as and when I need the make some bias tape up. Otherwise I leave the masking tape in place to keep them stabilised and store them for future use)

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!
Px

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Top Draftalong # 31 - Sway Back Adjustment - Pt 1

Hmmmm!! It seems like this Draftalong is becoming somewhat of an epic rather than the mini series it was intended to be. It's pretty charachteristic of me to underestimate what's involved in a project, but this fitting process has taken alot longer than I had anticipated, even by my usual standards. However, I did set out with the intention of getting the fit just right and if it takes a bit longer, well it's worth it in the end. After all, this toile and the block I make from it, will form the basis of many more tops. If the fit on this isn't right, I will never be happy with the results I achieve on any top I subsequently make from it. If this final alteration works out as it should, I am DONE with fitting. Oh how I hate fitting!

Anyhow, here is where we left off. I was happy with the front apart from needing to shorten the darts so they stop about an inch from the bust point. I'd rotated the armhole dart and incorporated it into the bust dart to create extra fullness at the bust and eliminate the gaping at the armhole.  The eagle eyed may have noticed that the side seam is pulling forward at the bust. I was worried that this may mean further bust adjustment. Not so! On further inspection of my work by my tutor (now that I'm back at college I can get a second opinion on such things, yay!) it was simply that I had inadvertently cut a curve into the side seam at the final stages when I altered the bust dart. That's what happens when I eyeball things instead of marking them out. Anyhow, I have re-cut that now so the front is all sorted.   But the back had the usual pooling of fabric in the small of my back. It's actually forming it's own deep tuck in the picture on the right....(just behind the bak of my arm).  I get this to varying degrees with everything I wear. Anything with a button back or back zip fastening really accentuates it. a shame because these are details I really like.....

Here's the tuck pinned out.....it's a big tuck let me tell you! Even my tutor was perplexed by how much she had to pin out to achieve a smooth line.....can you see the difference from the photo above?

After marking the pins with chalk and removing them...

The full scale or the adjustment became apparent. A good 3" at it's widest point on the CB line, tapering to nothing at the side seams. I felt better that even my tutor was scratching her head at this one. "it does seem very extreme" was her first response.....it's a big wedge to take out I agree, but...it's what the fabric was showing us to do...so we must obey...right?

So I marked the top and bottom of the "wedge" on the CB line of my paper pattern, and the point at which it tapered to nothing at the side seam....

Joined up my lines (ignore the middle one) and there was my tuck/wedge.....

Here it is folded out of my pattern....

Just look how much distortion there is on the CB line!!! Gah! A protracted discussion then ensued with my tutor...On her advice I eventually folded out a tuck about 2/3 the size of the one I'd originally marked out in the pictures above and directly below. She suspected that some of the fabric bunching might have been the result of the side seams of my toile being a little bit snug on to my hips, and thus not allowing the back to drop down fully. She reasoned that we could always take more out of the pattern afterwards if necessary, but that it would be trickier to add it back in if we took too much out now...

In the picture below I have taken out the slightly smaller tuck and "trued" new CB and side seams. I have marked the original distorted side seam and CB lines with dotted lines. You can see hopefully, that to "true" the seam lines I have squared down for the CB line (outside of the dotted line) and traced the original curve back onto the side seam (also outside the dotted line). So in the process I have added a little ease at the CB and at the hips where the new seamlines have gone outside of the dotted lines...This should eliminate the possibility that "snugness" is preventing the back from dropping  down smoothly...
I have also laid the newly adjusted pattern piece so that it is butted up against a 90 degree angle using my set square and metre rule. Hopefully this illustrates the effect that the alteration has had on the shape of the hem. Higher at the CB then tapering down at the side seam. This, in theory, (as far as I understand it!) should work almost like an optical illusion. When I make this up as a toile (hopefully my last!) and wear it, my sway back should make the hem appear totally straight across the back. That's the theory, and that is what I shall be doing at college on Tuesday. I shall report back with my findings ASAP! Oh how I hope this is the last tweak!
Px

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

A Little Christmas Tipple.....

Being a thrifty kinda gal, I love a good freebie. Mother nature is generous indeed and if you know where to look, when to look and what to look for.....then hedgerows, woodland and fields (so long as you're not trespassing!!) are great sources of fruits, herbs, berries and more.  The whole foraging thing is such fun to me and an area I really want to learn more about. For instance, when it comes to wild mushrooms? I see them all the time but wouldn't have a clue and knowing my luck I'd end up picking something hallucinogenic, or worse! Some berries can be toxic too. So I err on the side of caution for now (I have a few foraging books on my wishlist!) and stick to what I know. My favourite summer tipple is to make Elderflower champagne. OMG, if you haven't tasted the stuff before, oh how you have missed out. It's heavenly on a summers day and oh so simple to make. Alas, I totally missed the boat this year.
Our weird seasons this year, meant that the Elderflowers came out much earlier. There was so little sunshine (essential to release the fragrance) and they went over so quickly that I didn't have a chance to gather my supplies and free a space in my day to make it. So, I decided instead to wait patiently for the subsequent berries to ripen and try my hand at some Elderberry Wine instead. So when my step mum was visiting at the weekend we picked these (with permission of course) from our neighbours tree. Just look at the colours........
As luck would have it, my step mum used to be an avid winemaker so knew just the right technique to get the berries off the stalks......
Even the bare stalks are gorgeous to look at. I love this time of year for it's stunning colour palette...

Eventually you end up with a bowl of  beautful shiny Elderberries (pick out any remaining stalk)

This is the recipe I'm following....

Elderberry Wine
There are any number of recipes for elderberry wine, but this one can be drunk either hot or cold.
Ingredients:
  • 1 kg (approx 2lb) elderberries, stripped from stems
  • 4 1/2 litres (one gallon) of water
  • 454g (1lb) of raisins
  • Pinch of ground ginger
  • Six cloves
  • 1/2 tsp of wine yeast (eg, Burgundy)
  • 150 ml (1/4 pint) of brandy
Method:
  1. Rinse the berries in cold water, and place them in a large plastic container. It's essential to remove every last piece of stalk, which can impart a bitter taste to the wine.
  2. Boil the water, pour it over the berries and leave it to stand for 24 hours.
  3. Press the mixture through a muslin cloth.
  4. Put the juice and all the other ingredients, apart from the brandy and yeast, into a preserving pan and simmer gently for an hour, skimming when necessary.
  5. Allow the mixture to cool and, when it is lukewarm, stir in the yeast. Transfer it into a fermentation jar, top up, fit an air lock and leave to stand in the dark for two weeks.
  6. Rack off into a clean vessel and add the brandy. Then siphon off into clean, corkable wine bottles.
This wine is best if allowed to mature for a few months - so Christmas is a good time to bring it out.

It's all "blup-blup'ing" away in the Demijohns as we speak. I shall let you know how I get on. It's either going to be really really gorgeous.....or really really bad head inducing. We shall see..;)
Px 

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Let some bygones be bygones....

I, like many of us, am an avid fan of most things vintage. But these advertising snippets had me appreciating that whilst today we can pick and choose the best bits from whichever era we choose....SOME aspects are best left firmly in the past..I just had to share...Hilarious....;)

Personally, I exist to cook and clean for my man and find nothing more arousing than a packet of B&H being blown in my face.....
I hope Santa brings me a scrubbing brush and a years supply of Flash too....and yes ladies, marigolds and the smell of disinfectant are surefire ways to boost your cuteness...who knew?
Hmmm.......
Under the guidance of advice like this, you too can impress your health visitor....
and nurture your child's self esteem....
with advice from menfolk such as these....
Px
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