Friday, 27 August 2010
Thursday, 26 August 2010
A while ago a friend of mine declared a love of bunting, and the organised bit of my brain went PING! I would make her a little string of bunting of her own as part of her birthday pressie. As luck would have it, the July issue of Sew magazine contained an article on how to make it, so I ordered a pretty co-ordinating bundle from Fabric Rehab and I was set.
Then on Sunday evening I suddenly realised that I would be seeing her this coming Friday (ie tonight) and that I hadn't even made a start. That gave me a total of five evenings to get it done, but worse, I also had to squeeze into those same five evenings: picking up a bookcase, visiting my Granny, having a date night and visiting friends. Cue much panic.
After reading the Sew article in more detail (ie reading the actual words rather than just looking at the pretty pictures), I found it a bit convoluted to say the least and couldn't work out what they wanted me to do to make the loopy bit which the ribbon would be threaded through. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I chucked the magazine and decided to fly by the seat of my pants on this one - how hard could it be?
I did however follow their instructions for making a triangular template for the flags: Draw a rectangle measuring about 12x17cm, cut it out and fold in half lengthways so form a thin rectangle. With the fold at the left hand side, draw a diagonal line from the top right corner to the bottom left corner and cut. Open out to see your finished triangle shape.
I had six fabrics in my bundle so decided upon 12 flags. I folded my fat quarters in half with right sides together and cut two flags from each one (four triangles in total, per fat quarter), so I ended up with a little pile of flag pieces thus:
I then sewed along each long side:
And trimmed the seams to prevent bulkiness:
I turned them inside-out (or, the right way around!), using a pencil to poke out the bottom corner properly, and pressed, and ended up with a small pile of triangular pockets, with front and back matching. You can of course mix and match your front and back, or if you only have a small amount of pretty fabric, you could use plain on the back. But for speed and ease, I did it this way!
[Actually I have only just realised I could have not bothered with a back at all! That would have made this project super easy and quick, but I shall revel in the fact that I haven't made too half-arsed an attempt at it.]
Now, when I had decided to go it alone after finding the magazine's description of forming the loops on the flags to be threaded onto the string incomprehensible, I had envisaged buying a wide piece of ribbon and folding it over the raw edges and sewing the length of it, nice and neat. However, the only ribbon I liked in the shop turned out to be about 1cm wide. So was a I good little seamstress? Did I turn the raw edges in on themselves to create a neat finish? Did I even zigzag along them to prevent fraying? No, no time! I simply lopped the raw edges off with my pinking shears and am hoping that as bunting is an 'occasional' item, they won't fray too badly!
I then marked out my ribbon with pins. I used 2.5m of ribbon, leaving 23cm at each end to form a hanging loop. I then folded in half to find the middle, and half again to find the 'quarter' marks. I used these pins to help me place the flags at even intervals along the ribbon, and pinned them in place (this picture was taken at 7.30 yesterday morning, can you see my breakfast there? Crunchy Nut Clusters with Chocolate Curls - I'm never going to look good in a red swimsuit):
Once this was done I set about sewing along the edge of each flag, making sure the top edge wasn't visible above the ribbon from the front. I even remembered to go back and forth over the beginning and end of each line of stitches to secure them *polishes halo*:
Once this was done, the only thing left was to create a loop on each end of the ribbon, and I added a little button for decoration:
And here it is, ta-dah! Finished at 8 o'clock this morning with 12 hours to spare! I apologise for the not-so-great pics, turns out there aren't many opportune places for hanging bunting in my house!
I'm pleased with it overall, and I am totally going to do myself a string of Christmassy bunting soon. As it's all short straight lines, it's a really easy project for a beginner, and I hope my semi-tutorial will inspire someone to give it a go! :)
Tuesday, 24 August 2010
I've got off to a good and bad start with the 4 Simple Goals project, this is mostly to do with the fact that I realised it's only a week til I see the friend for whom I am sewing a birthday present, so I've been cracking on with that! Here's a round-up:
1. Learn to crochet
A few years ago I went to my Grandma and demanded she taught me to crochet. It transpired however that she only knows how to crochet in rounds, whereas I really wanted to learn granny squares. This coupled with the fact that I used the most garish wool I could find and couldn't seem to keep the same tension all the way around resulted in this strange semi-round rag and my enthusiasm soon waned (get your sunglasses on!):
Looking closely at it, it seems I also managed to change my stitch over the last few rounds, resulting in a looser, more open crochet. Very clever ... er, but not if you have no idea how it's happened and are unable to replicate it!
But my enthusiasm has been buoyed by this project so I've got my books from the library
and have created a chain of 20!
Well done me! I'm aiming to create myself a nice red scarf in plain crochet stitches, before going on and learning all the different stitches in the book - I want to learn all the proper terminology so that I actually know what patterns are talking about. Can anyone recommend me a good beginner's crochet book, as I feel I'm going to need to buy one!?
2. Try a new recipe every week
This one went a bit better - where there's a will there's a way, and where food is concerned, there's always a will! We fancied some sort of bake, and I've discovered that the BBC Good Food website is your friend! You can search recipes by ingredients, difficulty, chef, preparation time ... and then you can save them in your own little 'binder' for later use! Fabulous!
Anyway, on Friday night we had Mediterranean Chicken with Roasted Vegetables and some Crunchy New Potatoes on the side
Okay, so not the most intricate or convoluted of recipes, but I've never actually attempted roasting vegetables before so I was pleased that it turned out delicious. And those potatoes with paprika will definitely be getting made again!
I also tried out a new Victoria Sponge recipe this week, but that's going to have a post of its own I think...
3. Make more of an effort with my appearance
Clockwise from top left I have: worn a bit of make-up to work, rather than just the usual dab of concealer and powder; worn a dress AND heels for work (though perhaps shouldn't have done this on the day I had to buy an ironing board at the other end of town); made the effort to wear more flattering skinny trousers rather than slouchy, baggy ones; and painted my toenails BEFORE the old stuff had turned grotty and chipped off.
It's going OK, I definitely feel more confident when I know I don't look like a bag lady!
4. Write a personal letter every week
A fail here I'm afraid. Although I did make the effort to go to the Post Office for the special stamps and airmail stickers (my first victim lives in Dublin) and bring some letter sets over from Dad's, just haven't had the chance to sit down and write...
Still, onwards and upwards! Is anyone else doing this? How are you getting on?
Monday, 23 August 2010
My cousin taught me to cross stitch when I was only about 10, and I happily created birthday cards and small pictures of Forever Friends and Paddington Bear until the age of about 16 when exams and boys got in the way. Since taking up dressmaking last September however, I've been thinking more and more about various other crafts such as knitting, crochet and cross stitch.
I really really love doing cross stitch, it's not really hard and its repetitiveness (repetitivity?) makes it a soothing and relaxing pastime. However, it's the product of the pastime that I have a problem with. Even if I love a particular piece and think it's the cutest/most beautiful/most intricate thing I've ever seen, I still would not necessarily want it displayed in my home. Nor would I want to force it as a gift onto a friend who would then feel obliged to display it in their home ... because it was a gift. So my urge to stitch was was left unsated for years.
That was until one fateful day. I was flicking about on Flickr one day, as you do when you have a job and not a career, and came across a group devoted to Subversive Cross Stitch. Now this was something I could get my teeth into! Pretty little samplers, flowers and hearts, oh so sweet and innocent, until you look a little closer and see that the text actually reads: "I hope you Choke and Die", or , more simply "Fart" (teehee). I have SO many plans for subversive cross stitch projects, and I completed my first over the weekend:
I must admit, sadly it's not my own design - I shamelessly copied from this, but I did alter the colours a bit and made sure the cats looked like my cats:
I'm really pleased with it and hope it'll give visitors a giggle when they come round. And best of all, I managed to get it finished and framed without them vomiting on it once!
Monday, 16 August 2010
Although new to blogging myself, I have been a happy visitor to blogland for a long time, and one particular lady I've been following for a while now is Elsie Flannigan. She is just so inspirational - take a look at her blog and revel in the gorgeous bits she makes, the ideas she has, the things she does...
She recently set her fellow bloggers a challenge, and I'm happily and enthusiastically taking part. It's all about achieving four personal, life-enriching goals before 2011, they are to be easily reachable, but things that you wouldn't necessarily get around to doing without the challenge.
Here are my four:
1. Learn to crochet
I've always loved crochet blankets but have recently been reading the Attic 24 blog and Lucy has really inspired me to take it up myself. I have a library book and some wool and I started to teach myself at the weekend - so far I have done 20 chain stitches...
2. Try one new recipe every week
Be it a meal, cakes, biscuits, cocktails .... When you work full time it can be easy to fall into a rut with cooking, but now that my boyfriend and I have our own place I want to make the most of kitchen freedom and experiment with food a bit.
3. Make more of an effort with my appearance
I admit it, especially on work days, I often leave the house with no make-up wearing boring old trousers and top. But I think how you present yourself can have a big impact on how you feel about yourself and on how you act. I often find when I dress up a bit for work, I feel more professional and therefore act more professional and work harder. So this part of the challenge will involve delving into my wardrobe and wearing things that haven't seen the light of day for ages, taking more risks with my clothes shopping, putting on a bit of makeup, painting my nails, hopefully finishing off a couple of dressmaking projects and most importantly throwing away anything which I wear for convenience but which makes me feel fat and/or frumpy.
4. Write a personal letter every week
I have lots of lovely friends but sadly not very many of them live within a 40 mile radius of me anymore, and even more sadly: we keep in touch mostly via Facebook status updates. Everybody loves receiving a proper old-fashioned hand-written letter though so I'm going to try and make my friends' days by sending them a surprise letter, just to chat. And hopefully I'll get some back too!
My goals are all ongoing things so I hope this will make me integrate them into my lifestyle a bit. I will blog about this challenge every week and let you know how I've been getting on. Now off to search blogland for other peoples' goals and feel all gleeful and inspired :)
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Amongst other things that make my new village very appealing, is the fact that it has a racecourse and inside this racecourse there is an enormous car boot sale every Sunday - hurrah! It's only 15 minutes walk from our house, and we saw some lovely equestrian topiary on the way:
I almost fainted when the man on the gate told me the admission fee: two pounds each! Last time I went to a car boot sale I could have sworn it was 20p, and it wasn't that long ago! Not one to be deterred from bargain hunting though, I coughed up and in we went.
Is it just me who is shocked at the kinds of things people try to sell for actual legal tender these days? Teddy bears that have been loved within an in ch of their life and really need putting out of their misery, rugs that haven't seen a hoover for a good long while, dirty clothes and broken pots. Very disappointing altogether.
But then, finally, I stumbled (literally) upon a crate on the floor, a little stash of vintage dress patterns to be rifled through - what luck! And only 20p each!
Actually, most of the dress patterns were none-too-clever, lacy, netty, frilly bridal affairs mostly, but I did bag a couple of simple shift dresses in my size and best of all these quirky toy patterns from Woman's Realm from 1975! Aren't they charming? I think they're going to look brilliant dressed up in colourful fabrics! Watch this space to see how I get on...
Wednesday, 4 August 2010
I'm in the middle of moving house at the moment and stupidly didn't actually take any time off work to do it, just the odd hour here and there, so haven't had any time for sewing or baking, or anything really apart from wrapping things in newspaper and unwrapping them again.
So, in the same way that I did a 'story so far' for my sewing exploits, I thought I'd bring you up to date with some of the yummy things I've baked over the last couple of years.
I first got really inspired to get into baking by an online friend, Kate. Take a look at her blog, but don't be fooled by all the make up talk - she's a little domestic goddess underneath it all! She once gave me a Brownie recipe (her very own, no less) and they are so popular! I've never ever tried another recipe and I don't think I will, if it ain't broke don't fix it...
It was she who introduced me to the wonderful world of the Hummingbird Bakery, which I gather is pretty popular in blogland! From their foolproof book I have managed to impress friends and family with...
(still honing my piping skills!)
An amazing lemon and poppyseed cake:
A simple-but-perfect lemon loaf:
A decadent Mississippi Mud Pie:
An enormous coffee cake:
This was for my coffee-fiend Dad's birthday, and even my coffee-hating boyfriend loved it.
The best blueberry cake ever:
And it's not just cakes, their cookies are fab too:
But although it's a failsafe, I don't rely solely on the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.
I've also made some quite successful oaty cookies:
Mince Pies - I even made my own pastry and no-one would believe me:
Easter nest cakes (made with shredded wheat):
And Mars Bar Krispie Square things:
That's not to say I haven't had my fair share of disasters though! All made with meticulous attention to the recipe too...
Oreo cheesecake cupcakes (blegh):
And a very soggy Nutty Apple Loaf (a Hummingbird one, surprisingly):
That's just to name a few, without even going into my numerous attempts at blueberry muffins, and my nemesis ... the Victoria Sponge.
I'm definitely going to be baking more now that I have my very own kitchen so hopefully you'll be able to feast your eyes on yummy treats weekly from now on!