Monday 27 October 2014

Half Term Heaven

Today signals the beginning of the half term holiday from school, and as we are not going away for the week, as we had originally hoped to do, mainly because OH is very busy workwise at the moment, I'm quite looking forward to staying home and just enjoying the break from the normal routine.  To be honest, I almost dread rushing off as soon as school ends to make the most of the week away and then coming back to a mound of dirty washing and trying to throw myself back into daily life.  Sometimes a staycation is much more relaxing.  Besides, we like our home and having time to pay a bit more attention to it is often very satisfying.

Little Bird has basketball camp three mornings this week, which will keep her occupied for the first few days, although on the afternoons we may make the odd trip out and about to various places we don't otherwise get the chance to visit.  Towards the end of the week, we are hoping to pay a quick visit to Bruges, followed by a hypermarket shop in France on the way back to the ferry, to stock up on wine and beer in time for Christmas.

I like London during half term.  Although the shops tend to be busy with families with children, the roads are relatively quiet and it's much easier to get around.  Makes you realise how much traffic schools generate.

For the most part this week, I am looking forward to just relaxing our routine a little, maybe getting a bit of time to stay in bed and read in a morning (I'm really enjoying my current book and am keen to finish it asap), spend more time with Little Bird and maybe even do a little cleaning and decluttering, especially in our bedroom, which often gets overlooked in favour of other parts of the house, particularly when preparing for visitors, and is a bit of dust and clutter hotspot at the moment.  My bedroom bookshelves need a good sort through and any books I'm not likely to read need to go to the CS.  I'm getting better at giving books away once they have been read, so I do hope to clear some space once I've read most of them.  I made a start yesterday, by changing the bed linen and sorting through a few things.  There may be a tip run at some point this week and hopefully I will be able to keep up the momentum and have a clean and clutter free room by the end of the week.  Fingers crossed.

Sunday 26 October 2014

A Little Rant on the Subject of Rudeness

Tonight, OH decided to treat us all to a night at the cinema, to watch the film The Maze Runner, which Little Bird has wanted to see for a while.  We don't do this too often, as it is pretty expensive these days, but now and again as a treat and for a night out en famille it is great.  We may not, however, be doing it again for a while after tonight's fiasco.  Why are people sometimes so annoying?

It seems that a night at the cinema isn't a big deal to some people, who appear to take such an activity for granted and in fact go so far as to use the opportunity to irritate and spoil the occasion for others around them by constantly using their phone and then leaving in the middle of the film only to come back half an hour later and continue to use their phone right until the end of the film.  What is wrong with people?  Is their addiction to technology so great that they can't switch it off for even a couple of hours and do something else?  Why do some people need the constant reassurance that tweeting, instagramming, texting seems to give these days, even when seemingly out for a night with their family?

I don't know if you were in the midst of some family emergency, (I doubt it) but to the people in the row in front of us in the cinema, well to one woman in particular, who insisted on using her phone most of the way through the film, receiving and sending texts and goodness knows what else.  Please get some manners and be a little more considerate of those around you.  Not everyone wants to be distracted from enjoying the film they have paid through the nose to watch, by the light on your phone screen and the whistle of your incoming texts.  There is a time and a place for everything.  If you didn't want to watch the film, which you obviously didn't, as you didn't appear to look up once, go and get a coffee, or better still stay home and let others who want to see it enjoy it.

We could have asked said lady to turn off her phone, but we do not like to dictate to others and didn't want to spoil our evening even more by getting into an argument.  Anyway, sorry to burden you with this Mrs Grumpy outburst.  Has anyone else had a similar experience?

Friday 24 October 2014

An Unexpected Arrival

Thursday, was a bit of a day of mixed happenings for me, mainly because of an unexpected item of mail which threw me completely.  I can't say much about it here, suffice to say it has definitely thrown me a curved ball.

Recovering from the shock, I headed out to run a couple of errands.  It was nice to get out and about actually, as I have been staying pretty close to home for most of October thus far, to try to prevent me being tempted to spend any money.  You'll understand why as this post progresses.

The first errand was a trip to the charity shop, to drop off a huge bag of items I'd sorted and decided to part with a couple of weeks ago.  I always hang onto the bag for a few weeks, just in case I change my mind about anything I've put in, but as it was sat on the landing and we were virtually having to climb over it to get past, it needed to go.  Besides, by the time I took it, I had virtually forgotten what I'd put in it, which is always a sure sign that I no longer need the contents.

That task completed, I headed off to take my Food Bank donation, which I was running a bit late with.  I take a box every two months now, as it is a 10 mile drive to drop it off, so this was the box for September/October which I finally finished filling this week.  I still spend the same amount each month, but just combine deliveries to cut down on the journeys.

These  two tasks, combined with it being rubbish/recycling collection day today, made a nice contribution to clearing the decks, so the worktop in the kitchen, and the upstairs landing, are now lovely and clear and these small things make the house seem much less cluttered.

Returning to the subject of my unexpected mail, it will almost inevitably result in my having to be a little more organised in the lead up to Christmas this year and as a consequence, I also ended up doing a small amount of Christmas shopping yesterday afternoon whilst I was out, on my credit card.  It was a minor lapse in my Stoptober challenge, but didn't make too much of a dent as I was pretty considered in what I bought.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Stoptober - Week 3

I can hardly believe that I am now at the end of week three of the Stoptober challenge, whereby I'm cutting out any unnecessary spending (well most of it anyway).  It was particularly important that I did it this month, as I had a really tight month ahead of me, due to some expenditure on my credit cards in the previous month.  Stoptober came just at the right time for me and has really helped me to focus on not spending money unnecessarily, so that I could reasonably comfortably get through the month and not feel despairing about my plight.

It really has helped me too, as the month seems to have gone by quite quickly so far, which isn't the normal scenario when you are absolutely broke.  I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel with just over a  week to go.

This week of the challenge has probably been one of my best so far.  I did spend a few pounds here and there over the weekend, but far less than I probably would had I not been on the challenge.  My largest expenditure this month over and above food and household items has been some car park vouchers for the gym, which at £12, wasn't too drastic and couldn't be avoided as I had virtually run out.  I now have very little money to get me through the next week, but I'm keeping positive and busy and who knows,  it might even be my best week yet.  Let's hope so. 

Having said all of the above and despite wishing that Stoptober had caused an epiphany and changed me forever, I am starting to look forward to being able to go to the shops again, I think I might be having withdrawal symptoms.  I just need to make sure that when I do resume normal life that I don't go too mad and buy everything in sight!

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Catch Up Tuesday

After being away for the weekend, Tuesday has been my catch up day.  Mondays always seem to be taken up with classes at the gym, shopping and posting out orders taken over the weekend, so I get very little else done.  Tuesdays, I can branch out a little and do other things and in this instance other things meant preparing stock to sell, which was becoming a matter of urgency, as sales have happily increased in recent weeks.

After getting completely drenched in the heavy rain whilst walking the dog this morning, I came back to get on with some work.  Then the computer engineer turned up to look at the laptop.  The third visit and by a different engineer this time.  After the second visit we were told the engineer wouldn't be coming back as we have a pet in the house, so a second and more senior engineer was sent.  He was also unable to fix said laptop, so now we have to wait for the manufacturer to take it back and mend or replace it.  It's becoming quite a long and drawn out process and I'll be continuing blogging and working on the tablet for the time being it seems.

Anyway, after lunch I was able to get a bit more work done and I took myself up to my stock room, (i.e. the sewing room) and got on with the overdue tasks that needed doing.  I feel a lot better for it and ready to meet more orders as they come in.  Talking of business, Tilly from Tilly and the Buttons posted an interesting blog post today, about starting a small business, which made good reading.

Anyway, must go, more work to be done whilst I'm on a roll.

Monday 20 October 2014

Feeling Better

Well, I'm feeling a bit of a fraud, as my cold only lasted a couple of days and I was then feeling a lot better, but I'm nevertheless pleased that it wasn't any worse.  Incidentally, thank you to those who wished me a speedy recovery and an enjoyable weekend.  Both came to fruition and we are now safely back in London, ensconced in our normal day to day life.  First things first, I watched Strictly on Catch Up, followed by a bit of a blog reading catch up too.

The weekend was very enjoyable.  It was lovely to catch up with relatives.  The dog was a little badly behaved and kept running off and escaping.  Friday night was spent looking for her in nearby woodland in the pitch dark.  She was eventually found, thank goodness, but this is the second incident in the last month and as she doesn't have a tag on her collar (it got lost), a new one had to purchased and engraved for her, just in case it happens again and we can't find her.  (She is micro chipped, but a tag does make it easier for anyone who might find her to contact us).

Following the 'lost dog in the night incident', Little Bird and I had a good walk with her on Saturday morning to the village where I grew up, whilst OH went out on a long cycle ride with a local cycling club.  LB and I thus had the chance to visit some old haunts from my childhood together, which was very enjoyable and not really something that we often get to do.  A visit to a family grave in the local graveyard led to an interesting discovery, that a once crooked headstone had been straightened.  A very nice surprise.  I'm not sure by whom just yet, but once I've made a few enquiries, I will be emailing my thanks to whomever I find has been responsible.

Saturday afternoon was spent in the town centre, where I did spend a little money and bought a new battery for my watch as it keeps stopping, plus a bargain pair of cute Christmas PJ bottoms for Little Bird (£2), which was a bit naughty during Stoptober. 

Saturday evening we went to Hull Fair.  No photographs this year, as I didn't want it to get too repetitive and my camera battery died on me too.  We had a nice time walking around though.  Little Bird and OH went on a few rides and stalls (I don't have the stomach for rides these days) and we generally enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere.  I treated myself to a toffee apple, but otherwise didn't really spend any money.

Sunday was spent visiting the local Car Boot at which I spent the massive sum of £4.50 on a Sunday newspaper, some flowers for said straightened gravestone and a scarf for 50p.  Has to be my record in terms of least spent at a CB, which is progress indeed.  This was followed by a visit to my sister and her family.  It was good to catch up, before making the journey back to London. 

A busy weekend, but definitely a good one.

Friday 17 October 2014

Taking a Break

Yesterday afternoon, I came down with a bit of a cold and with a streaming nose and feeling tired, I sat down and finished reading my current book, after which I wanted to do nothing much more than lie on the sofa and snooze.  Two minutes later, Brought back to reality by the phone ringing, I had to get up and never quite got back to the sofa, which is probably just as well as I had some packing and preparations to do for a weekend away.

Today, we are travelling to Hull to visit relatives and catch the final weekend of Hull Fair.  A huge travelling fair that visits the town at this time every year.  Little Bird loves this event and as she has no school for the day, due to staff training, we are getting an early start and a slightly extended stay.  It will be nice to get out of London for the weekend.  We were hoping to perhaps go away at half term in a couple of weeks time, but this doesn't look like it is going to be possible now, as OH is very busy workwise that week.  We'll just have to make the most of this weekend instead

I probably won't be posting for a couple of days, as I'm still posting from Little Bird's tablet and still having difficulty uploading photos easily, but I'll be back posting as normal on our return next week.

Wishing you a great weekend.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Making and Knitting with Fabric Yarn

Hot on the heels of my visit to the Knitting and Stitching Show last week, this week I've been itching to get started on some macro knitting with fabric yarn.  In the absence of a pair of huge needles I decided to have a go using the biggest needles I own which are 12mm plastic ones.   

I wanted to try knitting using some fabric yarn, made with cotton fabric and knit with it using the needles which I already had in my collection, in an attempt to stick to my Stoptober challenge.  I chose some vintage Liberty cotton, that formed the hem of some old curtains I'd cut up to make a skirt.  I unpicked the hem and cut it into strips about 3/4 inch wide, knotting the strips together. 

The plastic knitting needles I already had worked quite well, so it was pretty straightforward actually.  Just like normal knitting although you do need to try to use the fabric with the right side turned out, if possible.  I cast on 10 stitches and away I went.  Every time I ran out of yarn I'd cut another strip and knotted it on.  The ends of the knots can easily be tucked into the knitting so that they don't really show to the front. 

This piece turned out to be a coaster, as it is quite small.  You can get a good idea from the photograph how it comes together quite quickly.  I was quite pleasantly surprised with the outcome.  I hand stitched some fabric to the back, to hide any knotted ends, make a base and to give it a more finished look. 

Here's the finished result with my mug sitting on it.  The frayed edges of the fabric give it a yarn-like rustic appearance.

It's given me a whole new outlook on what I can use fabric for now and I'm looking forward to completing larger projects of this kind, preferably on bigger needles and more importantly reducing my stash of fabric scraps and recycling fabric that can't easily be used for any other purpose.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Birthday Weekend

As previously mentioned, my birthday fell over this weekend, and a very nice time I had too.  We had a pretty normal day at home on the day itself, followed by a lovely family evening out to a Cuban Dance Company production at Sadler's Wells' Peacock Theatre in Holborn.  It was a fabulous fusion of contemporary dance, ballet, Cuban dance and Hip Hop.  Very entertaining.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has an interest in dance.  See Sadler's Wells website for details - it's on until near the end of the month.

As well as my birthday night out, I was also lucky enough to receive some lovely gifts.  My Jules brogues, as previously mentioned, from OH and thus my wardrobe rejuvenation has begun.  It's very exciting.

I also received lots of smaller gifts; two new lipsticks (one burgundy, one hot pink - a new colour to me), plus a few smellies not pictured,

some super cute washi tapes from Paperchase (there was just enough room on the mug holder for these!),

obligatory chocolates, but only Maltesers, as they're a touch less calorific,

and some much needed sustenance in the form of a bottle of gin.  My favourite tipple. 

In the following few days, a couple of books on minimalism were also delivered from Amazon.  Ordered by OH for my birthday, but requested by me.  I'm looking forward to reading them at some point in the future and hoping they'll help me to let go of more stuff that we no longer need.

All in all, I had a super birthday and I can't forget the lovely cake, complete with a reminder of my age, which I'm trying hard to forget.

Not much of it left now though!  Well, none in fact.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Stoptober Update - Week 2

As I come to the end of week two of Stoptober, where I'm trying to stop all unnecessary spending for the month of October, I do have to admit that this week has been slightly less successful than the last, as I did spend money on a few different non-essentials this week. 

During my day out and visit to the Knitting and Stitching Show I bought a couple of small items, as well as lunch.  The tickets for this show were bought before I decided to join in with this challenge, but rather than not enjoy the day by worrying about not spending, I decided to set myself a small budget of £20 for everything (lunch, travel, purchases) and stuck to it, so I'm not going to beat myself up too badly over it.

Unfortunately, one of my essential expenditures last week, namely an umbrella for Little Bird, was sadly wasted money, on account of it being taken by person or persons unknown on the first occasion she'd had to use it.  It was a bit disappointing to say the least.  She'd left it drying on the radiator in her classroom at school during registration and when she went to pick it up, it had mysteriously gone, so she's back to using an old black one that's seen better days.  At least it's not pretty, so no-one should want to take it.  I'll know better next time, but it's sad that I have to think like that.

On a slightly more positive note (although not in terms of stopping spending), I also spent a small amount of money this week on some leather dye to make over an old pair of boots I had.  This worked out quite well in the end and was well worth the investment, so once again I'm not feeling too guilty about this.

The only other expenditure, other than essential food and household items this week, was that Little Bird's school photos came out and for once they were very nice.  On several occasions I've refused to buy the school photos taken of her, as they were not particularly flattering, but on this occasion I was happy to pay for them.  Anyway, I sent off an order as they had to be in before the end of October anyway, or incur a £4 surcharge, so it's not something I could put off until after Stoptober.  One of the photos will be a Christmas present for her grandparents, so that is another small Christmas present bought and paid for which is an added bonus.

One other good thing was that this week it was my birthday and I received some lovely gifts and treats to help boost my morale and get me through the rest of the month.  Thank goodness for birthdays is all I can say.

Hoping to do a little better next week.

Sunday 12 October 2014

October Big Day Out - The Knitting and Stitching Show, Alexandra Palace

As previously mentioned in another post, last Thursday my friend and I had tickets to visit the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in London.  This was the third time I've visited this show (2nd this year as there was one in March).  I purchased our tickets using a Prima magazine subscriber discount, so it only cost us £9 each to attend, which was very reasonable for a day out.  My friend was due to depart on a three week holiday to India in the few days following our visit, so it was a good chance to have a lovely day out together before she went. 

We got there just before noon, as it's difficult to get away early when I have to walk the dog and with traffic and using public transport it took nearly two hours to get there.  It was definitely worth it though, as we had a super day out.

There are three main rooms to explore when you get to the show, two smaller rooms, one with lots of exhibition spaces, plus a grand hall/market area with lots of stalls selling everything you could possibly think of for knitters and stitchers and others besides.  We explored one of the smaller rooms first, one which had some demonstration spaces.  After a look around the stalls in this room, and then after grabbing a bite to eat, we sat and watched a fabulous demonstration of Macro Knitting, which to the uninitiated is knitting using big needles or big French knitting frames.

I so loved this demonstration, as the lady presenting it had a great personality and tried very hard to get everyone to have a go at doing some of the knitting.  This got us interacting with each other and made the whole thing much more fun.  I tried my hand at both the French knitting which was a little tricky and with the macro knitting needles which were great fun.  I added a few stitches to this.

These particular needles are huge and rest on the floor as you use them so as not to put pressure on the different parts your body.  I did find them a bit tricky, but the results looked fabulous.  This rug was cast on less than 20 stitches and was made with wool offcuts from a textile factory.  They were being knitted into a beautiful little rug or runner.

Also as part of this demonstration, we were shown how to hand spin different yarns together to make interesting and quirky new yarns, and how to cut a plastic carrier bag into one long strip, which could then be rolled up into a ball and used as a yarn to knit with.  Why would you want to knit with a plastic carrier bag you might be asking.   Well, I don't, but when you apply the same technique to the body of an old t-shirt, lambs wool jumper, wool or fleece blanket or towel, you can make great balls of yarn for macro knitting and recycle old unusable items into something amazingly useful in the process.  You can take a look at this technique by googling where a demonstration video made at Alexandra Palace 3 years ago, has been posted on Vimeo.

In addition, we were also shown how to use general fabric scraps as yarn, which when twisted or cut into strips and then sewn or knotted together, can also make a kind of yarn to macro knit with. 

I loved the effect of this when knitted up.  So textural and any fabric could be used from tweed to polyester.  I really do love this idea and it's application to a zero waste lifestyle.  I can think of several things I can recycle into useful door/bath mats, throws or rugs in this way.  This demonstration was really the highlight for me of the whole show and ironically, the stand holding it was a wool shop that is just down the road from me and which I have visited in the past, namely Fabrications in Broadway Market, Hackney, East London. 

(This is not a sponsored post, but I thought I'd give them a mention as they are a local independent business and I was so impressed with their ideas).

Needless to say, the huge knitting needles have definitely gone on my Christmas list and can be purchased from the shop.  I didn't buy any on the day, as they would have taken me over my budget of £20, but I would definitely like to own a pair and would love to knit some super thick throws or rugs with them using scrap or woollen fabric yarn.

Anyway, once I'd got over the excitement of this particular demonstration, we carried on around the show, heading into the larger room next.  It was very busy, although not quite as busy as I remember previous shows being, as on this occasion we were attending on the second as opposed to the first day.  I bought a couple of small things. 

Some larger sized Clover pom pom makers for a project I have in mind.  These cost £6, and some sweet 'Handmade with Love' sew-in labels for quilts and other handmade projects.  At 50p for 20 labels, I thought these were very good value and they had a nice rustic look to them for quilts.

In all honesty, I did buy a few metres of fabric for my business, but this came from a separate budget to my personal one, so doesn't really count in terms of Stopover.   I know that if I hadn't bought it, I would be kicking myself once I got home, for the missed opportunity.

Finally, we had a look at some of the textile exhibits in the second smaller room before leaving.  There were some interesting displays and some very fine work as always.  The skill and creativity that people possess really does amaze me.  In addition to my few small purchases, I came away from the show with a prospectus for a college in London, that I might try to find a course at, which was very useful and it is one that has been recommended to me in the past, so I am looking forward to having a good look through it and see if any of the courses appeal and are within my budget.

All in all we had a great day and I would definitely recommend a visit to the show, to anyone with an interest in fabric and wool crafts, plus many others besides.

Ankle Boot Makeover

On the back of my wardrobe crisis, I decided to get on with a makeover I've wanted to do for a while, of a favourite old pair of ankle boots, that had really deteriorated and looked really quite scruffy.  I had them re-heeled not so long ago, so I was reluctant to throw them out, aside from the fact that they were really comfortable and could be worn for long periods without making my feet ache.

They're a kind of Chelsea boot, made from tan leather, and bought by me from a jumble sale for £1 several years ago.  I've worn them a lot over the years, and although they are a little pointed, I really like them.  However, they had now become so scruffy that I was reluctant to wear them, unless it was just for walking the dog.   I thought a makeover might make them more wearable, plus fill an essential gap in my winter wardrobe.  The obvious colour to me was black, as this goes with most things.  I'd had a previous experience of dyeing a pair of leather shoes navy, and although it worked reasonably well, I was never quite convinced by them, if I'm totally honest.  (Those shoes, although worn a few times since, have now been sent to the charity shop.)

I decided that for the price of a bottle of dye (£3.75), it was worth another try, as in their current state these boots were hardly even worth sending to the CS.  I had nothing to lose, so I bought some dye and got on with the job.  Here's a picture of them before I tackled them with the dye.  They look a bit strange as they are stuffed with newspaper, as advised in the dye instructions.

Here's what they looked like after the first coat.  As you can see, it is a little messy so you need to cover your surfaces and wear plastic or rubber gloves.

And here's what they looked like after a second coat and a polish. 


Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the result and I'm looking forward to wearing them in their new incarnation.  I may even dye my old brogues black now and see how they turn out.  Even the heel and elastic on the sides dyed pretty well.  (I didn't dye the insides though, as these won't be seen when worn and might stain any socks or tights). The black leather dye definitely worked better than the navy and I'm pretty sure that I'm going to wear these quite regularly again.  Even if they last me just this winter, I think it will definitely have been worth it.  There's even still a bit left in the bottle to touch up if the wet weather removes some of the dye.

Saturday 11 October 2014

No Sew Autumn Wool Scrap Garland

In honour of it being Wool Week (6-12th October), the other day, I was pottering in my sewing room and started to ruminate about what I could make with some wool scraps I had.  I'd acquired them from a fabric warehouse a few years ago.  They were wool mix coat fabric samples and were being thrown in a skip, so I saved a couple of bags full, took them home with me and removed the fabric samples from the cards they were pinned to.  I then added them to my stash to be used one day, for who knows what project.  I decided that their day had come.


Some of them were quite small, thin pieces, in lots of different designs and colours, including plaids, herringbones, plains.  They were lovely and I couldn't bring myself to throw them away, surely there was something I could use them for.  I got to thinking that they might look nice strung from some ribbon like a kind of autumnal garland.

First, I decided to shape the pieces by cutting one end of each scrap on a diagonal, some going in one direction and some going in the opposite direction.  Then I began to pin them to some ribbon.  I wanted them to look random and not too symmetrical, but I couldn't find a way to arrange them that I liked, so I gave up and left it until another day.

A day or so later, I went back to them and decided that rather than pin and sew them to the ribbon, I would staple them on to it.  This worked quite well as it was quick and if I didn't like the position of one or other piece, I could easily remove the staple and put another in it's place.

Eventually, I got the banner completed, pinned it up on the mantle edge in the sewing room and looked at it.  It looked a bit bare.  I decided to add another layer, as I still had lots of scraps left. 


I preferred the effect of having more on the banner.  Then I decided that I didn't like the directional nature of the scraps, so I cut them all to a small point, as I felt this looked better.  I added some braid, leftover from an upholstery project, over the top to help hide the staples and it was finished.  I was quite pleased with the finished result and even more pleased that I had finally managed to use them for something.

I was left with this delicious bowl of little tiny triangles and scraps. 

Don't worry, I'm not planning to make these into anything, but they did look yummy.

Friday 10 October 2014

Wardrobe Epiphany

Still no computers working, so no photos today, but I am posting this blog post which I think has been bubbling under the surface of my consciousness for a while.  I think I'm in the process of a bit of a wardrobe epiphany, albeit a slow and steady realisation rather than a light bulb moment.  I think I might have blogged along similar lines in the past, but not really acted on it.  The time is fast approaching, where I need to take my gut feelings more seriously and actually act on them.

Part of the problem occurred to me yesterday, when I was trying to get ready to go out for the day.  I just wasn't happy with how I looked and couldn't find an outfit which to me looked appropriately smart casual for a day out in town.  Granted, I was in a bit of a rush, as I'd arranged to meet a friend and was running a bit late, but even so my wardrobe left me feeling decidedly uninspired.

Anyway, I went out and had a very nice day, although I did feel slightly scruffy, and then when I got home OH and Little Bird were heading out to the local mall to buy me a few small presents for my birthday later this week.  I decided to tag along.  Whilst they were busy shopping, I had a good wander around John Lewis.  It's not something I do very often, as I tend to go in there with a particular purchase in mind, go to that department only and then come away. On this occasion I had a little time to wander around a few departments and check out what they had on offer.

As part of the reason for the morning's wardrobe meltdown was that I didn't have a comfortable pair of black shoes to walk around in all day, I initially took a look around their shoe department, and more particularly at all the black flats.  Don't worry, I'm aware that I'm in the middle of Stopober and I didn't buy anything, I couldn't quite find anything that hit the spot, but it was interesting to look.  Flat black shoes are an item I find difficult to buy.  I guess they remind me of work or school shoes, so I tend to avoid them and buy shoes in other colours, but when I need a pair of comfortable wear all day black footwear to go with an outfit, I'm stuck.  I may just have to stick to black ankle or knee boots instead.

Later, I took a look in one of the clothing concessions.  I won't say which, as it was a rather expensive one that I've never looked in before, but I'd seen a lovely dress in the shop window display and decided to see if I could find it in store and check out the price.  I couldn't find the dress, but I did see the most beautiful black wool winter coat.  Only £250 (!), but boy was it a beauty.  I'm still thinking about it now.  I can't see me ever quite buying something quite so expensive, but if money was no object.  This is the danger of window shopping I guess.  When you don't have the money to spend you can always guarantee that something you really like will appear on the horizon.

Still, it has made me think that finally it might really be the time to start spending a little more money on good quality clothes and to stop buying cheaper items to make do with.  In all fairness, OH has been trying to encourage me in this line of thought for quite a while now, but I always seem to get distracted from it by inexpensive things in the shops which seem too good to be true and usually are.  I think next year, once my debts are all paid off, I'm going to start planning a good quality capsule wardrobe and thinking about exactly what I want in it.  Perhaps that might be a solution to my wardrobe problems, less but better quality.  I figure if I buy one staple item from the list each month, within a couple of years, I might actually have a wardrobe I like and enjoy wearing.  I'm not talking high fashion here, but quality and longevity.  If I don't do it now, as I'm heading towards the big Five Zero, I don't think I ever will.  My birthday present of my new brogues which I will receive this weekend will be a good start to this process.  It might make a good bloggy challenge next year too.  We'll see what happens.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

An Itsy Bitsy Hexie Quilt

(I'm having a little trouble posting at the moment.  My computer seems to have given up the ghost as the keys keep sticking, OH's office laptop nearly caught fire the other day and we're awaiting the engineer, and Little Bird's tablet, which I am now using, I cannot use for loading photos, as I can't get to grips with it. As a consequence, I'm publishing this post today, as it is the only one I have loaded photos onto already.  Hope to be back in action soon.)

For a while now, I've been admiring tiny hexagon quilting projects on Pinterest and in books and magazines, and I've fancied having a go at making one myself.  I just really love using up small scraps of fabric, probably more so than large pieces, as I feel I'm saving them from being wasted.

The other night I decided I wanted a new long term project to challenge me and decided to seek out some small hexagon templates so that I could give it a go.  I found some the perfect size and set about cutting out lots of paper pieces using one template and then used another slightly larger template to cut out lots of fabric hexies, using left over bits of fabric in my Zakka scrap box.

On and off this week I've been sewing the little hexies to the paper pieces ready to use.  They are so cute.  One of my painted coffee tins finally found a use, as I'm now storing the hexies in it until I sew them together. 

I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to make yet.  There's a few options; a pouch for Little Bird's tablet, which I've been using a lot lately, a new ironing board cover as my current one is ripped, a wall hanging, table runner, the options are endless when you start thinking about it. 

It completely fascinates me what you can do with really very small leftover pieces.  I know it's nothing new, as lots of vintage and antique quilts were made using similar sized pieces.  It reminds me how resourceful people had to be in days gone by and helps to make me appreciate the heaps of stuff we tend to own and then discard these days, often without giving it a second thought.

Anyway, here's a peek at some of the hexies I've made so far.  I put a pen in the picture so that you can gauge the size of them.

Ahh!  Aren't they adorable?

Monday 6 October 2014

Stoptober - Week One

I am now one week into Stoptober, where I am attempting to stop any unnecessary spending for the month of October, and things aren't going too badly.  I've managed to (virtually) only spend money on necessary food or household goods/toiletries thus far. 

I have to admit that I've been finding food shopping quite stressful recently, as every time I visit Lidl lately, I can hardly get a parking space in the car park, so popular has the store become in recent months.  In addition, even with every till manned, there are often long queues and this week several things on my regular shopping list were not even in stock, which is a first.  In fairness, I think this was in part due to Diwalli and Eid occurring in close proximity this year, but notwithstanding, I'm fast coming to the conclusion that it is most definitely becoming a victim of it's own success.  I haven't given up on them yet, but am feeling the strain as a consequence of their increased popularity.

Anyway, the only exceptions to spending on only food and household items so far, came as a consequence of the need to buy Little Bird some new school shoes, as her previous ones had started to come apart after just 4 weeks.  They were swiftly returned to the shop and a refund given, so strictly I didn't outlay much money over and above what I'd previously spent on the original ones.  I did also buy her an umbrella for the walk to school, now that we're getting quite a bit more rainfall, but I class this as necessary expenditure and it was something that I had meant to buy her before now, but had got away with not buying, as it hadn't really rained. 

Going to the mall to buy these items on Saturday was an experience in itself and not an altogether pleasant one at that.  It was a rainy, miserable day outside, so the mall was packed to the rafters with people.  Anyone would have thought it was Christmas, in fact, I haven't actually seen it so busy since Christmas last year.   Needless to say we didn't hang around for long.  We were in and out within the hour and very happy to be too.

I've really been trying hard to occupy myself with anything but shopping or spending money this week.  Instead, I've made a pair of curtains, visited and done some work at the allotment, worked on a couple of quilting projects, caught up with ironing and washing and knuckled down to work. I haven't particularly felt inclined to dash out and spend money or treat myself, which is unusual for me at the beginning of the month, when there is money in my account.  In fact, now the weather has turned colder, I'm quite enjoying staying closer to home and reacquainting myself with projects left untouched for months and all my old autumn/winter clothes, which all feel new to me at the moment, so long it is since I've seen or worked on them.

We've got lots of food in the cupboards and thus far I must admit I haven't made serious inroads into using a lot of it, so I really do need to start delving into the cupboards and making do a bit more with what is in there, rather than buying any more food.  I think this is going to be my aim this week.  I'll let you know how I get on in my next Stoptober update.

Sunday 5 October 2014

A Year in Books - October

Book reading in September got off to a slow start.  For the first couple of weeks I was reading this Joanne Harris book.  (Sorry, this is the only photo I have of it.)

After reading the back cover, I wasn't sure if I'd like it or not, as it did sound a little dark.  It was a very slow burn for all but the last third and hence took me a while to finish reading it.  In the last third it picked up pace, but you had to have your wits about you to keep up with the twists and turns of the plot.  By the end, it had me on the edge of my seat, and it wasn't an altogether comfortable place to be.  Written with Harris's usual finely honed skill as a storyteller and very cleverly crafted, but I wouldn't say that it was my favourite novel by her.

After finishing Joanne Harris' book, I was pretty relieved to pick up something lighter and altogether more palatable.  Lucy Diamond's 'Sweet Temptation' hit the spot.  Although the plot is not all sweetness and light, as there are some sad parts to it, but overall it was a humorous and light hearted read.  It's also took me a couple of weeks to read, as I don't seem to be getting much opportunity for reading, now that a normal weekday routine has resumed.  It tells a story of three women who meet at a dieting club and follows the trials and tribulations of their lives whilst they try to lose weight.  I enjoyed it.  It was a nice story of friendship.

At the start of September, my original book pile was really starting to go down, which was incredibly satisfying, as it meant that the clutter in our bedroom was also reducing.   Here's what the pile looked like earlier in the year sometime after I began this A Year in Books challenge.

Quite a lot of reading to get through, you'll agree.  Well, by mid September it looked like this, which was a distinct improvement. 

The books on the left are fiction and the books on the right non fiction.  I've done quite a lot of reading this year, at least two to three books per month, so probably more than just what was missing from the original pile, as extra books were also added subsequently, but there is still a lot more reading to do to get through this lot.  I'm hoping to get it down quite a bit further still before the end of the year, but it is slower going at the moment. 

Anyway,  it was looking pretty good, until that is,  I bought 8 more reading books at a jumble sale last month, plus one other book I bought at the market.  This was me in Low/No Spend September and trying not to buy any more books!  Anyway, I'm now keeping those books on a separate pile to read next year and still trying to carry on making my way through the original pile.

I seem to have really stockpiled books this year, more so than any other year I can remember.  Maybe it was a subconscious thing or maybe I just came across lots of appealing books on my travels.   I guess if it gets me reading more it's all good.

Anyway, the books I'm hoping to read in October are these pictured below. 

All but one (the Barbara Pym) are by author's I've read before.  I'm sticking to familiar names still, although I do like to introduce completely new to me authors every now and again.  I'm having a final stab at some everyday fiction before I start to read a few fictional titles that are set at Christmas time.  I like to read these in the run up to Christmas, as they help get me in the Christmas spirit.

Joining in with Laura at The Circle of Pine Trees in trying to read at least one book a month for a year.

Saturday 4 October 2014

Allotment Tales

On Friday, I decided to pay the allotment a long overdue visit as I'd not been for 2 or 3 weeks.  I decided to go in the car this time.  The last couple of visits I've taken the dog and walked there, but I find I don't like to stay too long and do too much when I do this, as I've still got the walk back ahead of me.  In addition, the last time I did this, the dog  refused to walk on the way home and I ended up carrying her most of the way!

I still took the dog with me on this visit, but started off by taking her for a walk in nearby parkland and along the canal, before heading up to the allotment site.  I kept her well within my sights, as we'd had a bit of a fright the night before, when she had run off during a walk with OH and we had all ended up out on the marshes at 8pm looking for her as it got dark.   Luckily, she was eventually found, but we were pretty worried for a while.   She'd been squirreling in the bushes and hadn't answered any of our calls.  OH was not happy, but we were relieved to get her home.  Anyway, I have to tie her up on the allotment site, so she doesn't go rampaging over everyones' plots.  She was pretty well behaved and patient though and sat for a whole two hours, whilst I got on with a bit of clearing and digging over.

I forgot my camera on this occasion, so I can't post any before and after photos, but the plot was a bit over grown and needed a bit of work.  I harvested all the crops that were ready first and then started to cut back some rocket that had flowered and gone to seed, did some weeding of beds and paths, started some general cutting back of overgrown plants and then a bit of digging over.  There was still a lot of work to do by the time I left, but at least I feel like I've made a start. 

I managed to harvest quite a few things - two large courgettes, three small cucumbers, a couple of large chillis, a pepper, some sweetcorn, a couple of odd parsnips,  and lots of runner beans.  There's still a few small beans on the plant, but I suspect this my be my last harvest of this season.  I'm now looking forward to getting it all cleared and ready for the winter.

Here's a picture of all I harvested.  All has now been washed and put in the fridge or freezer ready for use.  It should save me buying a few things this month and keep us going for a little while.

(Please excuse the pizza crust in the food waste bowl to the rear.  Very embarrassing, especially for one who purports not to like waste.  Not guilty in this instance.)

Friday 3 October 2014

A New Sewing Project

This Tuesday, I suddenly felt inspired to make a new kitchen curtain for our patio doors.  I've wanted to make one for a while as our current one, although pretty, is a little drab.  I bought it from a charity shop for £5 about 5 or 6 years ago when we got the patio doors installed and it fitted perfectly, so I've used it ever since.  Recently, however, I've been wanting to replace it with something a bit fresher and more modern. (I'm on a bit of a crusade to brighten up and de-clutter our kitchen - more in another post).  I'd bought the fabric on eBay a few months ago for £30 for 7 metres, which I thought was really good value, as it was a V&A Museum Print for Rowan Fabrics and was 100% cotton.  Here's a picture. 

The problem I had was, I've never made a proper lined curtain complete with curtain tape and all before, so I  was a bit apprehensive about doing a good job, and I couldn't afford to get it made professionally.  Anyway, after some procrastination, I finally decided to just get on with the job and give it a go.   I found some cotton thread that matched perfectly in my huge stash of reels and I already had some curtain tape, which I'd bought the last time we were up in Yorkshire, so I had no excuse.  I began by sewing two lengths of the cotton fabric together, to get the width I needed.  It was a bit tricky, but as the pattern was simple, it wasn't too bad.  Although it didn't turn out completely perfect, it was definitely passable and any imperfections weren't serious enough to be seen when it is hanging.  I then hemmed the curtain and was going to leave it at that, as I didn't have any lining fabric. 

I thought about heading out to the charity shop, as I'd seen a few metres of lining type fabric for sale in there the other week, for just a few pounds and I wanted to see if it was still there.  Before I did, however, I decided to take a look in my fabric stash and see if I had anything suitable.   By chance, I came across a great cotton/linen blend fabric I'd previously bought in a charity shop, and hadn't found a use for.  There was exactly the right length of it to line my new curtain and it was a perfect teal colour to boot.  It wasn't a traditional lining fabric, but I didn't mind that and anyway, it was great for stash busting, which I seriously need to do.

Lining fabric found, I carried on making the curtain.  I really just made it up as I went along, using my existing curtain as a reference point.  Three hours later, and I had a finished curtain.  Whoopee!  It was a bit difficult working with so much fabric in a small space, but the finished result, although not exactly made to a professional standard, was a pretty good attempt, even if I say so myself.  It was a little long (as I didn't bother to get a tape measure out and instead relied on a vague set of measurements I had in my head!), but I turned it up by hand later to get the right length.  I was going to do a proper job of this, but decided to do a temporary turn up, as I haven't washed either of these fabrics yet and if they do happen to shrink when washed, I've got a good 6" of hem to let down, should I need it. 

I've now put it up and even OH, who normally doesn't comment on my homemade projects, as we often have different fabric tastes, has declared that he likes it.  Praise indeed.  I'm not going to do a full reveal here, as I'm saving it for my de-cluttered kitchen reveal coming shortly, but I'll leave you with a sneaky peak though.

Thursday 2 October 2014

School Shoes Blues

I received a text from Little Bird yesterday lunchtime, it read  'my souls are breaking'  (sic).  I was a little concerned and wasn't quite sure what to make of it.  I assumed that she was having trouble with her shoes and texted back that I'd have a look at them when she got home.  When she did get home I did have a look.

Her new school shoes had lasted for all of four weeks, before being virtually unwearable.  The first proper day of rain and the sole started coming away from the shoe, causing it to flap as she walked.
In addition, the heels had worn down to beyond the rubber in the same amount of time.  Surely, this shouldn't be the case. 

I was pretty disappointed.  I liked the shoes and could have got them repaired, but I wasn't prepared to, after only after 4 weeks wear and promptly returned them to the shop where I bought them. To their credit, they didn't quibble over a refund, but that still leaves me with the problem of finding another pair.  I may even have to pay a little extra and get a better quality pair from Clarks or the likes, which isn't a great start to Stoptober, but needs must.

As things have settled a little at school, LB is getting away with wearing a pair of black ankle boots for now, although I don't know how long she'll be allowed to so do, so I still need to find her another pair of shoes.  It might mean a trip to the mall this weekend, so I will have to be very strict and not get distracted by anything else whilst there.  Hopefully, eventually we will find a pair of shoes that will take the strain and last beyond a few weeks.

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Wardrobe Changeover

Towards the end of last week and over the weekend, I got busy and dug out my winter wardrobe, trying everything on to make sure it still fitted. (Luckily, almost all of it does!). When I first got the suitcase and bags out, I took one look at the motley selection of things and wished I could just bag it all up for the charity shop and start afresh.  However, once I'd tried everything on, I was reminded why I liked most of the items, and I decided to hang on to most of them for another season.  (Not to mention the fact I can't afford to go out and buy a new winter wardrobe this year).

I did put quite a few things in the charity shop bag, which is steadily getting fuller.  About 28 or more items last count, including some things that were Little Bird's and which she has now outgrown.  All the summer items got packed into the suitcase.  I was surprised that they all fitted in, save for the shoes, which means I just have one overflow bag of summer items.  This pleased me, as it means a bit less visual clutter.  I guess that summer vests, shorts and sandals take up lots less space than boots, thick jumpers and skirts.

Anyway, on Saturday I decided to wear one of the skirts from my winter wardrobe.  It's one that's been a little on the tight side of late!  I thought I'd give it a whirl and see how comfortable it was, with the view that if it wasn't, that too would go into the charity shop bag.  It got a reprieve, however, and is a keeper for now.  I wore it with a pair of brogue type shoes I bought from a charity shop or jumble sale.  (I haven't started wearing my new brogues from Joules yet, as my birthday isn't until later this month)  They're a little grannyish, but I like them and particularly the contrasting leathers. 

The only trouble with them, is that they're a little large, so I could feel my feet slipping around inside, which wasn't a particularly comfortable feeling.  A pair of inner soles should be enough to do the trick.  I think they will be very comfortable once I've bought some.  As I'm participating in Stoptober, I think I may even take some out of a pair of summer loafers I've just put away and save my self some money too.

Anyway, on proceeding with the winter wardrobe sort out, I was quite surprised at how many thick woolly jumpers and scarves I own. Possibly far too many, but I do like to accessorise with scarves in the colder months and they are very practical for dog walking in the winter.  I must admit that I'm actually quite looking forward to wrapping up in my woollies again.  There's something so cosy about them and they hide a multitude of sins.  At the moment, I don't know what I'm doing, I set out on a dog walk with a thin jumper on because it doesn't look too warm out, only to end up all sweaty and uncomfortable by the end of the walk.  Gets me every time.

Thanks to Thrift Deluxe at Nine to Five, I discovered Courtney Carver's minimalist blog 'Be More With Less' last week,  I've been reading quite a few of Courtney's back catalogue of posts about living more simply and really enjoying them.  I was even contemplating joining in with her 333 challenge, to live with a wardrobe of 33 items in each 3 month period.  As I spend half my week in work out gear, and this isn't included in the 33 items (neither are underwear and nightwear), I thought it might be doable.  Until that is, I counted up the items in my newly arranged and edited autumn/winter wardrobe -  60+ items in total not including sweaters and t-shirts in the drawers.  Crazy.  I thought about widening out the challenge to 666 or 777, (i.e. 66 or 77 items - I know my limitations!) but I think I'd still be pushed.   I have, however, culled quite a few things from my wardrobe this sort out, some of which I'd been hanging onto for a good few years, but still not wearing, so I feel pleased that I've at least done this much.  It's all progress.

I've yet to go through my drawers of t-shirts and sweaters though.  I suspect another cull might be necessary, but I'll save that for another day.  How much stuff does a girl really need?  Definitely far too much in my case!  I wonder if there's a career in being a maximalist?  I'll leave you with a photo of my newly organised autumn/winter wardrobe.  (One of the white wire shoe racks I found in the street a few months ago, collapsed under the weight of my shoes this week, so I'm down to just the one now.)
Have you got your wardrobe sorted for the new seasons ahead?