Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Four Seasons Ta-Dah!

Back in the depths of winter... 

{No, by that I don't actually mean last week, even if I was back to woolly socks in the evening and occasional blasts of central heating then!}

...Mr U-t-B kindly presented me with a lovely French cross-stitch magazine following one of his trips.

I got started on one of the projects therein (you can read about the magazine here and see the project I made here) and then determined that what was really required was a set of four.

Finally, last night, I stitched the last cross with a flourish and sat back feeling rather pleased with the result.

So here is 'Winter'...



...and 'Autumn'...

They are all based on the original 'Winter' designed by the very talented designer behind '1 2 3 Citrouille'.  I decided to change the alphabet for two of them, which caused me a few problems over spacing that I can only see now that I'm looking at the photographs.  I have a 'Q' I'd like to shift and a 'D E F' too, so need to remember to do this before I frame them.  I have bought cheap frames from Wilkinsons because if I don't stretch them and frame them whilst I'm still feeling chuffed with having completed them, they will lie around for years in a drawer!

I am very happy with my sheep under the blossomy tree...

...and of course the bees, one of which was on the original 'Autumn', but mine have multiplied and got a choice of beehive homes...

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Musical Sunshine...

...and a bit of the REAL stuff, so sitting in the garden, stitching...


Saturday, 21 July 2012

Tenth Wedding Anniversary Gift Idea

It was our neighbours' wedding anniversary yesterday and I wanted to give them something that fitted in with the traditional idea of what should be given at each anniversary.  Looking it up, the tenth anniversary is meant to be celebrated with tin, which initially did not enthuse me one jot.

Did you know that if you reach your 90th (yes, 90th!) wedding anniversary, the gift is meant to be stone?  So you marry when barely out of nappies, learn to live with someone else and all their foibles for far in excess of three score years and ten, survive to past a century, and all you get for your anniversary is a blummin' stone?  I ask you!

Anyway, back to the problem in hand.  Although I have spent a good amount of time on Pinterest recently (research, research, my dears!) I had still failed to come up with a idea.  But then I pondered my love of pretty tins, and thought maybe I could do something with tins.  

Here's what I did.  

First I bought some lovely tins - a set of three nesting ones that weren't too big.  I was going to put stuff inside them, and I didn't want to have too much space to fill, and I wanted them clean, rather than vintage and rusty.  I chose this set from 'Katie Alice'.  It's called Scarlet Posy and I got mine from a local garden centre.

Once washed and thoroughly dried, I layered up some sweet inside the smallest one - Flying Saucers and Dolly Mixtures first...

...then Love Hearts on top.

The smallest tin was then nested inside the medium one, and the space filled with more sugary treats - lollipops and more saucers...

The process was repeated - Chocoalte Eclairs and Wine Gums this time...

...then it was all topped off with a pair of chocolate hearts, onto which I had, without the benefit of my glasses, put a message...

The final lid was put on...

And the sleeve slipped back on, so it just looks like a set of tins.

If I'd thought about the sweets before buying in a mad frenzy inside Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe, I'd have made sure my choices were all 'clever' ones.  So Flying Saucers because all marriages benefit from a bit of fizz; lollies because an extra bit of lolly never goes amiss; Jelly Babies for their two children; gobstoppers, for when someone needs encouragement to cease talking; oh, you get the idea. 

Hope they'll like it when they get back from gallivanting round Florence!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Fabric-a-licious Friday

First of all, thanks for the boaty-love from my last post, and good luck to anyone who is now searching for a boat-in-need-of-a-makeover!  I'm hoping that Joanna has by now come up for air from her Google search for Italian hunks...

So it is Friday and once more, my thoughts have turned to fabric.  Today's selections come from Fabric Rehab and M is for Make - I have put links to the fabrics with each caption, so you can easily hop over to find more details.

To continue the nautical mood from my last post, I found this lovely cheater patchwork fabric.  It would be great for a quick quilt if you don't have the time or desire to piece but are happy to quilt.

Nautical Squares

Vintage style fabrics are what I tend to go for, and I love these.  The tickets one would be fab for passport covers and other travel related items, and the posies - well, I just want it in every colour!

Vintage Tickets

Old New 30's - Vintage Posies

I am still finding lots of gorgeous fabrics with kiddie and adult appeal in equal measure.  This first one just reminds me of the summer holiday days when me and my bicycle were pretty much inseparable, and of how much I always wanted a scooter!

Dress Up Days - Blue Bikes

This whimsical print - oh, it's just cute!

Celestial Navigation

And two of the bears here really tickled me - the one lying so cleverly balanced on the branch with a pot of honey and the one hiding, not so very successfully, behind the trunk!

Woodland Bears

But what I know I will be saving up for (out in August) is this collection...

Liberty - Bloomsbury Gardens

But with 11 different prints, each of which comes in five different colourways, how will I ever choose?

Hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Hunk-free zone

After yesterday's fiasco (the case of the disappearing post) I am going to stay safe today and risk disappointing you by steering away from posting pictures of hunky Italians. (Special apologies to Joanna, who I know will be most disappointed of all!)

Anyway, all that tearing out and filing of projects got me inspired, and so today I am going to share with you what I managed to finish today.  It came from the 'Nautical' section of my folder and was pulled only recently from a copy of 'Country Living'.  Here it is...

I have a little boat in the downstairs bathroom that I bought a good number of years ago at Kempton Park Antiques Market.

It had a rather shabby and stained sail, and lots of its rigging was broken, but I liked it all the same.
I don't think it has any real age to it, its name 'Lloret de Mar' hinting perhaps at it having arrived from the Costa Brava in the era of package holidays!  

I rifled through my fabrics and selected these two.  The one on the left (appropriately a piece of voile) came from Rag Rescue  and the one on the right from Sal's Snippets.  They are both so pretty that I couldn't chose between them, but as I needed two sail shapes I didn't chose - my boat could have both.

I pinned my sail onto a right-sides-together sandwich of the two fabrics and stitched round with it in situ (leaving a turning gap), then trimmed and turned it.

 Having learnt about using the twin needle on any machine, I decided to top-stitch my sail in two different shades - white and pale blue. 

I took a raggedy scrap of the voile that otherwise would have ended up in the bin and painted it with PVA to make it possible to cut up really small.   You'll never guess what this will be...

I twisted some old darning thread into thicker lengths to created my rigging (it would have been good to have some thin twine for this, but I was unable to get out to the shops as I was Sophia sitting...

Here she is, clutching a worrying DVD - 'Wild Child'!
She wasn't watching it, just gnawing on the box!

...and I was impatient to finish.

And once our little sweetie had nodded off for a nap, finish it I did...

My boat is off for a regatta - hence the addition of bunting.

I re-named my boat to remind me of a favourite song.  Can you see it?

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Torn-out Tuesday Goes Missing

Oh my!  
What an idiot!

I just deleted the whole post I'd written and published (about organising all the potential craft projects I have ripped out of magazines into a plastic pocketed lever arch file) , all because I was trying to add an Italian hunk for Joanna, who pointed out the omission!

Here one is anyway...

Antonio Sabato Jr

Clearly I am losing control of my faculties - can't for the life of me imagine why...

Anyway, it wasn't much of a post, except that I had put in some personal thank yous for recent comments, especially to Rosemary, for identifying the beetle as a Sexton Beetle (they definitely are those - so the concern now is 'Where have the beetles buried the dead birdy, or (gulp!) rodent?')

  I also updated on the tea stain, which is receding, so the little Italian steam machine is going to be found cupboard space.  I may have to re-name the machine Riccardo, and perhaps from now on my blog will just be dedicated to showing pictures of Italian chaps I find lying around on the internet?

Monday, 16 July 2012

My invention, brought to life

This is not my invention.  Read on.

This morning as I contemplated the stain on the carpet, from a cup of tea I knocked over last Thursday because my back was sore and I couldn't be bothered to turn around and put it on a table...

Spilt tea had been quickly sponged up, then bicarbonate of soda and water applied, as I didn't have any  carpet shampoo.  It wasn't too bad, but something more was needed.

..I came up with a BRILLIANT idea.  What would be just fabulous would be a small, hand-held steam cleaner, like the one my Mum has that is vacuum-cleaner sized, but in miniature?  

Maybe this is the idea that will make me millions, I thought.
The 'Dragon's Den' was beckoning. I had my 'pitch' half-written...

But I would have to put off the actual designing of my most marvellous invention until I came back from going over to the central sorting depot of the charity for which I volunteer.  When I did my stint last week, I said to one of the more experienced hands that I felt it would be useful to see what goes on there, (ie. how they prepare the donations to go out to the shops) to check my sorting standards were up to par.  She very kindly contacted the depot and arranged for me to go over today.

Upon arrival, I was introduced to everybody, then began helping one lovely lady with the sorting.  The very first bag she picked up disappointed her.  

'What a shame - we can't sell electricals!' And she showed me this...

brought to life, spookily quickly!

So I told chief-sorter about the stain on my carpet and how I'd 'invented' the hand-held steamer earlier that morning, at which point she clearly thought 'This woman is mad - better humour her before she takes me hostage, brandishing the steam-cleaner like a weapon!'

She insisted I put it with my handbag, ready to take home and wouldn't let me pay for it as she said it might not work. 

So late this afternoon (after a fun and enlightening day at the sorting depot - I am going to help out there again next week!) I took it out of the box, filled it up, steeled myself for possible electrocution and plugged it in.

In spite of the potential danger, it seemed quite glamorous (in a retro sort of way) what with its Italian name that brought to mind Vespas, Lambrettas and Venetian waterbuses.    I was almost compelled to dress for the occasion - you know, capri pants and a little neckerchief perhaps, like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, but in the end, I just armed myself and got on with the job.

In action, it actually was a bit like a Venetian waterbus (not that I have ever been on one, mind), as there was a lot of 'Pffft! Pffft!' ing and quite a lot of spurting of water.  Eventually it got into its stride and I was able to improve the look of the stained area.  It is still a bit damp, so there's no point doing an 'after' shot just yet, but believe you me, if it has worked I will show you.  Then you can always invest in your own version of 'my' invention.  Maybe if you actually buy from a shop you get an Italian hunk thrown in too...

Riccardo Scamarcio - he's an Italian actor apparently .
Not being much of a movie go-er, and even less of a foreign language movie go-er, I had not come across him before somewhat unwisely typing in 'Italian hunk' into dear old Google, in a bid to find an attractive picture with which to enliven this post, which is basically about domestics.  Having found such a prime example of the Italian male, I am now going to put this photo at the beginning of this post too.  That way, it's going to look a darn sight more like a post to read from the thumbnail!

Okay, now an appeal.  Anyone out there know what type of beetle this is...

...and able to suggest how we get the little blighters (about seven or eight in the last three days, mostly near the sink) to stay out of our kitchen? They are giving Miss U-t-B and I the heeby-geebies!

Yippee!  'University Challenge' is back tonight.  I can watch and pretend to be intellectual by answering a question or two!

Thank you for reading my ramblings and thanks for all the lovely comments.   I really do appreciate them!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Tiered Skirts and Twin Needles

At the risk of boring some of you out there, I am going to post a little 'how-to' because I seem to have strayed so far away from blogging about sewing these days.  I think when I originally started blogging, I thought I would put up stuff I thought would be useful from time to time, and I never seem to do that nowadays.  But as I made a little discovery when making these, I thought I'd share it, in case it's helpful to anyone out there.

Anyway, if you're not into sewing in general and tiered skirts in particular, you can switch over now...

To make a tiered skirt for a little one, simply choose your fabrics and play around with combinations...

I used new fabric this time, but these skirts could easily be made from old clothes of your own, or charity shop finds.  All you need is some long strips that are pretty much on the grain.

The ideal thing would be to have the child for whom you are creating this masterpiece close by, as you need to know the waist measurement and length you are aiming for.  As I didn't have this luxury, I hunted online and on the backs of some patterns to get a rough idea.  The waist was going to be elasticated anyway, so I reckoned this would be forgiving, and length didn't need centimetre accuracy either!

Once I had the waist measurement (41cm for example) the advice I'd read suggested I needed to multiply this by 1.5,  2 and 2.7 to get the lengths for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd tiers.  So the lengths I needed for a 41cm waist were 61cm, 82cm and 110cm.  I found these a little less flouncy than I'd have liked, so next time I would make each a bit longer - maybe using multiples 1.7, 2.3 and 3?

To get the width for each strip, I needed to decide on length of the finished skirt.  I decided on approximately 24cm and divided by 3 (the number of tiers) to get 8cm finished width for each band, but then needed to add seam allowances.  I added 3cm to tiers two and three (because I use a 1.5cm seam allowance on most things), but 6cm to the top (waist) tier, as this needed a wide channel for the elastic.

So for the small one year old, I cut:

 61cm x 14cm in the fabric for the first tier
82cm x 11cm for the second tier
110cm x 11cm for the third tier

I used my rotary cutter and cut strips from selvedge to selvedge.  Therefore, all it used was 36cm of fabric - pretty economical.

Of course, in larger sizes, you wouldn't get a whole strip from a width, so you would be better to cut length ways.

I prepared the elastic channel and the hem first, whilst the strips were still flat and ungathered.  Normally you'd make each band into a ring and then sew these together, followed by the elastic channel and hem, but the 'flat' method is a nice easy way to make something quickly, especially if you are less experienced with a machine.

First the elastic channel, which needed to accommodate the 20mm elastic.  First I pressed a 1cm turn along the top edge of the tier...

...then a further turn of 2.5 cm.  It's worth being accurate with the allowances, as it will help ensure a neat outcome.

I then stitched the fold down, approximately 2mm from the fold, creating a neat channel for the elastic.

Don't put the elastic in yet - this pic is just so you can see what the channel will look like!

Next, the hem.

This was where I got to use the discovery I made.  Years ago, in the days when I used to sew in the garden, in a bikini, with the radio at my side (and what is more, the sun shone!)...

 ...I had a sewing machine with a special twin needle setting.  I loved using the twin needle for neat top-stitching, and when the machine died, I was very sad that my new machine had no such setting, or needle... I thought my twin-needling days were over!  But then I read that you don't need a special setting to do this.  You just buy yourself a twin needle and insert it into your machine as usual, wind a bobbin of thread to place on the pin alongside or next to your other spool of top thread, and thread the two as one.

I have to admit, that I did have a breakage - maybe I need to adjust the tension a bit. 

But I just pulled the broken threads to the back, tied them off and re-started.  With a bit of care, you couldn't see the join.

I used my twin needle on the hem, having done a double turn-up (0.5cm followed by 1.5cm).  I forgot to take a close up shot to show how nice it looked!

Next I needed to gather the top edges of strip two and three before joining them to strip one and two respectively.

Gather with a double row of long stitches just inside the seam allowance.  I always want to take a short cut and do only one row, but it does work so much better if you do two.  When you pull up the threads, the gathers are more stable and when stitching the seam, the fabric will lie flatter making it less likely that you will catch up the wrong bits.  You know it makes sense!

I always put in the gathering thread right side up.  This way, once you have the wrong side facing you to join it to the next strip, you will automatically pull on the bobbin thread, which is better than pulling on the top thread.

Once the gathering threads are in place, fold the two strips you are going to join in half, and mark with a pin. This will ensure that you get your gathers more or less evenly spread.  You could mark the quarter points too, if you want to be really careful!

Matching the halfway marks, pin the 1st strip to the second strip, right sides together.  I pin the ends and then pull up the ends.  Only ever pull on the bobbin thread.  If you pull the bobbin thread and then the top thread, you tend to 'lock' the stitches and it makes the job a real struggle.  Well, that's what happens with my machine anyway!

Adjust the gathers evenly.   

 I pin across the seam because I am a lazy girl and rarely bother with tacking.  I simply sew along my seam, stitching (s-l-o-w-l-y) over the pins if I'm in a devil-may-care mood, or removing them just before I reach them if I feel like bad luck is coming my way. (If you go too fast you may well break a needle.  At that point it is good to be wearing glasses.  You have been warned!)  This is another place to be accurate.  If you don't keep an even seam allowance, your strips and hems may not match when you finally join at the back. 

Trim the seam, then zigzag to neaten. 

I rather like to remove the gathering stitches at this point.  Simply pull that bobbin thread  right out, then fish around for the other thread.  

Repeat the gathering  and joining with tier three to tier two.

Then you need to insert your elastic. I cut a piece the length of the waist plus about 2cm to allow for the seam.  In most tutorials it says you should make the elastic about 10% shorter than the waist measurement, but my longer piece seemed okay.  I would hate the skirt to be uncomfortable on a little tum!

I used a safety pin to help ease it through.  It can help to round off the corners of the end you are feeding into the channel too.

Don't let the end of the elastic disappear into the channel...

Stitch it firmly in place, close to the end.  

You can leave the other end free to allow for final size adjustments, though it's a wise idea to leave the safety pin in place to make sure it doesn't pull back into the channel.

You will now have a long flouncy strip that simply needs a seam up the back.

Ideally you try this on the little person, to see that the elastic is not too long.   Pull the elastic up if necessary, then stitch in place close to the end.
Finally, with right sides together pin the strip into a circle and stitch up that back seam.  As long as you have been accurate with your seam allowances and turnings, it will all match up. 


If you're lucky, you will have put a little strip of leftover fabric in your pocket when you went out shopping and found a nice, matching t-shirt in the sale!