Friday, 30 September 2011

Here's One I Made Earlier...

With the shocking news that there will be no Blue Peter Annual this year (see the story here) and the iconic children's TV programme having begun broadcasting from its new home in Salford this week (here), I got thinking about the programme and its part in my life.  

The presenters of my childhood

And I came to a realisation that the programme, watched twice weekly throughout my childhood, probably had a big impact on the way I turned out!

How else can I explain the fact that I have a large collection of bottletops, cocoa tins and sturdy boxes, awaiting transformation in to something pretty and useful,  and that when shopping, I am always on the look-out for the packaging that has recycling possibilities?  

Or that I mourn the fact that my Fairy Liquid (Oops! Mustn't mention brand names!) no longer comes in good old-fashioned straight-up-and-down bottles, so useful for turning into all kinds of gifts for Mother's Day, Father's Day and the like?  

And the fact that I have to force myself to put the loo roll tube in the bin instead of keeping it to make some miniature Rapunzel Tower, or a useful desk organiser?

Or that I cannot see a plain wire coat hanger without thinking 'I must get me some tinsel and baubles, for those are destined to be an Advent Crown'?

Blue Peter 'makes' were always the highlight of the programme for me (though the historical stories with the fabulous illustrations - Marie-Antoinette being especially memorable - are right up there too).  But the problem was, you never had the required items hanging around the house, ready for you to begin creating whilst the method was still fresh in your mind.  

For years, I hankered after a 'Jif' lemon... transform into a witch puppet.  If I'd ever got round to it, it would surely have resembled a witch with a very bad case of jaundice!

But the one thing I do remember deciding to make was the 'Four Poster Bed' for Sindy.  (Actually it was probably for my more favoured  Mary Quant 'Daisy' doll...

It must have been the end of the summer holidays, because both my sister and I were going to make one.  The key items were a shoebox (Bingo! New school shoes) and a length of dowel.  Well, we didn't have that handy, but we pooled together our pocket money and headed into the village to buy a length from the ironmongers (for such shops existed in my village when I was a child).

Dowel came in 6ft lengths.  We couldn't afford two, so bought one and headed home to divvy it up and put the junior hacksaw into action.  

But in those days, good though we may have been at computational maths, we had not really been taught to use our divisional skills in practical situations.  And as 6ft into 8 didn't go (without a remainder), so it was that my sister and I ended up with the world's first 3 poster beds!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

This Indian Summer Ain't Fooling Me...

Well, what a day it has been!  One of those beautiful early mornings, slightly misty and tinged with pink and then a brilliant blue sky and pleasant heat throughout the day.  

Personally, I think this came about because I changed my header to one with an autumnal feel and started cosy-ing up to the idea of cooler days and the joys they bring.  

I will enjoy this lovely spell for as long as it continues, but I'm not being sidetracked from a rather enjoyable 'cooler days are coming' task - the hunt for some pretty corduroy. I'm thinking little Sophia has only had knitted pressies from me so far...

From '' - £10.88 per metre
Maybe too bright for her just yet.

From '' - £9.20 per metre
Maybe too sombre.

From 'Favourite Fabrics' on ebay -£7.99 per metre

Neither too bright, nor too sombre, but too pale to be practical?

Liberty babycord from '' - £14.00 per metre
Sweet, but a bit too much green.

Liberty babycord from '' - £14.00 per metre
Too grown-up.

From 'Dragonfly Fabrics' -£14.90 per metre
Ooh yes! Lovely!

From 'Dragonfly Fabrics' -£19.80 per metre
I love random polka dots!

From 'Dragonfly Fabrics' -£19.80 per metre
Gorgeous, but again, maybe impractical.

From 'Fabric Inspirations' -£11.00 per metre
adore this one.  A definite maybe.
(As impractical as the previous one probably, but I've fallen for it, so practicality doesn't enter the equation any more!) 

From 'Fabric Inspirations' -£13.00 per metre

Not my usual style, but I like this and can imagine something funky in it.

These Liberty Kingly Cords are all very tempting...

Liberty Kingly Cord from '' - £13.50 per metre

Liberty Kingly Cord from '' - £13.50 per metre

Liberty Kingly Cord from '' - £13.50 per metre

I have only used one of these websites before (Favourite Fabrics on ebay, who have always given me great service)  but as none of my usual online suppliers have corduroy in stock, I may well use one of these instead.  If the service is anything like as good as I got from 'M is for Make' recently (see this post), I will let you know!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

More Busy Times...

Time has once again been running away with me and each day seems to run out before I have time to write a blog post, or even to read a few blogs and write comments, as I like to do.  

There has been a large measure of unexpected shed-creation going on, some knitting, purling and moss-stitching, a good bit of Sunday lunch cooking, a bit of French teaching, some major tidying and a little bit of fiddling with teeny scraps of felt.

The unexpected shed creating began when I decided to delicately prune the rose (New Dawn), clematis, vine and honeysuckle which had been smothering our 'garden shelter' (a structure cobbled together some years ago from the roof of an old shed, ostensibly to provide tidy storage for garden tools, bikes and the like, but which had ended up as a SERIOUSLY untidy dumping ground for so much more).  

Once I'd begun, Mr U-t-B came over all creative and decided the time was right for him to get back to some DIY and replace the shelter-thingy with something that would actually serve its purpose.  The pruning revealed an unexpected bounty of grapes from the vine that we thought was purely decorative...

They were far too sour to eat, but we did consider a spot of wine-making for a short while, before agreeing that this might be a distraction from the shed-rebuild!

With all the greenery removed, the shelter was revealed, and what a sorry state it was in!

I can assure you, you do NOT want to see inside!
It was soon emptied and razed to the ground.
We then got on with building the replacement.

At one side it has a proper shed bit with a door and on the opposite side it is open, to keep the bikes and garden furniture dry and protected when not in use.  It is about half done now, but with Mr U-t-B away for the week, we'll see no more progress till Sunday at least. I may have developed some woodworking skills whilst he was laid up (see this post), but I'm not up to finishing this! 

You may have spotted a couple of openings suitable for pretty windows...

In the evenings, once it was too dark to make further progress outside, I was working on this...

The 'Sunday Brunch Jacket' from the 'Sublime' book I got a couple of months back.

As I couldn't get the Sublime yarn required, I used some Debbbie Bliss Cashmerino Dk instead.  It was lovely to knit with, and the resulting jacket is sooo soft and cuddly.

I ended up making it a size smaller than I'd originally intended, so had enough left over to make the 'Retro Bonnet' too.

I added a tiny bit of colour to the centre of the flower with a few French knots...

I was able to get it all finished ready for the Sophia who came for lunch (not that she ate anything I'd prepared!) on Sunday, with her Mummy, Daddy and her Babcia (Polish grandma).  

Yesterday I was finally back in school, trying to teach all the Year 3 and 4 children their first French lesson for the year, but constantly hampered by entire classes disappearing for their school photo!  We had fun all the same and I now have another 100 or so children who are happy to believe that this bear...

...writes them postcards from France, comes to their lessons to help them learn French and hibernates at the drop of a hat (ie. whenever I forget to bring him with me!)

Today I was meant to be on a French course, but as it was cancelled I found myself with an unexpectedly free day. Something crafty that wouldn't involve splinters or circular saws was high on my priority list, so after tidying the dreaded 'airing cupboard corner', the felt was closest to hand, so that's what I decided to use.  Here are the results...

Brooches, or noticeboard magnets?  I haven't yet decided.  

What do you think they'd be best as?

Friday, 23 September 2011

A Shift in the Seasons

Only a week or so ago I was busy making these...

...and somehow it still felt summery. Thoughts of the seaside, with warm salty breezes, seaweed and calling gulls weren't too far away.

But now my thoughts have turned. 

I am thinking of warm blackberry and apple crumble with lashings of custard, deep piles of leaves in every imaginable red or golden hue, ripening fruit, cosy socks and dew-spangled cobwebs.  I'm  contemplating evenings in front of the woodburner, stew and dumplings and my lovely green winter coat.

I've also been thinking of toadstools and hedgehogs.

And I've been making these!

Stamp cases...

...and notebooks, large and small...

Today is the autumnal equinox.  I always thought that each new season began on the 21st of the relevant month, but have now discovered that it varies from season to season, and from year to year.  So today, 23rd September at precisely 09:04, autumn begins!

What will you be looking forward to this autumn?
Or if you are in the southern hemisphere, what will you be looking forward to this spring?

PS.  Thanks for all the lovely comments about my Japanese adventure!  It really was much easier than you might think, or I'd never have managed it!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Adventures in Japanese (Part Two - The Gallop to the Finish!)

I left my Japanese dressmaking project having made sense of the first page of instructions - the materials list, the cutting diagram and the instructions.  

My next step was to use my tracing wheel, the mad criss-cross of pattern pieces included with the book and some tracing paper to make copies of the pieces I required.  

I located the pattern pieces I needed quite easily as the model I was making was 'B' and so I just hunted for 'B's on the pattern paper.  I used a highlighter to help pick out what I thought were the right lines, referring back to the cutting diagram to check the pattern piece shapes for a bit more certainty. 

 I couldn't find one of the pattern pieces - the lower part of the sleeve, and then realised that as this was a simple rectangle, instructions for it were given next to the materials list. The rectangle I needed for the smallest size needed to be 15cm by 32cm.

I had a light-bulb moment when I realised that the seam allowances to be added to the pattern pieces were varied and were indicated on the cutting diagram...

So, on the top left pattern piece you would add 1cm to the top edge, 0.5cm to the armhole edge/curve, 1cm down the side and 2.5cm at the bottom.  The bias strip indicated would need to be cut 2cm wide and so on.

I then made merry with my little spiky wheel, added the required seam allowances and ended up with these...

Next, cutting out.  I had bought two complementary fabrics - one metre of one and half of the other, but had plenty to spare at the end.  I think I could have got away with just one metre, though I might have had to join bias strips in that case.

The fabric, in case you are interested, is by Denyse Schmidt's 'Hope Valley' collection.  I got mine (along with the Japanese pattern book)  from 'M is for Make' whose fantastic service I was delighted by.

With the pattern pieces cut out things went rather swimmingly, with one exception.
Having finished the edges of the top back pieces, including the loop for the button and laid them out, it was clear that something was amiss...

At 40cm across, this would only fit a toddler in training as an Olympic swimmer.  I re-consulted the pattern pieces and realised I had followed the wrong line - the correct one being some way inside what I had cut, so luckily easily put-right-able!

Re-done.  Phew!
That problem sorted, it was a relatively short hop, skip and jump in sewing terms to the completed blouse.

Bias bound neckline and vintage buttons...

I chose to use bias strip and gathering to finish the sleeve, rather than the elastic which was on the pattern...

Back button and loop closure...

I enjoyed the challenge of working this out!  

I think I'd have struggled if I had not done any dressmaking in the past, as some parts of the instructions I could not work out from the glossary provided and relied on previous experience.  I'm not sure that I did the back opening the way it was meant to be done, but as the finish is neat I'm quite happy with it.

But overall, I think anyone with a bit of experience of making clothes would be able to work from this book (and the many, many others like it) and with the wide range of fashionable garments available, and the reasonable price if you make sure to use several patterns from one book, I'd recommend it!


'Feminine Wardrobe Book


'Sweet Dress Book'


Liberty Children's Style Book
This one features Liberty fabrics and baby sizes!