Saturday, February 17, 2018

Mistakes You'll (I'll) Never Make Again!

The Send a Little Love Swap 2018, ran by the lovely Tracy from Mad About Bags, came to an end this week.  I took part in this swap last year and decided to return for a second year.  I quite like the idea of getting my thinking cap on, and making up a parcel of goodies for someone! My someone this year was the very talented Emma.  We were both designing and making for each other, and I remember saying in my last post; that I felt a little anxious as her work is stunning. I was correct her work is stunning.  I received two gorgeous customised pouches for my parcel along with a handmade covered notepad, a Valentine stamp kit, a fluffy red love heart and a box of chocolate hearts. The parcel I put together contained a bird mug rug; all machine embroidered, with a bird and hearts that I cut out on my Sizzix Big Shot.  I keep forgetting I have this machine and how easy and beautiful the fabric pieces look when they've been cut out.  I especially like using it for felt, which can be tricky to cut out with precision unless it's secured in place with a sticky plastic film.  I also included a William Morris mug, some chocolate in the form of a bar and a drinks sachet, a handmade pincushion, a little pouch of quilting clips, some Clover Glass Headed Pins and a cat sleep mask.  I had noticed that Emma had made one and had displayed the photographs on her Instagram account.  The pattern I used for her gift was The Kitty Sleep Mask by EvielaluveDIY.  The design was easy to follow, precise and clear with; fabric and haberdashery options and photographs of the steps to be followed.  From printing out the pattern to cutting out and piecing together, it took me about 45 minutes to an hour, which isn't bad.  Considering I had to rethread my machine with two or three different thread types.

Other sewing news 

As of Saturday the 17th of February 2018 I have finished my pyjama bottoms. Woohoo! I started these way back at Christmas time when I first received the Sew Hayley Jane Winter Warmer Box in December. As soon as I looked at the fabric, I knew they were going to be pyjama bottoms for me. I have worked hard on this pattern, as I said in my previous post it is a heavily modified Simplicity pattern. However,  I'm not going to include photographs in this post, but I will in my next post.  I promise. 

You may have noticed the last photograph, the one of my Brother overlocker, yes it is open.   I've been dreading this procedure; re-threading the machine, since I took ownership of the device.  I've seen so many angst-ridden posts about how hard and complicated the process is, that I kept putting it off.  That was until something idiotic happened not once but twice.  Yes, novice Squirrel strikes again.  I thought I could serge material through with the ends of a zip (not the metal or plastic clips to secure the ends) protruding out.  It turns out the needles aren't very strong, and I managed to bend not just two but four (double needle version).  I couldn't understand why the machine just cut out until I noticed the needles bent at a right angle, the thread also snapped for one needle and lower down on the machine.  I ended up having to take everything a part;  I changed the needles first and then threaded the machine with the manual in front of me for reference, and I thought 'Wow!  This is easy.  Switched the machine on to give it a whirr, and the thread snapped again.  Two of the threads underneath were touching.  I was so exasperated and headachy that I left it for two whole days before returning to try again.  My second attempt was more successful; I think taking the time to figure out how the threads had broken and reading the manual instead of just looking at the pictures, helped.  I think it helped a lot. It was a last resort mind you.  Did I tell you I'm a visual learner, and I don't read manuals but jump in with both feet? Lol! I've been like this since I was small.  I prefer to have a go, have a tinker first before looking over the manual.  I don't know if it's the excitement of trying something new, or the thrill when I can work it the first time without the guidance of the manual.  Paul, on the other hand, has to lay everything out and then read the manual.  I have to sit on my hands when he does this, as it makes me twitch and fidget.  I've even seen me walking out of the room, rolling my eyes as I just want to steam right in.  Lol!  I wonder if this stems from our different childhoods?  Paul's an only child, while I'm the eldest of four.  Hmm! Maybe I've stumbled on something there. 

Anyway, I'm going to sign off now.  My hands are itching to cut out and sew something else now.  I think I might have a go at a small project this time; say a pincushion- I do like the pear or apple ones.  Or some pattern weights.  Whatever I decide to make I will pop the photos in my next post. Bye for now. 

xoxo xoxo

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Why On Earth...

Did I not try this before?

So, I decided pretty early on in January that I wasn't going to go down the road of making New Years Resolutions that I couldn't keep.  I was going to call them good intentions instead, and I was going to make a list of things that I either wanted to do or try for the very first time. This is what I came up with:
  • Make an effort to  (Wow! Wrong choice of words). Have fun using my sewing machine and overlocker more.
  • Make at least four sewing garments (that are wearable) that take me out of my comfort zone; technique-wise.
  • Read at least twenty-four books this year; that's two a month.
  • Finish all my WIP's. This includes sewing in ends, blocking and lining.
  • To practise yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques on a regular basis.
  • To journal and doodle more with my new stationery.  
Not a huge list, but a manageable one, and one that I'm enjoying so far.  And, although I haven't started doing the yoga or meditation on a regular basis yet (too cold to take layers off to exercise.  Bad excuse I know). I'm doing pretty good!

Sewing Intentions

The sewing is going well.  I've been making bits and pieces for a sewing swap.  I took part in this swap last year, and it's called Send A Little Love Swap 2018 run by the lovely Tracy from Mad About BagsI quite like the idea of getting my thinking cap on, and making up a parcel of goodies for someone! My someone this year is the very talented Emma.  We are both designing and making for each other,but I have to admit I do feel a little anxious as her work is stunning.  I do hope Emma likes what I've made. (I will post my makes on my next blog post).

Other pieces I have been making, include some pyjama bottoms.  I'm a subscriber of the sewing box Sew Hayley Jane and have received six boxes so far and loved every single one of them.  I haven't used all the fabric yet, but I'm sure as the year moves on I will have made a dent in them and found patterns too. Anyway, the material seen in the photographs above is from the December classic box; 'A Winter Warmer'.  Each month I receive 2.5 meters of fabric, matching thread, 4 fat quarters, a sewing accessory, trims and some sweets. When I first received the box, I was going to make some pj's for Paul, but after pre-washing the fabric and ironing it, I knew I had to make them for me. The pattern (very heavily modified by moi) is Simplicity 1494, although when I cut out the pattern pieces, they looked as though they would fit a seven-foot giant (I'm not joking).  I held up the pattern piece, and from the crotch, the waistband would have sat over my boobs, hahaha! So, I also used a much-loved pair of bottoms, from the brand Fat Face to ensure I was getting the fit and length just right.  Once, I had cut out all the pieces (I always find that part scary) I then set up my overlocker and set about machining around all the edges. Go me! I've only used this machine once, since buying it.  Then I had a brainwave (uhh ohh!) I thought, hey, I could have pockets (see the blurred photo of my attempt to make a template of one).  I say attempt, the thing only worked lol! First time trying as well! I then stitched pockets in place and made them special by attaching bias material around the edge of the pocket.  This won't be seen when I'm wearing them, but I know it's there, and it also reinforces the pocket seam. Next up the waistband.  It looks pretty ordinary on the pattern pack, and I knew I wanted to change this pretty early on.  I knew I wanted to try a shirring waistband but had never tried the technique before.  My first attempt was pretty awful, the elastic must have been passed it's best, and the material did not ruche at all, cue sad face, then angry face as  I had to pick out all the stitching by hand. Not wanting to be defeated, I then trawled the internet for the solution and found an excellent tutorial by Raechel Myers.  It soon became apparent it wasn't due to my crappy skills, it was my in-experience; that and because I own a Brother brand of sewing machine.  You need to do a few adjustments or tweaks to the bobbin housing before attempting this technique. So, with this new information under my belt and a new pack of elastic, I set about trying the method again. Second time lucky, after the first line of stitching there was a little ruching, and by the second I had an actual shirred piece-happy squirrel. The front of the waistband was far easier, just two button holes machined into the fabric side by side and then spliced open to feed the ties through. The outsides of the pockets were also trimmed with lace. So, now all that's left to do is the bottom leg hems, some other customisations and to sew the back waistband in place, and they're ready to wear. 

I had a splurge just after Christmas and before the New Year. Oopps!  After succumbing to the dreaded lurgy going around (it took me three weeks to get over it, I say over it, it's now February, and I'm still coughing, as the awful infection kept mutating). I decided to treat myself to a few (ahem) sewing accessories from the lovely Grace at Beyond Measure UK.  I purchased some Tulip Hiroshima Needles-Embroidery,  a pack of Hancock's Cloth Markers, wooden needle holder, a Sajou tin of pins (I love the Sajou range, and I collect unusual tins) and some beeswax for my hand sewing thread. I have to confess I didn't need these items, I just had to have them. Why?  Just because. I think it's good to give ourselves a pick me up now and again. 

Other Crafts

I just couldn't help myself.  I love the Scheepjes range of yarns, especially their Whirl range.  I would love to own all the colours one day, but I don't think Paul would be thrilled.  I already have a walk-in cupboard full of unused boxed yarn, so, if I add more to it, I think Paul would force me to live in the said cupboard (I'm okay with that so long as he leaves the light on so I can see all the yarn). The two Whirls on my hook at the moment are Lavenderlicious, and Tutty 'O' Fruity and the pattern I'm working on is Scheepjes CBTL (Crochet Between the Lines) by Tammy Canavan-Soldaat. Yes,  I have frogged my work in the photograph above, I crocheted through 2 strands instead of one and I couldn't let it go. The mistake kept staring at me. Can you believe I sat for 4-5 hours (with cramp and in need of a toilet break) crocheting the piece back to its original place. I was too scared to move because the frogged yarn would tangle. To date,  I now only have two more repeats to go, the outer edge and then blocking.  Hopefully, I can wear it this year, while the weather is still cold.

 I'm now going off to eat pancakes, slurp tea and to finish off my pyjama bottoms.

xoxo xoxo

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Habits of a Squirrel!

A very Merry Belated Christmas to you all!

I was swamped on the run up to Christmas with work, craft commissions, secret Santa makes, craft days, nursery parties and my own Christmas party. It was such a relief to know that my term-time holidays were on their way.  

We had a relatively quiet and cosy Christmas. We started off the Christmas celebrations by finishing up the shopping; both presents and food on Saturday which meant Christmas Eve was a day of indulgence.  We watched Christmas movies, played classical music on the radio and made mincemeat pies together (tradition).  Christmas morning we started with a glass of Bucks Fizz each (one of our other traditions), and then we unwrapped our presents.  We always tell each other which one to open and we rip the paper off at the same time, it's fun and since we don't have any children, only a fur baby, we do spoil each other, a bit.  Well, I say a bit, I guess I was spoiled a whole lot.  I received a beautiful tan Timberland bag (Paul said he didn't want me carrying around a cheap version) and a gorgeous blue cowl (he said he felt sorry for me having to wear thin, lightweight scarves) by the same company.  He also gave me a pair of Van high tops and lots of nik-naks. But the gift that brought me to tears; the beautiful Sylvanian Family- Walnut Squirrel.  I have longed for a Sylvanian Family since I was a little girl, but never, ever, received one.  I gasped when I saw it, and tears welled up in my eyes, I hugged the package so tight; it's so fitting that it's a squirrel family (my nickname). This gift was such a surprise. I do remember telling him that a little one had come into nursery one day with a Sylvanian rabbit and how precious it was to see the little one play with it.  I never thought in a million years he would take a hint from my brief comment, a comment I just made in the passing, but he did.  I think sometimes I take him for granted and I don't nearly tell him enough that I love him, but  I do.  More than words can say.  (*Aggghhh! I'm crying again). 

Stitching Santa; a beautiful swap run by the wonderful and super organised Sheila over at Sewchet
This is my second year participating in this swap and boy it was so much fun.  We don't know who is sending to us and we have to refrain from opening our presents until Christmas Day.  Last year I posted to Tracy from Mad About Bags UK, and this year she sent to me and what a beautiful parcel she sent.  She stalked me (in a good way) to a tee; she knew I love gardening and sent me a handmade gardening tool apron, a gardening bag, a gardening kneeling mat, three books; colouring-in book, a Christmas decoration book and a book for journaling in. Plus lots of gorgeous extras- like wool, mug, decoration, sweets and bath bombs.  I can tell you I was pretty overwhelmed by Tracy's gifts and I messaged her immediately to thank her. 

My swap partner this year; the very talented Margaret over at The Crafty Creek her blog is fantastic, as is her crafting.  Margaret wrote a beautiful piece all about my makes and me over on her blog  (link above).  Please take a moment to have a look.  I have included some photos of the gifts (above) I sent Margaret.

Prizes; well December was eventful.  I was contacted by Love Sewing magazine to be told I had won some stunning Mettler sewing thread. Then at the beginning of the month, I was contacted by Jade Earley (The Great British Sewing Bee finalist 2016) The Girl With The Bright Red Hair about a competition I had entered, and guess what I came first.  I will tell you in my next post what I had to do to secure first place. For now, I will leave you with the bright red shiny box and its contents and of course my tired out little fur baby. Never seen a Rhodesian rip open Christmas paper like my tiny pooch.  What an expert! Lol!

xoxo xoxo


*I don't like talking about this, as I'm not seeking sympathy.  Since 2016 I've been suffering terrible anxiety and just before Christmas I was told perhaps a mild form of depression too. My anxiety materialsed after my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015.  You see we have lost so many relatives on my mum's side of the family to this disease and we thought it had stopped in 2005 but no. It struck again and this time even closer to my sister and I. My mum after receiving a mastectomy and aggressive Chemo and Radiotherapy is doing fine, she has been given the all clear and enjoying life to the full.  I'm still in therapy and will probably be so for quite sometime. They are trying to put me through a grieving process for loved ones I have lost, along with how to cope with medical appointments to safeguard my health.  I'm currently working on CBT and trying to modify my thought process' from negative to positive using a list format.  It's working, it's slow, but I'm getting there.  There are days I have to scrape one foot in front of the other and prise myself out of bed, heck even showering is a chore, but I make myself.  I have to, I can't lose myself again like I did during the PTSD years.  That just ain't going to happen.