Do you have Gremlins too?

I have had the sort of spell with my sewing (and knitting!) that makes me think that there are forces at work to prevent me from making progress. Bits of pattern seem to walk off alone, instructions go missing, and knitting patterns go missing from the bag. It would be nice to blame someone else but I suspect it is happening because I feel so disorganised at the moment. I have been trying to be organised, but clearly not hard enough.

My workroom usually looks OK as it has to be ‘within bounds’ for when clients come for fittings and such. Not so my ‘back room’. OMG it is a mess. This is where all of my fabric, patterns, magazines, and frankly anything else I can’t find a home for tends to lurk. I know that I am better at starting projects than finishing – and that tends to get as far as the planning stage where I have got the pattern drawn/copied, found fabric and notions, and….. ground to a halt with it all in a pile. Add multiple projects into the mix and you can see why it has gotten into a state.

Well, I decided that it couldn’t carry on. Inside every Mess Monster is a tidy beast who really wants to get out. Or so I decided.

Pattern pieces, paper and fabric

Pattern pieces, paper and fabric

Tidy pattern and finished hat

Tidy pattern and finished hat

Digging through a pile of papers (a very wobbly pile it has to be said) I discovered the pattern pieces for multiple projects still in my dreams, and also the paper pieces and fabric pieces for a bucket hat that was cut out before we went to the USA. I found the pattern on Rhondas blog, but it was from a site called ‘Lost in Paris’ and the link to Rhondas tutorial is HERE .I did take two of these with me and this one was clearly left behind with not enough time to make up. I abandoned the mess and spent less than an hour sewing this into a hat, and also putting the pieces (all sizes – now correctly marked) into an envelope and into the right place. Score! Multiple stray pieces now turned into a tidy pattern and a hat that can be worn. That can live in The Managements car – he has a sporty two seater which has a roof which folds off and when it does I inevitably end up with the sun in my eyes.

Seam guide

Seam guide

One thing I was reminded of while I was making this hat was how I mark seam allowances that aren’t standard – or just aren’t marked on your sewing machine. It isn’t particularly clever, and I’m sure loads of you already do this, but this is so simple it’s almost not obvious. I use Post It notes (Sticky notes) with the sticky edge along the point that the fabric slides against. I already have a magnetic seam guide which is brilliant on my old Singer machines but not quite so amazing on modern machines. I sometimes use the ‘quilting bar’ thingy to guide wider seams but sometimes that isn’t wide enough. Again, the Post It comes to the rescue. And they are dirt cheap so I’m happy to throw them away once they loose their ‘stick’.

I have an enormous pile of pictures pulled out of magazines and newspapers of garments/outfits I like. I could probably use Pinterest or some other clever electronic way of storing these to good effect but I actually enjoy just leafing through a pile of these pictures from time to time to see what jumps out. Sometimes it’s not obvious, or something has past its ‘sell by date’ and can be thrown away. If I had just put all of these straight into the folder where they live there wouldn’t be half the problem – but it seems quicker sometimes just to drop them on the pile in the right room. More haste less speed?

I also have boxes that my magazines are meant to live in. The copies of Burda are mainly in their box – but occasionally I do get one out just to check the actual picture against my interpretation of the scanned sheet from the magazine. Again, it would be so easy just to put it straight away rather than just adding to the pile. Are you getting a theme here?

If I can keep up the sorting and tidying I am sure it will make me more productive. I could never ‘Kondo’ but I can certainly see the benefit of getting shot of some of the clutter in here. There are projects (with pattern and fabric at the ready) that I had totally forgotten about. It’s truly shameful. The client work is thinning out a bit – although there has been a tendency for some of my clients to come with a ‘shipping order’ now that they know that time is limited. That certainly wasn’t part of my plan!

If I can actually plan my sewing as an extra ‘client’ I am more likely to actually shift some of these. I have always said that I don’t have UFO’s – do these count? If they do I have LOADS of UFO’s! Oh dear.

Larry has a hole!

Larry has a hole!

Larry front

Larry front

As it has started to get colder here now I have started to dig out my jumpers. I do wear them during cool summer evenings rather than a coat, but as I am a fairly warm person they have been tucked away for a little while. Imagine then my horror when I got my lovely brown Larry out the other day and discovered a hole in it. Right in the centre of the front. No hiding that! It is a fairly neat hole so I wonder if I have actually cut one of the loops whilst I have been sewing and not noticed. I have checked all over and can’t find any more so I don’t think it’s moth. I loved this sweater but it had got a bit large (I have shrunk a bit but not too much so I think it has grown), and it was a pretty expensive Rowan yarn so I am thinking of pulling this out to re-knit. Kate from Fabrickated has been knitting lately, and seeing all of her posts relating to knitting has been making me want to start a new project so maybe I should concentrate on this.

 

Tea and warm crust. Yum!

Tea and warm crust. Yum!

Thankfully not everything has been working against me. My sourdough starter, from which I make bread and cakes, has been behaving beautifully. I may just be imagining it but I find sour dough bread easier to digest than store bought bread – maybe something to do with being allowed to take ages to go through the making process? Anyway, my loaves came out of the oven in fine shape, and since The Management wasn’t around I got first dibs on the still warm crust with butter. Delicious!

So, maybe I just need to be better organised and that darned Gremlin will move out!

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Join me in the happy dance!

 

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Front view

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Back view

At long last I have finished the blessed brown trousers. Actually I finished these last Thursday but have been waiting for a good photograph to blog with. As usual at this time of year the light has been awful, and when we have been outside (more later) it hasn’t been very much better so I have stuck with the selfie. It has taken so long to finish these you would be very welcome to join me in the happy dance!

Anyhoo, the trousers! This was my Jeanius pattern (cut from instructions given in the Kenneth D King Craftsy course which seems to be at sale price right now!) and cut in fabric brought back from Spain. The fabric was probably suited to a ‘tailored’ style but I tend to wear jeans and t’s most of the time – so jeans it is.

I knew that the pattern fitted reasonably well so I just made them up as cut. I had forgotten that I added 5mm to the side seams last time (Doh!) and whilst these are a snug fit over the butt and thigh I am not concerned because of the amount of stretch in the fabric. I could probably wear these to the gym and be able to cope – although I have no intention of doing so!

I have worn these a lot since I finished them and can say they can bear up to a full days wear looking good, and barely crease even after a couple of hours in the car. I think we have a winner. It would have been nice to have this fabric in another colour but since I don’t remember exactly where in Spain I bought this, and it was forever ago, I am unlikely to manage that. It would be nice to imagine I would be able to find some in the UK but I can’t recall seeing anything similar over the years. I will just have to enjoy what I have.

I had hoped to get a decent photograph last weekend as The Management and I spent the weekend in Bournemouth. Despite the weather being fine I failed completely to get a photograph of me outside at all. No particular reason for a weekend away, but I really enjoyed the break. I find January and the early part of the year quite difficult – probably related to the lack of daylight (S.A.D would be an extreme version of what I feel) so it is nice to break up the expected with little breaks.

Hippies sign

Hippies sign

On the journey down I spotted this sign in a house window. We were stopped at a red light when I noticed it – considering I had to dredge in my handbag, find the camera, turn it on, point and shoot I think this turned out better than the photographs I really try with! Maybe I can learn from that. You might have to click and enlarge this to read the detail but I found it really funny.

 

Two at once socks

Two at once socks

I have also finished my ‘two at once’ socks. These were knitted from my favourite sock pattern from Ravelry but without the lace pattern, and two at once ofcourse.It was easier to manage the further you got into knitting these, and it was brilliant to be able to cast of and only have to darn in the ends before putting on a new pair of socks. No chance of ‘single sockitis! Again these have been worn and I can confirm that they are warm and comfortable. I used to be a little concerned about the difference in ‘nubblyness’ on the soles of hand knitted socks by comparison with the commercially produced socks but I don’t notice the difference now (apart from my feet being warmer in the wool socks).

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Fabulous bundt cake

I bought a new bundt cake tin after being bought the new  Simply Nigella  cook book for Christmas and seeing her cakes. Isn’t the shape just fabulous? In checking Amazon for the link this book is also available at a deep discount – the hardback is cheaper than the Kindle copy – and I can confess to spending way too long just drooling over the wonderful looking food.

I can’t believe just how easy it was to make a cake that looks so impressive! I made this particular recipe (rather than one of Nigellas which I will make in the near future) as Jess was trying a Vegan January and I am always up for a cooking challenge.This was a vegan chocolate mud cake I made. I wish I could share it with you – it tasted infinitely better than the title makes it sound. We had a slice each exactly as it was, but the next time we had it with chopped strawberries and some coconut soya yoghurt as a pudding. Delicious!

I have sewn something else which I will show as soon as I photograph that (I couldn’t do it at the same as the trousers as I was going out – I did put shoes on. Honest).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Musings on fundraising.

In short? I should have started much earlier. All the things I had planned to make, the time allocated (until a client came with a crisis), the fabric I knew I had (somewhere). Despite my organisational shortcomings the fundraising total stands around £400 at the moment with the possibility of a little more if/when the last of the items I made go.

So, what did I make?

Lots of cake

Lots of cake

Lots of muffins

Lots of muffins

The cake from last week was all used up after a trip to my bridge club. I can’t believe how the ladies (and a few gents) who almost all claimed to be ‘on a diet dear’ can clear a table faster than locusts! Thankfully they were also very generous and boosted the total very well.

My husband (The Management) took the muffins into his office, along with some of the sewn goods and improved the total further. Thank you to all who donated. You are all wonderful!

Sewing took more time than I expected, and as I said to begin should have been started earlier. However, I am happy with how things went and some of the items I made are shown below.

London Apron - suitable for bake off or barbecue

London Apron – suitable for bake off or barbecue

London shopping bag (can be used elsewhere!)

London shopping bag (can be used elsewhere!)

The print on this fabric was an obvious choice for London Marathon fundraising. It is a lovely heavy cotton, so well up to the job of being an apron or bag. These are both made from self drafted patterns.

The apron was a very simple ‘draw around an apron I already had’. It really doesn’t come easier than that does it?

The shopping bag was basically two sections (it could have been made without the seam in the bottom but I wanted to keep the design ‘right way up’) which I sewed into a bag (what else?) and then stitched across the corners to create a base. There was an inside pocket so that you could keep a purse or phone accessible when in use. The main thing I had in mind was to ensure the handles were comfortable to hold, and also very securely sewn in place. They aren’t coming off any time soon I can promise!

Loop/Infinity scarves

Loop/Infinity scarves

Another ridiculously easy make was the loop/infinity scarf. I managed to make use of some of the remnants that had been lurking in my stash for a while making these. I chose 150cm wide fabric and cut 50cm strips (or as close as I had. Seam along the long side (wrong sides together) starting and finishing about 10-15cm away from the short edge. Press and turn before joining the short edges to make a loop. I hand stitched the remaining little opening closed but it could probably have been done by machine if you wanted to be faster.

Runners/walkers arm pockets

Runners/walkers arm pockets

I am very lucky to have had permission from several people to use their patterns to raise money.One of these was Melissa from Fehr Trade who kindly said I could use her arm pocket and ruffled wristlet patterns. The arm pocket is another very easy make – and is useful to both men and women – so I set up a production line with these! They are made in Supplex so they are super comfortable to wear and sold very well. I have included the links to Melissas posts for each of these items in case you would like to make your own. Thanks Melissa!

Sadly I ran out of time before making any other little bags as I also had permission from Rhonda to use her clam shell wristlet, and Stephanie at Cake patterns to use her Red Velvet Mini clutch (available here as a free pattern!). Stephanie is happy for these to be made by anyone who wants to raise money this way – just not if you are a multi national or similar! I really wish I had left enough time to make everything I wanted.

I am glad to have finished the fundraising makes, and needed to make a little something for myself just to get back in the mood. Ages ago I watched the Beginners Serging course on Craftsy (having already killed off one overlocker/serger)  which I thought would help me to make better use of my machine. Despite owning and using this machine for years I did come away from the course with some new information so I was very happy (and I bought it on sale so it was a bargain – who doesn’t like a bargain?) On the course was a cute washbag/make-up bag that I thought would be nice to make. It is completed entirely on the overlocker (including a clever way to make the little loops for the sides, and inserting that zipper!) and was a very quick project, made almost entirely from scrap that was lying around  waiting for a purpose. I love it!

Washbag innards

Washbag innards

Cute bag - and fast to make!

Cute bag – and fast to make!

 

It is a little way off but I could make some of these for my friends McMillan Cancer coffee morning. More fundraising. Doh!

 


A Post about cake. Sourdough cake.

Yes honestly. Cake made with a sourdough starter is fabulous. I made two versions for a fundraising coffee morning today and have been asked to give recipes and starters to three people! (Perhaps I should have asked for a donation for them?)

Debris from what was sourdough cakes (and others)

Debris from what was sourdough cakes (and others)

I really should have taken my photograph before the hungry hoards arrived! However, the cake stand had been filled on both layers with my own lemon cake adaption of the chocolate cake recipe from King Arthur Flour website. You can see the plate of chocolate cake just behind and to the right of the cake stand. The chocolate cake has been declared the ‘best in the world – all of the world’ by my nieces boyfriend and is always popular Chez Hood.

It was only after several batches I decided I was going to have to find an alternative before The Management decided he was bored with it. Truly, I didn’t want to find another recipe as this one is so easy and I have found it pretty much foolproof.So….

If you use the recipe from the link and make the following changes I have made a Lemon cake (declared the best today), and an Apple and Cinnamon version.

Lemon Cake:

  • Don’t add the baking cocoa – replace it with flour. Don’t add the espresso powder either.
  • Add the grated zest and all the juice from 2 lemons. (Mine were fairly small but gave lots of juice).
  • For the icing (I only used 1/2 quantity) leave out the espresso powder and use zest/juice from 1 lemon.

Apple and Cinnamon Cake:

  • Don’t add the baking cocoa – replace it with flour. Miss out the espresso option.
  • Add 8oz of grated apple (or rough quantity – I used eating rather than cooking apples but either would work), 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 4oz Sultanas if you like them.
  • I left the icing plain but you could add cinnamon to it (leaving out the espresso).

I only ever put a half quantity of icing onto the cakes and find that is ample, and I am never patient enough to make the drizzle to go on the top before cutting into the cake!

This cake also freezes beautifully (cut into portions before freezing – you can ‘snap off’ the number of pieces you want to defrost) with the frosting on the top. Please don’t ask how long it lasts – we never have it for long before it is all eaten!

And the fundraiser? We managed to raise just over £200 towards Jess’ target. I’m happy but exhausted.

I think I deserve a cup of tea and a piece of cake.


A weeks review

I have been pretty busy this week but had fun all the way.

London Bag

London Bag

London Apron

London Apron

I have made four aprons, and six shopping bags ready for fundraising events. There are more items listed ready to make this week but I really wanted to make a start with things in this wonderful fabric showing the major sights in London. It is a lovely heavy 100% cotton that I am sure will be really hard wearing – and obviously washable since no-ones aprons (or shopping bags) stay clean for long.

I would have liked one of these for some cooking I did myself this week – but not allowed! I have been making sour dough bread about twice a week since I was given my starter and last week was no different. I like real ‘loaf tin’ shaped loaves as they are really easy to cut and make into toast – and sour dough toasts brilliantly!

Sour dough loaves

Sour dough loaves

I also made some Hot Cross Buns. I love Hot Cross Buns so when I saw a sour dough recipe on Fig Jam and Lime Cordials blog I had to try them. This is a fabulous blog but comes with a warning. She is an amazing cook and you will want to eat everything you see. I can almost feel my waist expanding as I read each post. And the Hot Cross buns are wonderful. I like mine well spiced so I will probably increase the amount of spice in the next batch. There will certainly be many more batches. Just look how good even my first batch looks (and there aren’t this many any more!)

Fabulous hot cross buns

Fabulous hot cross buns

Between client and fund raising sewing, cooking, and just general life there hasn’t been much spare time but I have eventually finished one of my ‘Little Minx’ socks. These are another toe-up pattern from Ravelry – and I have to say that the jury is out on this style. It has taken an age but only because this is the third time I have knitted this up. The first time I forgot to knit into the back of the knit stitch and the pattern wasn’t anything like as nice (it took a while to work out what I was doing wrong. Note to self – READ THE PATTERN PROPERLY). I love the yarn but at the moment I don’t love the sock. I have managed to make ‘pairs’ of every sock pattern I have made so far. I don’t want this to be the first singleton, but I think I am going to have to leave this a while before making the second.

Little Minx sock

Little Minx sock

I have lots of sewing planned for this week – but I am also hosting a fundraiser for my daughters marathon at my home on Friday morning so I will be knee deep in cake mix later in the week. I hope they all work right. I will report on fundraising progress next week.


I meant to sew today……

….. but I got completely engrossed in other things.

Yesterday I met a very warm and generous lady who replied to an appeal I made on the Freecycle network  for a sour dough starter. Several people,including Tanya at Chica Andaluza and Nothing But Knit (clearly not just knitting!) have been making sour dough bread,  and I was terribly envious. My own efforts at making a sour dough starter ended in dismal failure – hence the appeal on Freecycle.

Janice Bell lives in Bewdley and runs Bread at Home courses, and very kindly gave me starters for both white and rye bread. Needless to say I started the ‘sponge’ as soon as I had cleared away tea last night and have continued the bread today. My house smells fabulous – and I am now stuffed full of samples from both loaves which I ate at tea time. Yummy.

Sour dough loaves - no longer this big!

Sour dough loaves – no longer this big!

In addition to making these loaves I have been gathering what I need for my next project. I am going to allocate an hour per day before I start work on client jobs to make this jacket. I bought the course from the Craftsy website to see what could be learned from someone who has sewn in industry, rather than just domestic sewing. I have made a start watching some of the lessons, and have already gained some new ideas (Fluxion pens are new to me – I can’t wait to try them out!). The cotton twill was bought a little while ago for peanuts from Birmingham Rag Market so if I don’t like the eventual outcome it won’t have cost a lot and hopefully I will have learned some new skills.

All I need to start?

All I need to start?

I will show you how I am getting along through the week. If I eat much more bread I may need to cut a larger size!