Notes from ‘The Dark Side’

Fits the bed now!

Remember me? Yes, it’s been a while.

Much to my surprise I have been thoroughly enjoying the quilt. Yes. That quilt. And look – the topper is now big enough to fit the bed now – hurrah! I really didn’t think I was ever going to get to that point.

In fairness that did throw up a whole other set of dilemmas – the main one being how to actually ‘quilt’ the wretched thing. So many people had advised against hand quilting that I really shouldn’t have considered it – but I did and eventually decided that it was the way I wanted to go.

Those pieces have taken an age to put together, and I would love to say that all of the joins are perfect but they aren’t. Also, the nature of the design meant that there are areas where the stitching would go across blocks of darker colour and I decided that I really didn’t want the stitching to be very noticeable. So ……. hand quilting it is.

Comfortable work station

Hand quilting – for better or worse

I have moved my cutting table from the (darker) back room to a position in front of my work room window which is beautifully bright. I can work there until fairly late in the evening at the moment without any problem. I have also nicked  borrowed The Managements Pilates ball so I’m sitting better whilst working. These steps, and the discovery of Audio books from my local library, mean that I can quite happily spend a couple of hours (or more!) zenned out while I hand quilt. Who ever would have expected that to happen!

Anyway, as a result of that (and the fact that the Football World Cup is about to start) means that I am making good progress on the quilt, and expect to continue to do so. I’m not sewing anything else at the moment but I really feel that I about ready to consider sewing again from a much happier place.

EZ Alpaca sweater

You might remember the alpaca yarn I showed in my last post which is now a completed sweater. I followed the most basic of the Elizabeth Zimmerman designs and have been very happy with the results. I’m slightly surprised at just how warm and heavy this turned out to be – and I shouldn’t show any surprise that completion coincided with the change in the weather here in the UK so it is now way too warm to wear this! Never mind, I’m quite certain that it will be well worn in due course.

I enjoyed the whole Elizabeth Zimmerman method of knitting (Pattern – what pattern?) and when Kate publicised on her blog HERE that she was willing to arrange a KAL (knit – along) using the EZ methods for a raglan sweater I was very happy to join. I am just using as much of the scrap yarn (of the same type) that I have left from previous projects so it isn’t going to be a classy knit! Since I’m hardly a classy dame I really don’t care  😉

Hoods on tour

Aluminium jewellery

We managed to slip a quick week away to Puglia in Italy a couple of weeks ago and had a very fine time. Those who follow me on instagram (@kimthemateriallady) will have already seen some pictures. We were very much in need of sunshine – which arrived in the UK just as we were packing the case. Thankfully it hung around and we are still enjoying it.

Italy, and particularly Puglia (since that was where we were) was fantastic. We generally ate and drank too much, and smiled a massive amount which has made our smile wrinkles even deeper which troubles me not one jot. I don’t often buy mementos of holidays as they are so frequently regretted on return but I was delighted to find these pieces of jewelry in Vieste. It looks quite heavy but is actually aluminium so it is fabulously light – and was hand made by the gentleman I bought them from. Better and better – and worn frequently since return.

Elderflower cordial – bottled sunshine!

The wonderful weather has meant that the wild flowers are looking wonderful – and I was particularly waiting for the elder flower so that I could make cordial. I was a little late making this for the first time last year from THIS RECIPE. It was delicious – and even freezes so you can save some for when winter all seems to be getting too miserable as it tastes like bottled sunshine. I managed to pick sufficient for a double batch on a fabulously sunny afternoon and now have it safely tucked away. I’m keeping note of the elder bushes I see as I also have a recipe (untried) for elderberry cordial which is supposed to be really beneficial to health in the winter.

Oh heavens, I appear to be turning into ‘The Wise Woman’. Take no notice of me.

The Management was all ready to go down to the museum a little while back and I took advantage of the moment to take a picture of him in full shelter regalia. Not meant to be actually 1940’s kit – just inspired by. The only new thing is the sweater I knitted. We have been fortunate enough to find everything else in Charity (Op) shops, or from the clothing he already had. Doesn’t he look cute?

Full shelter outfit

I will try not to leave it quite so long before I report in again – but as you can see I haven’t been (totally) slacking. And the garden aint looking too bad either.

Kim

 

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So much stuff!

Anyone who knows me will confirm that I am no Marie Kondo. I do try to keep things moderately under control but honestly, I’m failing miserably! I can’t believe just how much stuff I have accumulated. And I’m not just talking sewing and knitting stash (though that is pretty embarrassing) – all round the house things are running wild.

How many face washes do you need? Certainly not the three opened ones that I have, and also three bottles of moisturiser – one in use and the other two obviously bought in readiness. And don’t even ask about opened hand creams. Or lipsticks.

I’ll conceded that some of the stuff waiting for action is not ‘going to go off’, and will be used in it’s turn, but I really need to start using this lot before I buy ANYTHING else! I assumed that I would be a more considered shopper now that I allegedly have more time but I clearly need to work on that skill!

Whilst cleaning, and also slight clearance, in the room that bears the worst of my fabric buying excess I did manage to make things look better – fabric folded and put away properly or bagged ready to be passed onto the art teacher that takes my scrap, patterns tidied up , and magazines tidied into their respective boxes. All looking better – but how did I convince myself I have no UFO’s? Actually they technically aren’t UFO’s as they haven’t been started. I did read a lovely term for my problem which I’m afraid I’ve forgotten – but they are basically aspirational projects that I still want to make but aren’t anywhere near being made yet. A horrifying amount of them. Oh dear.

Relaxing knitting

So, it’s agreed. I really need to stop buying yarn and fabric, also patterns, and start making up the projects I have waiting. With that in mind I gathered everything I needed (all available) to start another Purl Soho Botanical Yoke sweater. I had bought the yarn at Colourmart ages ago, the pattern had already been tested and worn here so I knew I liked it enough to repeat the experience. I started knitting whilst watching TV (loosely, as you need to concentrate at this point) and once past the first few rows I was happy I wasn’t knitting with a twist in the round so it has been nice to sit and enjoy the quiet of the project while I relax in the evening.

All was going well then? It was….

Until I visited a Scrap Store. I had been a little envious of the ‘op shops’ and ‘reverse garbage’ opportunities that seemed to be available in Australia – so many of the blogs refer to many of their ‘makes’ being from things rescued from landfill. The attitude to re-use seems to be much better there. I was confident that there wasn’t anything like that in the UK – the resale shops are called ‘charity’ shops here and don’t seem to have the same cachet that overseas equivalents have. Anyhoo, not to be put off I Googled a query and came up with Scrap Stores. I’m in the fortunate position of having several within easy reach, but my most local was the Worcester Resource Exchange. We were in that area last Saturday so I called in ‘just for a look’. Of course.

Merino felt and stretch lace

Vintage Vogue Designer Patterns

It was both fascinating and horrifying. There was stuff that you wondered if anyone would buy (only to hear people excitedly squeak when they found it!), and things you really wondered how you could justify taking them home. The Management was in the car so it wasn’t going to be easy to sneak things by him!

I was sunk when I saw the lovely bright merino wool felt – bags perhaps?, or maybe it could be used as a more exciting under collar on a tailored jacket? The stretch lace was completely unnecessary – I have a bag full of bits and pieces trawled from the Rag Market with the intention of making lingerie (another one of those aspirational projects) but I couldn’t resist. There were also lots of art supplies that I was seriously tempted by but I would have needed to find the bin marked ‘an extra day in the week’ even though I’m retired.

In another box I saw a load of used patterns, sorted by decade but just a lovely jumble to be looked through. And found four Vogue Designer Original patterns that I really liked. I swear that there were more but I didn’t just sweep them all up.

Who could have left Christian Dior – Vogue 1755, (in size 12 so I can probably make it up straight from the envelope although I haven’t done any thinking about fabrics yet), or Stan Herman 2057 – new to me but I love this dress shape, Diane Von Furstenberg 2065 – another very wearable dress, and lastly and Edith Head  1895 – I’m not entirely certain I would wear this but I do like it so it came home. Can I also say that after deducting my annual membership from what I paid this lot came to under £20. I’m afraid I will be back.

Yes, as you can see I am definitely cleaning and clearing. Just not my house. I hope to make use of all of these patterns – and a whole lot more that I have with plans attached to them! I really do need to get stuck in. I’ll be back eventually when I have something to show – but for now I’m off to knit while I calm my nerves 😉

Kim

 


Reflecting….

…. on the past year – as so many of us are. I realise I have blogged very little this year. And probably sewn even less despite all intentions to the contrary. In retrospect this shouldn’t be too big a surprise. I had a pretty tumultuous year in so many respects – some good , some not so great, some just plain confusing and tiring.

I started the year nursing a grumpy gall bladder. I’ll confess that this screwed up just about everything – including my ability to enjoy much that I usually do. This isn’t news to a great many people. Anyone out there suffering and wondering if it is worthwhile having the op to remove it – get on the phone and get the bu**er out! Life started to improve greatly after that was removed in April.

Then I fell over and sprained and broke my ankle in June. Poo. It’s still not absolutely right (physio appointments made so hopefully improved soon). That shouldn’t have made too much of an impact but I confess that I have sulked big time, and the lack of ability to run has made me unbelievably grumpy. The Management is looking forward to me being able to get out and run again  😉

We did have that wonderful month out to Australia in November where I met Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, and Lesley of Sew,Nip Tuck which was wonderful. It seemed to have been in the planning for ever and it’s a bit of a shock now it’s actually done. We enjoyed it enormously but got home exhausted, just in time to have to buy Christmas gifts for our family in Northumberland. No pressure!

Beautiful – and empty!

We had a mere two week before we went to Northumberland – a bit of a climate change there! We spent a couple of days with friends enjoying beach walks at Bambrough with their dog, and a fabulous trip to Barter Books – possibly my favourite bookshop in the world. My sister loves a visit to Barter as much as me but we couldn’t combine our visit this time sadly. It was lovely to see both mothers and sisters again as we see so little of them. Regular phone calls just aren’t the same.

Christmas was wonderful with a visit from The Daughter. Again, we don’t see as much as we would like but she is having a very different life from us living and working in London. Great to see her though. She was exceedingly taken with the parcels I received from my Stitching Santa partners. These were wonderful and deserve a full post (again, after the new year) but I will say to both Nana Cathy and Deborah of Sweet Fallen Angels that their parcels were fabulous! I’m really looking forward to playing with using the contents 🙂

What next? Ah yes, The Management. Now retired. Why didn’t anyone tell me it could be so much fun? But also really puts a crimp in your sewing time ….. and many other interests time. I love him dearly (most days) but I confess that this has taken far more adapting to than I expected. I am enjoying the slower pace of life but really think I need to jack it up a bit again if I expect to get things I want done. Memo to myself sent for 2018. Still some settling in and adapting to be done I fear. If anyone out there has a handle on how to cope well in retirement I would love to hear your solutions.

 

 

Ok that’s the ‘Life’ bit of my blog title over – what about the rest? Fabric? Yes, been buying plenty of that so I have a mammoth backlog of intended projects . Do these count as UFO’s – because if they do I’m in real trouble. I have done some sewing – recently and for our Australia trip (a bit of a Style Arc fest if I’m honest). I really need to concentrate a post to those in the new year (I promise!!!). There are intentions to make more this year (aren’t there always?) and whilst I’m not officially signing up for Goodnight Valentinos RTW fast this year (I did it a few years ago and enjoyed it) I do intend to sew anything I can rather than buying.

About a hundred years ago I did lots of pattern cutting in order to get my City and Guilds qualification and I have very sadly let that ability slide. I was looking at the amount of patterns I had bought in recent years and was slightly horrified. Yes I could have drafted them myself – I was probably lookinng for a quick fix in most cases. No more. The pattern drafting tools are to be dusted off and I will start again. I have rediscovered my blocks (last drawn out too many years ago to admit) and the calico trials – wonders will never cease that they were together! I will be trying theese on to have a good laugh establish what changes need to be made. Once that has been done I will start looking through my wardrobe – that shouldn’t take long 😦 – and identify what I need to fill gaps. And what needs to be passed on. Even when things still fit and are in good condition they sometimes just ‘need to go’.

Well congratulations if you have made it through all that waffle. I’m finished for now – apart from wishing all of you amazing readers a very happy and prosperous 2018. May none of your projects be wadders!

Kim x

 


I’m back (again)

I’m not even going to try to apologise for the length of time it’s taken to follow my last post. I will, however, let you know why it’s taken so long.

At the end of the last post I alluded to having met another blogger. No photographs of this particular undercover treat – the lady we know best as Mrs Mole. We met and talked for so long I thought we would be put out as the restaurant set around us for that evenings dinner service. She brought me a wonderful piece of Devore velvet in the most adorable aubergine purple and I am still thinking of the perfect project to use this for.

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Beautiful fabric – thanks Mrs Mole!

I have been having problems taking photographs of my sewing as I go. So many bloggers have fabulous pictures on their blogs. Mine always feel very rushed and a bit yucky. This has almost put me off blogging altogether. The Management isn’t ever going to be ‘a photographer’ on request (I’m pretty sure he fouls up just to prevent me asking again), and the tripod works ok but is a real pain to set up – and often the sun goes in/light changes so I have to move the blessed thing all over again. I know how much better things look on an actual body rather than just pressing Bessie into service so I will try harder to photograph as I go in future.

As you know I am no longer sewing for clients. Ahem, one of my favourites didn’t get the memo. He doesn’t come often but when he does it’s usually a very interesting project – and although he is exacting he isn’t usually any trouble. This order was for six silk shirts from a pattern I had already used. Shouldn’t be difficult -or so I thought. Inevitably this was the order that took more time than I expected. I was very pleased with the results but I really wanted to be getting on with other things because….

….I was going to Australia for almost a month! My plan had been to make a very organised travel wardrobe that would make the stay a well dressed dream. All of the blogs I have seen do this made it look very achievable – and well it may have been had I not been making shirts….  . Needless to say the whole co-ordinated look went right out of the window and I ended up with my usual dressmaker rush to fill in gaps and make what I already had more wearable. I have some photographs but I wanted to write at least one post before I choke my computer with all of the photographs I took whilst we were away! I was really lucky to be able to meet another two of my blogging ‘friends from afar’ – the wonderful Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and Lesley from Sewniptuck (more on those meetings in another post). We got back yesterday and I have been playing catch up on my blog reading but not making many comments. That will get back to normal soon.

When I have sorted the photographs and found the pictures of the few things I made to go I will blog each garment. Some were winners, some well…..

So until I get that done I will finish off with a promise to try to be a better blogger now that my amazing holiday (which had been planned for ages so I had no excuses not to be better organised!) is over, and I don’t have client work BECAUSE I’M RETIRED.  Please feel free to remind me of that if I slip. So, nothing in the way of sewing and blogging (except maybe Chri….. I can’t even say the word yet).

Back soon

Kim


I plan and God laughs

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Sock therapy

Yes, I did have plans to start sewing again despite a very weak sewing mojo at present. But…. I managed a spectacular fall in the forest whilst out walking (yes, WALKING – not even running) and I now have what turned out to be a sprained ankle with a little fracture on the knobby ankle bone. Painful and very life interrupting.

As a result I have been knitting socks again. The sharp eyed among you will recognise the green yarn from my Shrewsbury shopping trip which I bought so I could squeeze another pair of socks out of the hank of sock yarn in my Stitching Santa parcel. I also decided it would be a good opportunity to write the ‘size between’ instructions on my favourite sock pattern to get the perfect fit.

I was thrilled to get the pair out of what was left of the yarn with only yards to spare – look at what’s left on the photograph! I can’t verify that the fit is exactly what I wanted yet since my left foot is in a surgical boot at the moment. Very fetching 😉

Now that I am a bit more mobile, and it is my left foot after all so I could still use a sewing machine pedal, I will get back to work. I hope your plans are going better than mine out there.

Kim x


Relaxing, and getting things done, is soooo good!

Yes, it’s official – I’m retired  so don’t ask me to do a darned thing!

Actually not quite true yet as I still have a very small amount of client work outstanding – but it’s all work that has no deadline so I can actually do it when I feel like that sort of work rather than feeling obligated. How happy am I! I promise this is the last time I gloat ‘coz  I’m retired . Honest.

Anyway, my last post was a frantic dash to get the Jungle January garments posted before Ann slammed the gate closed so I didn’t tell what else I had been doing so I will start here..

In with my lovely knitting ‘Stitching Santa’ parcel from Jo  was a skein of sock yarn in lovely greens. Clearly since it was my gift I had to knit this for myself. Since I had no other knitting on the needles I decided to start January with this. The yarn was a lovely Superwash wool/nylon sock yarn by Knitglobal which knitted up beautifully into very comfy socks. Thankfully they are also very warm because it has been positively bleak here in the UK. Grey and wet. Yuck! There are another couple of balls of Drops sock yarn so I can start another pair whenever I want. Bliss!

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..and back

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Butterick 6388 front…

I started sewing with the Butterick 6388 pattern and a cheerful red polka dot jersey because …well, it’s miserable in January! Red always cheers me up. However, I really have to say I prefer this as a top (as it was for JJ in the last post). It’s a great pattern – and I certainly see more of these in the (possibly near) future – but I like the top better. The pockets in the diagonal seams are great but inclined to open up a bit when you are wearing the dress. I may go back and sew these closed. The fabric is far from high quality – probably plain polyester jersey from the Rag Market but I have no recollection as it had been in stash for ages. It does have as much stretch as the pattern claims to need but I would much prefer it to be stretchier as it clings a bit. It may behave better once it has been washed but at the moment it is giving electric shocks as there is so much static!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy next choice was another Rag Market fabric – this was an astonishingly good buy at a mere 50p per yard (or whatever length they were selling in that day) and is a very heavy jersey. I should probably have thought more carefully about that weight when I decided to repeat the wonderful Savage Coco Presto top in it. The front (and as it’s cold I did the back too) is doubled so there is a lot of cloth here. I  really should have put a petticoat under that dress before taking photographs – I don’t usually have a sway back problem so I assume the cloth is just stuck to my tights. I really loved this made up as a top and have worn the ones I made last year Yikes!!! it was 2015 a massive amount. They have every right to be looking a bit shabby now. I’m not sure if I will keep this as a dress or shorten it to a t-shirt length. I’m really not good at wearing dresses but I’m trying so hard. Perhaps you could tell me what you think?

In addition to sewing these for me I have been destroying a whole load of good cotton. I really can’t believe how long it is taking to cut the pieces for The Managements quilt! Sheesh! All that time and I’m going to be spending even more sewing it all back together. Remind me whats great about quilting can you?! I can assure you that progress on this project is going to be outstandingly slow. No, even slower than that.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving finished the socks I was knitting I have broken out of my sock addiction to start knitting a pattern by Purl Soho I saw a while back and just loved. At the time there didn’t seem to be many made up (and when I worked out the cost of the yarn recommended I could see why!). The Botanical Yoke pullover is shown made up in Cashmere/Merino which would quite clearly be heavenly to wear. As I hadn’t used a Purl Soho pattern (and as I said there was no information on Ravelry about the pattern at the time) I decided to make it up in a more summer appropriate, and purse friendly, Drops Cotton Light. Again I chose a bright red (what can I say, red just feels good in January) and have been enjoying knitting this whilst watching the telly box. I have the body knitted up to the armholes, and one sleeve started, so it shouldn’t be too long before I hit the exciting part. By knitting in this yarn first it will give me the opportunity to test the pattern, check the size (my guage is pretty much perfect), and decide if I love it enough to invest in the cashmere/merino to make a sweater to treasure. So far it’s looking good.

Already we are almost half way through February so there won’t be massive amounts sewn for me now (although there are patterns lined up ready to use). I do have a shirt cut out for The Management, and I really do want to start my coat before summer so I really should crack on. But, and it’s a big but, I am only sewing when I feel like it at the moment – and that feels really good. I have been reading, cooking, exercising, and clearing some of those jobs you always intend to go but tend to get left.

I’m enjoying life. Hope you are too.


Yucky/Lovely December

Oh boy have I had a grotty month – with the exception of the Christmas holidays. I don’t really want to go too far down that rabbit hole but I have been feeling grotty almost all month and it still isn’t sorted out. As a result I have been feeling very sorry for myself (crying at adverts and such on the TV is never good) and haven’t got anywhere near everything I wanted done through the month. All I can really thrill to is the fact that online shopping exists, without which we might possibly have been having beans on toast for Christmas lunch instead of the food that was so wonderfully delivered to the door by a very cheery chap from a local supermarket.
I have deferred some of my client work into January so my ‘retirement’ will be a little delayed, although I will still be doing a fraction of what had been needed previously.

I had intended to have a couple of trips into Birmingham to buy goodies for my #StitchingSanta partners but wasn’t able to do it. I did manage a bit of sewing and crochet for them – the ‘toiletry bags’ from Rhondas blog  which I thought would make great anything bags, and the face scrubbies from the stitchinmommy. Whilst I was reading the comments on Sewchets blog I saw one from Thimberlina who was one of my recipients saying that she wouldn’t mind one of the covered notebooks  – I hope you liked it Ali!

I was pretty miserable when I sent off the parcels to Ali and Hila as I had run out of wrapping paper, the gifts had been largely mail order rather than the Birmingham madness I had imagined, so weren’t even prettily wrapped. I swear I will do better next year and apologise wholeheartedly to Ali and Hila, and thank The Management for his help in getting them delivered at all. I hope you liked your parcels despite the numpty wrapping ladies.

I really was wowed by my two parcels.

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Sewing #stitchingsanta

The first shown is my sewing package which was sent by Nikki from beads and barnacles . I was overwhelmed by the gorgeous sewing box she had made, and included goodies too – a matching pin cushion, needle case, scissor holder with scissors, and pattern weights that knock spots off my flat seaside stones. As if that wasn’t enough she included a piece of fabric, a lovely beanie hat knitted by her sister Pippa, knitting stitch markers, and a package with all that was needed to make myself a hot chocolate to have with the macarons she had made. Treasure indeed!

I can’t wait to start collecting my sewing gizmos together into that box – perfect for someone about to change sewing habits to sew for themselves instead of clients. Thank you for everything Nikki.

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Knitting #stitchingsanta

Having gathered my breath from opening my sewing parcel I couldn’t possibly have expected the wonders included in my knitting parcel. Jo from Jo through the keyhole had clearly been rummaging in my foggy brain to come up with so perfect a collection. The sock yarn is wonderful – and as it was a gift I have to make socks for me, don’t I? There was also a beautiful knitted shawl/scarf which I will make massive use of as I’m almost permanently freezing at the moment. There was a knitted purse kit which looks like fun, and a dachshund brooch kit with a Mollie Makes magazine (which is new to me) so I’m going to be well occupied once my brain clears. There was also a book called The Great Christmas Knit Off, chocolate, and tea sachets. I confess that reading with a cup of tea and a chocolate is about my activity level at the moment so all of this is massively appreciated. Thank you so much Jo.

This was my first experience of Sewchets fabulous #STITCHING SANTA and it has been wonderful. Thanks so much for organising as it must be lots of work!

I have done some knitting for myself this month but haven’t had the brain power to attack anything that couldn’t be ripped out to start again. My vest is finished and I’m very happy with it (Bessie pressed into action again for photos – you really don’t want to have my mug at the moment 😞). As you can see there was very little yarn leftover – I did start  to worry that I was going to run out!

I made my mum a new tea cosy in a pattern that she must have knitted on more occasions than she could possibly remember. She was very happy, and very amused to have had one knitted for her. The socks were for Jess who loves wearing them as ‘slippers’ (and doesn’t bother taking them off for bed so any nocturnal rambling is with warm feet!).

I’m determined that January will herald a new start, and that feeling better will be part of it (positive thinking!).

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and wish you a fabulous 2017 .

Kim x