Wednesday 30 April 2014

Make Something Every Month - April - Making a Blouse/Top

This month's Make Something Every Month offering is another dressmaking project that I started a week or so ago and one that I've never attempted before.  I decided to make a simple blouse/top, using this pattern that I got free with Prima magazine. 

I had a good look through my fabric stash and decided to use this pretty spotted lightweight cotton lawn type fabric.  Again it was purchased from a charity shop for a pound or two.  I seem to have acquired quite a lot of fabric this way over the years.

I've previously made a snood with this fabric and I wear it from time to time.  It is very soft and light, great for the summer, but does have a tendency to fray at the edges.  I cut out the pattern pieces, there were just two of them and then proceeded to cut them out of the fabric.  I made the blouse a little longer than in the pattern and the same length at the front and back, as I preferred it this way.

The first thing I had to do was to sew the shoulder seams together and then attach bias binding to the neck.  I've not really used bias binding very much in the past.  I bought this binding from John Lewis on a recent shopping trip with Little Bird.  It cost £1.90.  It was quite thin which I liked, especially with the delicacy of the fabric.  I pinned it around the neck and then tacked it into place before machine sewing it.  It was a bit tricky as in some places the fabric came away from the binding and I had to slot it back into place, but eventually I managed to secure it in place all the way around and I'm quite pleased with the result.  It's not perfect, but I think it's okay for a first attempt.

Next, I had to sew the sleeve hems which I did by machine and then the side seams from the sleeve end to the bottom of the blouse needed machining too.  The hem of the blouse I stitched by hand as I do with my skirts, so that you can't see the stitches.  I also pinked the inside raw edges of the fabric as my over locker isn't working and they needed to be neatened to prevent fraying.  Here's the finished result. 

It's not the most exciting item I've made, as it is a very simple garment and I will need to wear a vest under it, as it is pretty transparent.  It will also probably look a little less sack-like if I wear a belt with it or tuck it into a skirt, as demonstrated in the photo on the pattern.  It  was good to make something different for a change  though and it will be nice and lightweight for any warm weather we might get this summer.

As it is so simple, I'm thinking of using this pattern again, but with a few amendments, to make a night dress out of some floral jersey fabric that I have lurking in my stash.  I'll have to lengthen it and I think I will also change the neckline, as it is too wide for my liking.  I'll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

The Great Household Cleaning and Product Challenge - Month 8 - The End

I didn't quite it to the end of the month in this challenge as there was just £8.78 in the kitty for the month and I spent all of this money, plus a bit more, so the challenge has finally ended.   Frankly, it's quite a relief to finish it, albeit 4 months early.

Expenditure this month was on:

Toilet Rolls x 36 - £5.85 - I was back to using Lidl Simply... and ASDA Smart Price, which work out a touch more expensive.  I was hoping to scrape through the month by buying a basic four pack towards the end, but they were out of stock so I had to go for the larger pack of 12.  I was, however, shocked to see how the price in ASDA for the basic 4 pack had jumped from 67p last time I bought them, to 99p now.  Dear, dear.  Just as well the challenge is over.

Wash Liquid - £2.39 - I tried the Lidl own brand Formil wash liquid this month and found it very efficient and good value for money, so I may buy this again in the future.

Toilet Cleaning Wipes - £1.25 - This was my only indulgence in terms of non-essentials and was bought for convenience, which I know is a poor excuse, but sometimes it is handy just to have something that you can quickly clean the toilet with before visitors descend.

Total Spent - £9.49

Final total expenditure for the challenge stands at £125.71/£125 in just 8 months out of the 12.

I have completely run out of quite a few things now i.e. kitchen foil, kitchen roll, brillo pads. and was virtually out of many others i.e. hand wash, washing up liquid, disinfectant, toilet cleaner, but made do as long as I possibly could.

I will need to do a bit of a restock now the challenge is over, but will only be buying things I am completely out of.  No more over stocking for me from now on.  All part of curing myself of my hoarding tendencies, in the hope it will continue to filter through to other areas of my life.  My new mantra being - Buy Only What You Need - and what you will use in the immediate future.  At least the challenge, although not completed successfully, has taught me something about my spending patterns and behaviour, that I can now work to improve on, so it has been a worthwhile endeavour in some senses.

Monday 28 April 2014

£100 Per Year Beauty Challenge - Month 10

Still continuing with this challenge to spend just £100 in a year on beauty products, I now have just two months left to go.  I had a good month this month, with relatively little expenditure, just essentials.  The stash is gradually diminishing, which I'm loving. 

I was just over the target expenditure last month and this month I am almost within target as I underspent on the average of £8.30 per month by only spending £7.02, bringing my total for the year so far to £83.56/£100.  So, I have £8.22 to spend for each of the remaining two months.

I managed to come under budget by continuing to use up travel sized and hotel freebie shampoos and I am now in the process of using up the conditioners, shower gels and soaps too, just to get rid of them and generally have less stuff cluttering up the house.  I must admit that some of the shampoos haven't been the best, so my hair has probably been a bit of a mess this month, but at least they haven't been wasted and have been put to good use.  I made sure I used a decent conditioner, even if travel sized, which has helped.

Expenditure this month has been on the following:

Hairspray - £1
Toothpaste x 5 - £3.39 - I stocked up on a recent Approved Food order, so this should see me through the rest of this challenge.
Distilled Witch Hazel - £1.93  - My regular toner needed restocking this month.
Deodorant - 70p - I ran out of this whilst away over the Easter weekend so had to buy some more despite having some in my stash in London.

Total = £7.02.

I'm going to try to have one last push to underspend next month, so that I can treat myself in the final month of this challenge. The better I do, the bigger the budget for the treat.  Fingers crossed.

Sunday 27 April 2014

Project 52 - Week 16 and 17 - Painting up a few Plant Pots and Making a Succulent/Cacti Garden

After my absence from posting on this challenge over the Easter weekend, and fresh from watching  Monty Don on Friday night's Gardener's World, I was inspired to make my succulent and cacti garden this weekend.  I've been meaning to make one for a while now and the plants have been gradually gathering on the kitchen window sill.  It was time I created a new home for them and de-cluttered the kitchen a little more.  Here's a picture of the ones I'd collected over the last few months, specifically for this project.

Most were inexpensive finds at car boot sales or school/Christmas fairs, etc.  A few were bought from Ikea or the garden centre or had been given to me as gifts at some point.  I wasn't entirely sure what soil to use for the succulent garden, so Monty Don's demonstration of making up a succulent planter in Friday night's programme was a timely godsend.

Spurred on with the information I needed, on Saturday morning I ventured out to the garden centre.  I needed some compost to continue with my seed sowing endeavours, the earlier results of which haven't been too successful due to the abundance of snails in our garden, which have now finished off my lovely rows of carrots seedlings and my tomato seedlings.  I was not best pleased and now find myself needing to start from scratch again.

I also needed some grit and a container to plant up my succulents and cacti, preferably stone or terracotta as they are porous.  I didn't think I had anything suitable to hand, so although I don't like to buy new, on this occasion I decided to take a look and see what the garden centre had to offer.  There wasn't anything suitable, so it was at this point that I regretted not buying a butlers sink I had seen at the car boot sale last week, which although I didn't ask the price of, I'm sure would have been more economical than anything I was likely to find around where I live. 

After lunch, I was thinking of taking a stroll up the road, where there are a few vintage shops that might just have something that would fit the bill.  I was prepared to allow myself a spending limit of £30, as that was all the cash I had in my purse.  I know this may sound a lot, but I wasn't sure I'd find anything for this amount hereabouts. 

Before heading out, I decided to just have a quick look in the garden and see if I did in fact have anything suitable and I was glad I did as I found three terracotta pots, a couple of which were quite shallow and one which was slightly deeper.  Three was a good number to make an arrangement, so I decided to go with these and save myself some money.  I can always move them again into a single container if I find one at some point in the future.

It actually worked out quite well as I was able to put all the cacti in one pot, and then the succulents in the other two.  I included a pretty thrift plant I'd bought at the car boot sale last week for a bit of floral interest.

I mixed the compost and grit 50/50 and planted the plants into it, watering them in and then covering the surface with more grit to give a finished look.  I was pretty pleased with the results and as it had cost me less than £10 in compost and grit, I was happy.


To make up for not posting last week, I also completed another task from my list this weekend.  I had a couple of terracotta pots left over from some of the herbs I bought for the herb planter.  Here they are.  Not very inspiring and a bit pasty looking.

They are the type without holes in them so are best as decorative plant pots that you put a plastic pot into.  I wanted to paint or decorate them to make them a bit more interesting.

I decided to try out my version of an idea I had seen on Pinterest.  It involved the use of blackboard paint to create a name plate on the pot.  Firstly, I painted the inside and outside of the pots with pale grey emulsion paint, left over from painting the sewing room.  When this was dry, I used a bird stencil I have made fabric appliques from and drew around it onto the pot, before carefully painting it in with blackboard paint I bought from the DIY store.  It was quite expensive as they only had the larger tins in stock - £11 to be precise, but I didn't mind as I had saved myself some money on using existing pots for the succulents and cacti and I can always use this paint again for various other projects. 

As the pots were going to be used for housing a couple of Aloe Vera plants indoors, I didn't waterproof the outside of them as I liked the chalky matt finish, but I did PVA the inside which is more likely to come into contact with water, to prevent it seeping into the clay and causing the paint to peel off.

Here's the finished result. 

Not particularly expertly painted, but I like them and I can re-use them for lots of different plants in the future by just wiping clean and rewriting the plant name.  I now need to check out blackboard paint projects on Pinterest to get some more inspiration.

So, two tasks completed  and I've managed to catch up once again and am back on track with this challenge.  Joining in with Dreamer of Living a Slow and Simple Life in completing a task a week over the course of the year.

Saturday 26 April 2014

A Walk to the Allotment (2)

Friday, I took the dog for a long walk to the allotment again.  I hadn't visited for a few weeks and needed to do a reconaissance mission to see how much work needed to be done there.

This is what it looked like on my last visit after OH had helped me plant the potato tubers.

Tidy, but a bit bare.  It was lovely to see such a difference in the plot.  Here's what it looks like now.

The strawberry and rhubarb patch has burst into life with lots of flowers on the strawberry plants which will hopefully mean lots of lovely fruits.
There's lots of rocket, radishes and rainbow chard ready to pick.

And some lovely red lettuce growing which is almost ready for transplanting.
As you can see there's a fair bit of weeding to do where the forget-me-nots have run riot a bit.
They're not the only ones.  The mint has taken on a life of it's own,
as have the artichokes.
The potatoes are making progress.
Unlike the broad beans unfortunately.  There was no sign of them.  You can't win them all I guess.

Friday 25 April 2014

N is for ..........NO

This week the Alphabet Blogging letter is N, and as we all know N is for NO.  A word, the use of which, I have yet to master.  I'm working on it though, especially with regard to the following.

NO more waste
NO more overdraft
NO more overspending
NO more procrastinating.

Just a few of the goals I am aiming for for the remainder of the year.

Joining in with Mum at Mum's Simply Living blog in her Alphabet Backwards Blogging challenge.

Thursday 24 April 2014

A Little Treat

Today, I went on a little shopping expedition and paid a visit to one of my favourite stores, TK MAXX.  Whilst there I had a little splurge on a few presents I needed to get, a new pair of trainers for Little Bird and a new pair of shoes for me.  Here they are.

I didn't go out intending to buy any shoes, but when I saw these I just fell in love and couldn't resist them, especially the price.  At only £12.99 they seemed a real steal.  They're by Keds and are a kind of lightweight wedged trainer, great for the spring and summer.  They are grey, black and white with a spotted wedge heel, which I thought was really quirky.  The best thing about them is that they are so comfortable, which for heels is a complete surprise to me as I struggle to wear them.  I'm wearing them around the house tonight, to get my feet used to them.

I did buy one other thing for me today.  This lovely small frying pan for making pancakes and omlettes. 

I've been using our old small frying pan for cooking up food for the dog, and our regular frying pan is far too heavy, being copper bottomed, to toss the pancakes as I found out to my cost this year.  At only £5.99, I didn't mind indulging in this instance.  I like the deep purple colour of it too.

Sometimes it does feel good to give myself a little treat from time to time.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

A Quilting Update

After a very quiet period on the quilting front, the last few weeks have seen me find my way back to it again.  Initially, it was the Christmas lap quilt that drew me back in.  It sits in a basket beside the chair that I sit in to watch TV, so I have been picking it up and doing a bit here and there recently.  I hadn't touched it for at least a month, maybe two, since we finished watching Breaking Bad.  It's coming along nicely once again though.  It is hand stitched using paper pieces and small scraps of Christmas fabric, of which I had a carrier bag full, so it is especially satisfying using these up to make something practical and useful.  Here's a few pictures of it's progress. 


It's a bit random, with regards to the piecing together and possibly a bit old fashioned, but I don't mind that and besides, it's only for my own personal use.  There's still quite a lot more diamonds to make and attach before the front is completed, but I'm getting there slowly.  It's a good job that there's plenty of time left before next Christmas. 

The second quilting project I am working on is a double eiderdown/quilt for our bed.  I managed to piece it together very quickly and easily, but the actual quilting of it has been a completely different matter.  Due to my using an old quilt instead of wadding, it is very thick and I am unable to quilt it using my machine, so I am having to quilt it by hand along the seams where the different fabrics have been machine sown together. It can take a good few hours to complete each seam, believe it or not.  I've almost completed a couple of seams, but there are still another 18 to go.  Yes, I actually counted them last night, to work out how long it might take me to complete it.  I figured that if I manage to hand quilt at least one seam per week, I just about should get it finished by next autumn/winter.  Fortunately, we don't need it before then, now the weather is warming up.

Here's a couple of pictures of my painfully slow progress.


Both of these projects are on my Project 52 list.  They are on-going long term tasks that need completing.  I'm looking forward to posting final reveals when they are eventually completed.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

A Month Off

This April, I've taken a month off from menu planning.  It's been wonderful.  Although I do enjoy knowing what I'm making each day, sometimes it can get a little repetitive and uninspiring.  I didn't intend to take a month off, but I just couldn't face planning the menu in advance and took a slightly more ad hoc approach for a change.

Having been away for a few days, I've come back feeling a lot more inspired and looking forward to getting back to cooking our meals.  I still haven't planned a menu as such, but I have done the food shopping this morning and bought sufficient options to last us the rest of the week and possibly until the end of the month, save for topping up on a few items next week.

I shopped in a few different places to my normal shop too, which made it a lot more fun, checking out what was available in a different store.  I had a £5 off a £40 shop at Tesco voucher, plus a voucher to get £1.23 off my next shop after we bought some more Easter eggs from one of their stores whilst away at the weekend, plus another £1 clubcard voucher off some meat purchases - so I did pretty well on the shop and spent less than £50 in all despite buying quite a lot of meat for ourselves and the dog, a couple of items for the food bank, heaps of fresh fruit, salad and veg from a market stall and even a few slightly more expensive treats from M&S.  It made a pleasant change.

I'm going to enjoy the remainder of my month off before starting to think about a menu plan for May.  I'm hoping to include a few new dishes next month, that I haven't tried before, so a bit of recipe book reading is now the order of the day.

Monday 21 April 2014

Easter Weekend

Thank you very much to those of you who sent your Easter wishes.  I hope you all had a lovely weekend.  We had a really enjoyable weekend up in Yorkshire visiting family and friends, and have tonight returned to London to get on with the business of our daily lives.  As all you bloggers and readers out there will appreciate, we all need a little break from blogging and blog reading from time to time and as there wasn't always a good WiFi connection,  I decided to take a complete break, save for the odd pre-written post that I could publish using my phone connection.  Sincere apologies to Dreamer for not posting on the 52 Projects challenge.  I promise I'll catch up another week.

Our weekend consisted of lazy days in the country, family fun and games, a visit to an Edwardian fair, Easter egg hunts, a car boot sale visit, jokes played, meals eaten together, friends and family catch ups, peppered with lots of dog walks, before we said our goodbyes and headed back to London.

A long and busy weekend, but we all now feel refreshed and ready to plunge ourselves into daily London life once more.

Saturday 19 April 2014

O is for ..........Organising

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm a sucker for being organised.  I like everything to have a place and preferably be in it.  It just makes life so much easier, saves time and means that things are so much easier to find when you need them.  Most of our house is pretty organised.  Occasionally, the odd surface, drawer or cupboard gets messy and needs a clear out, but I try to do this on quite a regular basis, so that clutter doesn't build up and get too overwhelming.

Last week for example, I managed to (re-)organise some drawers in the sewing room and made a bit of room in one, into which I could transfer some fabrics that were being stored in a pine blanket box in the living room.  This was great as it meant that I could free up some space in the blanket box for another purpose. 

I've decided that this is where I am going to keep most of my homemade quilts during the summer months, when they are not needed.  I'm not quite in a position to put them in there yet, as I am still in the process of making two of them and then I need to paint the box once it is empty, which is one of the jobs on my 52 Projects list. It feels great though, to know that I will eventually have a home for the quilts which are quite bulky.  In the winter, when they are in use, I can also use this box to hide away summer clothes, which makes it even more flexible storage.  This in turn will make the bedroom look a lot less cluttered which will be an added bonus.  Baby steps, but I'm getting there slowly.

Last weekend, I decided to (re-)organise the contents of  a chest of drawers in the dining room.  One drawer had various bits and pieces in it, another various bits of old paperwork and the third various children's craft items, mainly from when Little Bird was a lot younger.   I decided to start on this drawer and see if there was anything we could now part with that was no longer relevant or useful.  Some of the craft items were donated to the charity shop as they were no longer used, a few were relocated to my sewing room and many were well past their best and thrown away or recycled. 

In addition, a separate box of craft papers that were being stored under the chest of drawers, were sorted through and could now be fitted into the existing drawer, thus removing a once necessary overflow storage solution.  This felt very satisfying, as it does mean that I am gradually reducing the clutter in the house and finding an appropriate space for everything to dwell.  The storage box can also now be used for another purpose when I find one, possibly under bed storage of some kind.

As a consequence of organising the drawers afresh, I was also able to completely empty at least one drawer and I have subsequently used this to house some board games which were clogging up the book shelves above.  It felt good to put them in here and create a much less cluttered feel in this room, which is now much more restful on the eyes. 

The plastic storage box full of craft items used to sit under this chest.  Now emptied and removed I have decided to use it to house the wool that was also being stored in the blanket box, as I can then slip it under the bed in the sewing room.

It makes quite a good solution for the time being, as being transparent I can see what is in there instead of rummaging around in this bag that used to contain the wool and is now empty.  Hooray.

The blanket box is finally empty too now and ready for it's paint job, when I get around to completing it.  I think I might just paint the outside as the inside looks nice as it is.  It will save me time and effort too.  I may just line the bottom with wallpaper.

It may seem like I'm just moving things around, which of course I am, but I'm also finding places to store things that currently don't have a home and are or will be cluttering up the house when they are not being used in the summer.  There's still more organisation to be done around the house, as it is a constant and on-going process, but small victories over the clutter are nevertheless very encouraging.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Happy Easter


We're heading off later today to visit family for the Easter weekend, so I'll be taking a short break from blogging for this period. I have the odd pre-written post to publish and will try to publish these if I can whilst we're away.  I hope you all have a super Easter weekend.  Normal blogging will resume next week.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Enjoying on TV at the Moment

Although we're not excessive TV watchers, I'm pleased to note that there are some great shows on TV at the moment, so we are enjoying a bit of TV watching renaissance.  Here are some of the programmes we're really enjoying at the moment:

Mammon, More 4, Fridays 9pm - We are really savouring this great Norwegian thriller about a journalist, whose brother kills himself after being exposed in a financial scandal.  It has become regular Saturday night viewing via Catch up on the iPlayer.

The Big Allotment Challenge, BBC2, Tuesdays 8pm - Although I was sad that this year's GB Sewing Bee came to a close, I found myself relishing (please excuse the pun) this new series that has replaced it in this viewing slot on a Tuesday evening.

Monty Don's Real Crafts, More 4,  Mondays 9pm - I watched this programme for the first time this week and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was great to see the beautiful creations of the individuals involved in the challenges.  I will definitely be watching this series from now on.

Rule Britannia - Music, Morals and Mayhem in the 18th Century, BBC4 Mondays, 9pm and At Home with the Georgians,  BBC4 Tuesdays, 8pm  - Totally loving these programmes about the Georgian era.  Fascinating stuff.  I'm a bit of a sucker for anything about the Georgian period and believe there are a few programmes coming up this season on BBC 4.

Shetland, BBC1 Tuesdays, 9pm - Enjoying this crime series set in the Shetland Isles starring Douglas Henshall.

Monday 14 April 2014

Monday Minus the Usual Madness

Monday this week was a treat compared to my normal Mondays during term-time.  It started off in the same fashion, with me taking the dog for a walk before heading out to the gym to do a couple of classes.  I'm fortunate in that OH works from home, so Little Bird can stay home with him whilst I continue with my normal gym routine during school holidays and I'm very thankful for that.

That was where the similarity with my normal day ended, as I would usually do my weekly shop straight from the gym, but this week I didn't need to as we did it yesterday on account of there being no food in the fridge.  Lidl is just down from the gym, so after I'd done my usual Sunday morning class and OH had been to check out the London Marathon which passes just down from Lidl, we popped in and whizzed around.  I say that, but it was incredibly busy, especially now it has an in-store bakery.  OH didn't mind so much though, as he'd wanted to see Mo Farrah running past which he had, so he was happy.

Back to Monday and without the shopping to do I was able to go straight home from the gym.  I made lunch for myself and Little Bird and then caught up on blog reading and a bit of work.  I was going to do some ironing, but somehow managed to short the electrics whilst using the iron, so was spared the task until OH returned from walking the dog and could get the electricity back on again. 

Little Bird was out at the park all afternoon to celebrate a friend's birthday, so I had the afternoon free and decided to do a spot of hand and later (once the electricity was back on) machine sewing.  I completed a make for April, which I'll be blogging about very soon and then I decided to attempt a coaster from the Zakka Gifts book I bought last week.  I used the instructions for the pot holder, but made it smaller and tried their quilt-as-you-go approach, where you sew the backing fabric, wadding and top fabric pieces together all at once as you go along.  It makes it a very quick process.  Hand stitching the binding on was the most time consuming part and I haven't quite finished it yet (hence the pins), but you get the gist. 


I made this coaster for Little Bird's bedside table, to hold her glass of water.  It was done as an experiment really, just to try out the method and I probably should have used a thinner wadding, but I just grabbed the first off cut I could find.  I will probably use this method again for other small patchwork piece projects.

Usually on a Monday, I would be heading back to the gym at 4.30 pm to take Little Bird to her trampolining class.  I used to do a class myself at the same time too, but as her lesson has now been brought forward an hour, I don't do the later class anymore and do an extra one in the morning instead.  Today, though, there was no trampolining lesson.  I toyed with the idea of going to my old class, but I decided to give it a miss and enjoy not rushing around for a change.  Instead, I cooked us all up a lovely Shepherd's pie and enjoyed staying at home on a Monday night for once.  It made a pleasant change and a lovely treat. 

Tonight, I'm going to put my feet up and watch a programme I recorded with Richard E Grant about people who visit the brocantes and flea markets of France in search of French antiques and vintage wares.  Something I've always wanted to do, but never really have (probably a good thing as I'd have more stuff in the house!).  Following that, I'm hoping to watch Monty Don's new series about Real Crafts on More 4.     

How was your Monday?

Sunday 13 April 2014

Project 52 - Week 15 - Making (Over) a Shopping Holdall

The other week OH was in receipt of some carpet tile samples for a project he's been working on and they were delivered in this bag. 

It's a huge canvas bag, measuring approximately 20" square and is made of a strong canvas, so will safely hold quite a lot of weight.  As he didn't have a use for it, I claimed it, thinking how it would make a great shopping bag.

On my original list for Project 52 was a project to make a couple of new shopping holdalls and I did start to make one, but decided I didn't like the fabric I was using, so I swiftly despatched it to the charity shop.  Since then, I haven't felt particularly enthused by this project, so when I acquired this bag, I thought that perhaps a makeover of it could take the place of the original project for the purposes of this challenge.

As you can see from the photograph, the bag had the company's logo printed across it on both sides and I didn't really fancy being a walking advertisement, so I decided to cover the logo with a strip of fabric. 


This was applied on both sides of the bag using Bondaweb and I then stitched it in place using embroidery thread and a running stitch to secure it and add a bit of extra embellishment, although it's not easy to see. 

It gives it a slightly more individual look and I don't mind using it now.   In addition, this turned out to be another zero waste project.  My favourite kind.

Joining in with Dreamer at Living a Slow and Simple Life in trying to complete an outstanding task each week for a year.

Saturday 12 April 2014

Crafting Heaven

For Little Bird and I, no school holiday is complete without a visit to our local Hobbycraft store.  As we're both crafty types, we enjoy a good mooch around to see if we can pick up any bargains or some inspiration.

Our nearest Hobbycraft is quite near to our local IKEA store too, so we just had to pop in there for a lovely, but very inexpensive lunch out.  As I am now finally a Family member after three attempts at getting a membership card, I made the most of it and got my free beverages whilst there.  I had a wonderful  Chickpea Biryani for lunch at only £2.25 for a large bowl full and it was gorgeous.  I would definitely have it again if I saw it on the menu.  I've noticed on recent visits that they have become a little more adventurous with regard to the dishes they have on the menu and so far so good.

Whilst there I had to take an obligatory look in the fabric department and on the way I noticed a really interesting but inexpensive storage solution I'd not seen before, but unfortunately they didn't have it in a colour that suited the purpose I had in mind, so I will be keeping a close eye out to see if it appears in white at some point in the future and will blog about it if it does.  I managed to successfully get around the store without spending any money and then we popped over to Hobbycraft.  I'm afraid it wasn't quite the same story there, as I got tempted by a few items and bought myself a treat or two.  I bought a few clear craft stamps in some lovely designs, which were pretty inexpensive at 50p or £1 each.

I also bought this book by Cecilia Hanselmann called Zakka-Style gifts.

It is full of inspirational and practical items to make for the home or as gifts, using the smallest scraps of fabric in many cases.  This is really my sort of book.  I have so many sewing books and now rarely find one that to me is worth buying, but this one definitely was.  It cost £7.99 and I probably could have got it cheaper elsewhere, but I didn't care for once.

Little Bird's favourite project was this cute pencil case.  I may try to make her one in time for her starting Secondary school in September. 

Whilst I liked virtually every project in this book, a couple of my personal favourites were these very simple fabric book marks

and these bright and colourful pot holders. 

This will happily get added to my craft library in the sewing room and will hopefully provide inspiration for a long time to come.

Friday 11 April 2014

Alphabet Blogging - P is for Pom Pom Bunting

Following my visit to the Knitting and Stitching show in March, and my purchase of some new fangled pom pom makers which I'd seen Kirstie Allsop use on one of her crafting programmes on the TV, I was itching to use them for a project.  Here's a picture of them in case anyone hasn't seen them before.

I decided that a string of pom pom bunting for Little Bird's room might be nice to begin with, so I had a good look through my wool stash and found a few wools in different purple tones, to match her room's d├ęcor.  I couldn't believe how easy these pom pom makers were to use.  They really made light work of making the pom poms.  When I'd got a few made I strung them together using some of the wool and made sure I stitched back and forward through each pom pom to keep it in place and stop it slipping up and down the wool.  I was pretty pleased with the outcome. 

I hung it up using some washi tape so I'm not sure how long it will stay up.  I need to use the washi tape mountain for something!

Little Bird wasn't too fussed when I told her I was making it.  When she saw it up on the wall she liked it a lot more though.  The dog liked the pom poms too, the ones she managed to demolish i.e. rip apart that is.

I think it could have been improved by having yet more variation in the size of the pom poms used, but I'll have to wait until the next K&S show so I can treat myself to another pair of these great little gadgets in different sizes.  That's my excuse anyway.

Subsequently, I've been scouring Pinterest for some more pom pom inspiration and I think my next project is either going to be a pom pom rug, possibly for Little Bird's room again as I still have lots of purple wool left, which sounds very luxurious under foot or maybe a pom pom cushion or wreath.  I want to try to use up as much of the wool I have as possible, and this seems as good a way as any. 

Joining in with Mum at Mum's Simply Living blog in posting using the alphabet backwards.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Getting Back Into My Dressmaking Groove

At long last I finally seem to be getting back to doing some dressmaking and it is about time too.  I made a couple of skirts last spring/summer and then apart from a few snoods, I stopped making anything.  I'm hoping that the same behaviour pattern does not recur this year.

At the very end of last month I made a pencil skirt and then after watching the GB Sewing Bee semi- final last week, I popped up to the sewing room to get started on my next dressmaking project.  This one was another skirt, but an A-line one this time, using a striking print in waxed cotton. 

I loved the luxurious colours in the fabric, which I picked up at a charity shop for a couple of pounds.  I think it is an African waxed cotton, which you see quite a lot of in East London, as many colourful traditional outfits are made with it and worn by African women when they attend church on a Sunday.  I have long admired some of the designs I have seen in some of the fabric shops. 

There was just enough of this fabric to make this skirt, which I have made before in several different fabrics.  It's an old and trusted favourite.  As I wanted the print running in a certain direction, I didn't lay the pattern out along the grain line, so I'm not sure what the consequences of this might be once it has been washed.  Matching the print was a bit tricky.  I was able to match it at the back reasonably well, by cutting the back pieces separately, and the front was one full piece, but at the sides it was harder as I didn't have enough extra fabric to play around with when laying out the pattern.  Regardless of this, I was quite happy with the outcome.  I am wearing it today for the first time, with some matching purple pumps I bought from Primark for walking the dog.  Here's a picture of the finished result. 

For my next project I think I need to step out of my comfort zone a little and make something I've never attempted before.   Not sure quite what yet.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Easter Holiday Happenings

I'm really enjoying having Little Bird at home for the Easter Holidays.  Days have taken on a relaxed feel.  I'm managing to have a few lie ins with my current book 'One Hundred Secret Senses' by Amy Tan.  I am so enjoying this book and find the insights it gives you into another culture and it's belief systems completely fascinating.  I may even manage to finish it by the end of this week.

Anyway, I digress.  As I mentioned, I'm really enjoying being at home with Little Bird, pottering, catching up with jobs, just being with no set routine, other than the morning dog walk. 

Yesterday, we ventured out to our local mall, ostensibly to get Little Bird's hair trimmed.  When we got there our first stop was Waitrose - not a place where I shop very often, but as I just needed a couple of items for our supper that evening, I popped in to see if I could get them.  Whilst in there I decided to do the majority of our Easter Egg shopping to save my making a trip to another supermarket to do it at a later date.  The prices seemed comparable with other supermarkets and I needed to send some off to Australia for my sister and her family, so wanted to finish buying them as soon as possible.

When I got to the till I was asked if I wanted to join the Waitrose Loyalty Scheme.  I'd read good things about it, but had never bothered before, but when the lady on the till explained that I could get £3 off my Easter eggs, a free cup of tea to take to the hairdressers and drink while we waited, the Waitrose Food magazine and the day's Daily Telegraph (all free), I thought why not?  Let's face it I have all the other loyalty cards, what's one more?  One that gives me free refreshments to boot.  To be honest, they won't get much information on me except how rarely I visit.  I was, however, very impressed by the excellent service I received, so who knows I might start to visit a little more in future.

Aside from the essential groceries, the Easter eggs, the haircut, some bias binding for me for a project and a birthday present for a friend of Little Bird's, we didn't spend any money.  I was quite surprised at our restraint, especially Little Bird's, who had been given some money by her Auntie when she visited the other week, which she was determined to so save up rather than spend.  I was very impressed by this new resolve.

I'm not sure what the rest of the week will hold for us, but I am enjoying having no plans and just doing as we please.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Everything Looking Springlike in the Garden

In the last couple of weeks our garden has started to come alive again after a long wet winter.  Here's a picture of what it looked like back in the depths of winter. Very bare with very little going on at all.

This same border now looks like this.

Lots of fresh green foliage growing and the recent rain has made all the greenery look even zingier.  Even the blackcurrant bush is starting to burst into leaf again
The cherry tree has some beautiful blossoms on it.
The border geraniums have even started flowering.
As have the bluebells (Spanish I think) under the peach tree.
There are also several clumps of Forget-me-nots doing their thing. 
It makes it a pleasure to look out of the patio doors and see everything changing on a weekly basis.
  We were going to completely overhaul the garden this year, on account of the small lawn of grass getting into a terrible condition since we got the dog, but as we both quite like our garden as it is, we have decided to limit the dog's access to the grass (as she tends to just run up and down it barking, creating a nuisance and wearing it out) and get it re-turfed professionally and some small fences put up around this area to protect it.  This may seem hard on the dog, but she does get lots of good walks and will still get access, but it will be supervised and only if she behaves, as she has been causing some problems with our neighbours in recent months.
Getting back to the rest of the garden, the herb planter I planted up a few weeks ago for Project 52 seems to have taken on a life of it's own and the gap left, where I (unsuccessfully) sowed some chive seeds, is closing up all by itself.  Yesterday I sowed some parsley seeds in there and I'm hoping I will have a bit more luck with these.
Talking of seed sowing, the seeds I sowed in March were a mixed bunch.  Many were old seeds that I was giving one more chance, as they were flowers and vegetables I have favoured in previous years, but I haven't had a lot of success with many of them, so the seeds will need be thrown away if there are no signs of life in the next month.  What has germinated are some salad seeds, the carrots I sowed in a container, a few tomato seeds and a few peas, which I will need to take to the allotment in due course, if the snails don't get them first.  I can feel another bout of seed sewing on the horizon.   Is anyone else having any better luck?