Thursday, 30 December 2010

The obligatory resolutions post - 2011

2011 - wow. I can't quite believe it's here already. I wonder what it will bring? 2010 was quite a big year for me and Matt. We dealt with some massive flatmate hassles. We moved out of a shared flat and into our own place. We did a 3 week driving holiday in America. I found out I have exactly the same hand size as Marilyn Monroe.

photographic evidence!

I got back my crafting mojo and began blogging.

I bought myself an electronic keyboard and began practising piano again. I am technically a grade 7 pianist but this time a year ago I had barely touched a piano for more than 10 years. I was afraid that if I left it any longer I would forget how to play. I'm so glad I did, I'll never be a brilliant pianist but my parents invested quite a lot of money in lessons, it seems churlish to let it go to waste!

I taught myself to crochet.

my first self designed crochet project

We have no big plans for next year so I'm afraid if I don't make some now, 2011 will end up a bit 'nothingy'. I'm the type that forgets or belittles my own achievements if I don't have them listed somewhere (ah, lovely lists). So here goes!

This time next year I'd like to have made at least 5 items of clothing that I am happy to wear outside and am proud of. That's not even one every two months, surely even I can manage that! Number one will hopefully be the Rooibos. I would quite like to try another Simplicity 2591, perhaps with contrasting fabric on the interior pocket panels. I'll chart the progress of this goal on this blog. In the meantime I'll be perusing all the super crafty bloggy goddesses I follow for inspiration as to what the other items will be.

Life and that #1
Although I love where I work, there's a lot of upheaval planned for early 2011. I may not have a job by summer and the job itself (if it continues) will be a dumbed down version of what I already do. Sadly this probably means I'll be getting a new job in 2011 - but although I'll be sad to leave my lovely colleagues I'm also quite excited. New opportunities, new challenges - they can only be good things, right? So. Goal number 2 - new job.

Life and that #2
Last year Matt bought me a website with the intention I would set up my own little shop selling crafty things (via Etsy or Folksy). At the time I was doing lots of little cross stitches. Needless to say I never did anything with it, so this year I would like to at least get something up there. I'd like to do craft fairs too if my stuff is any good. This year I want to make up some 'stock' and at least attempt to sell it. Watch this space, you'll be the first to know if I set up shop!

I've been a lurker for years but am only just getting in on the blogging action myself. It has kept me so motivated and the creativity flowing, knowing that I have a few lovely readers out there has made me determined to finish things whereas before I may have just left them for 6 months (Simplicity 2591 being a case in point!). I also met the lovely and talented Tilly and Karen, and maybe I'll meet a few more of you in 2011 - I do hope so. I hope I can continue to blog in 2011 and that you'll keep reading, your comments make my day.

I learnt to crochet in 2010, in 2011 I want to turn my hand to some bigger projects. By Christmas 2011 I'd like to have a granny blanket and another larger piece finished - maybe a cardigan or jumper.

In the immortal words of Girls Aloud, I can't speak French. Well, I sort of can, but I'm very out of practice. I have an A-Level in French and did an intermediate conversational evening course in 2005. However since then I've not been to France and have forgotten so much. And as we all know, if you don't use it, you lose it. Having had this lurking in the back of my mind for a few years, I was inspired to do something about it by Rebecca over at The Thrifty Chick. She plans to learn Italian this year and I am copying her idea of breaking it down into manageable chunks. 15 minutes French practice a day or 30 minutes every other day. I plan to do this for a few months until I feel confident with my verbs and vocab again, and then get stuck into my French literature books (with my trusty dictionary by my side).

So here we have it. My list for 2011. Hopefully I will achieve all this and more. There are tons of other things I'd like to achieve this year but I'll just feel bad if I write them all here and don't quite get there. I guess I'll return to this list throughout the year, ticking stuff off. I've loved reading all your resolution posts too, good luck everyone!


Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas everyone

Just a quick post to say I hope everyone has a lovely Christmas and that you all got to wherever you wanted to be. I managed to get from London to my parents house in Northern Ireland with very little hassle - big thanks to Stansted and Easyjet! Matt drove our plucky little car from London to Duns in the Scottish Borders all on his own as well, I'm so happy he made it ok, had visions of him spending Christmas alone stuck in a snowdrift somewhere around Berwick!

I'd also like to thank everyone who's commented on or read my little fledgling blog over the last two months - you're all so lovely.

Happy Christmas


Obligatory snow photo - the view from my bedroom

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

To toile or not to toile?

(image taken from The Haberdashery facebook page)

Toile? Muslin? Prototype?! I'm reasonably new to dressmaking, and my approach to sewing has thus far been, shall we say, slapdash. I sewed bits and pieces on my mum's machine when I was younger, but after moving out 10 years ago I've not done much in the way of sewing until reasonably recently. For my first proper project way back in 2009 (a pre-blog dress) I did make a toile of sorts - that is to say I made it using the cheapest material I could find in John Lewis that was also wearable, because I couldn't face the idea of making something that I would never wear. The dress itself (New Look 6848) turned out reasonably well, although I never wear it, the floral material and big puffy sleeves make it look far too hippy dippy, not to mention the cheap material means it's more or less see-through! The second attempt with more expensive material actually turned out worse than the 'prototype'. I think I was over-confident second time round and rushed it.

My second dress (Simplicity 2591) would definitely have benefited from a muslin in terms of the roomy fit - I already talked about the many issues I faced in this blog post!

My third dress project is to be the Colette Rooibos pattern. I am really keen to do this one properly. I want it to be something I am proud of and can actually wear.

To all those more experienced sewers out there - what are your thoughts on making muslins? If I'm being really honest, even if I made a muslin and it didn't fit, I'm not sure I would be confident enough to alter the pattern to address the problem anyway, unless it was just a simple seam allowance or something. Plus I am lazy. And I hate waste. The thought of spending time and material making something that will just be binned really jars with me. 

Do I just need to get over it and on with it? Any advice gratefully received!


PS the image I have used in this post is from The Haberdashery's facebook page. I hope they don't mind me using it. It is a very lovely little cafe in Crouch End and I would recommend stopping there for some lovely cake and tea if you are in the area. They also do fab 'Barboot' nights once a month with lots of vintage/homemade bits and bobs to browse and buy whilst you sip your vino (or something more seasonal!)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

I'm feeling better now!!

I mentioned in my previous post that I've been sick for a week. I don't know if it's the cabin fever, but this advert really makes me giggle:

My favourite is the little dude at the end that shouts 'ahahahaha I'm feeling better now!'

It's back to work tomorrow, so let's hope I am.


I'll have a blue, (flu) Christmas...

I've been feeling very sorry for myself over the last week. My lovely boyfriend brought home a flu virus last Friday, what a thoughtful gift. I succumbed very suddenly on Sunday night (really, I went from feeling ok to being a shaking wreck in the space of about 30 mins) and have been house bound ever since. I missed panto with The Hoff and my work team Christmas meal and secret santa. Being ill over the festive season SUCKS! It's strange for me because I always think of myself as one of those people who doesn't really get sick, and that even if I did I'd just get on with things of course. This illness has taught me a bit of a lesson - i.e. that bodies don't respond to a 'stern talking to' and that I should have more patience with others when they're ill.

As a result I've done almost no crafting. All I've really done this week is watch tv and read blogs - I never want to watch another episode of Friends again and you lot need to write more - I've read everything!

I had been hoping to buy and cut the fabric for my Colette Rooibos before Christmas, but that just isn't going to happen. Anyway, enough moaning, I did manage some little bits and pieces of crafting towards the end of the week - Matt bought me some lovely buttons and ribbons as part of my Christmas present (we don't spend the 25th together so we had our 'pre-Christmas-Christmas yesterday) so I had a bit of a play and made this little bracelet:

Here's a close up:

It's just a couple of lines of treble crochet and the button stitched on. I put a little circle of felt on the inside of the wool where the button is attached to strengthen the stitch a bit and save it pulling at the wool too much. To be honest I'll probably repurpose this button in the near future but for now it's the star of this little bracelet. 

I also made some more little Christmas decorations:

It's a little crochet heart (made from Pip's tutorial) with a little glass bauble (left over from my wreath project) attached underneath. I'm going to make more and string them along my window. Maybe. I'm only in my little London flat for two more days then I'm off to my parents in Northern Ireland (flights allowing - keep EVERYTHING crossed!) so it hardly seems worth it. 

What else can I do with the ribbons and buttons I got? I'm suffering from a bit of a (hopefully flu induced) creativity blockage. Here's the haul:

Boy did a pretty good job eh? Apparently my 'real' present is yet to come (illness and snow thwarted his Christmas shopping plans) - yay!


Sunday, 12 December 2010

Simplicity 2591: a dressmaking learning curve

Hello, I hope you are having a lovely Sunday. I'm hoping to crack open some mulled wine and have a mince pie in a bit. Have to wait until after my pilates class though, I rather think a tummy full of wine and pie would be frowned upon by the tiny Japanese lady that takes the class (not to mention making me feel even more like a heifer than I usually do in her company). I have finally finished this dress which I started in the summer, inspired by Karen at Did You Make That. Six months later, here it is!

Excuse the photo, Matt is in bed with suspected flu, so I've had to learn how to use the timer on my camera and this was the best of a bad bunch. So, here are the points I will take away from this experience:

Well, the first thing I learned from making this dress is DON'T leave it lying untouched for 5 months, after which time you realise you've lost the second page of pattern instructions. This wasn't going to deter me though! Thankfully I'd made the pockets already as there was no way I would have been able to figure those out on my own. However I had to make up the rest of the pattern myself. The only thing I think really suffered from this was the armholes - I sewed in the interfacing, however I forgot to fold in the raw edges before topstitching, so they look pretty awful on the inside. There may also be some shaping details I missed out such as cuts around the curved seam. Oh well - no one will ever see the inside apart from me.

As in, I should learn how to sew them properly. I chickened out of attempting to use the zipper foot on this occasion because of the expensive fabric and lack of instructions. Instead I machine sewed the zip into place then topstitched it by hand. It looks fine but I need to gain more confidence in this area.

If you are a sewing novice, it's probably advisable not to shell out on an expensive Liberty print fabric for one of your first projects, no matter how pretty it is. That is all.

Karen had said that the pattern was on the roomy side and that she'd gone down two sizes with it. I erred on the side of caution and cut it just one size smaller. Nevertheless the finished product was roomy. I fitted the bodice as I went along, so it fits reasonably well. It's perhaps a little blocky around the armholes (although this might have more to do with my putting together than the pattern - see above). The pattern includes a little gathering at the back waistband, however once the dress was sewn up I felt there was far too much material in the region of the derrière, making for an extremely unflattering fit. I ended up unpicking the back seam, zip and part of the waistline and removing most of the gathering, bringing the back skirt seam in by about 2 inches at the waist and probably nearer 4 towards the hem. Thank goodness for seam rippers!

And the good...
I realise I've dominated this post with all the bad things about this project - but there are good things too. I love, love LOVE the fabric (a little 'busy' for some tastes but it's very me). Here's a close up as you can't see it that well in the above photo:

I am also a big fan of the pockets, I actually hadn't realised the pattern involved pockets - the picture doesn't show them at all, but I love them.

In the end, the dress is wearable, just. Result! I'm a bit scared about wearing it out though - does anyone else have visions of their self-stitched clothes splitting at an inopportune moment? Or people looking at the ever so slightly wonky seams and thinking you're a weirdo for making your own rubbish clothes?

I learnt a lot making up this pattern and am looking forward to using my newfound skills on the Colette Rooibos pattern which is next on my stitching list. I promise I won't lose half the pattern and bodge it together myself this time!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Shrinky dink snowflake ring: or a complete crafting DISASTER

This week we had our work Christmas lunch and my colleagues all decided to wear their Christmas jumpers. Not having a Christmas jumper I was determined not to feel left out so I decided to fashion myself a Christmas ring instead. I have had a packet of shrinky dink plastic lying about for ages but never really done much with it. I had grand visions of a shiny snowflake creation. Unfortunately this is not how it turned out, and the whole process was just a disaster. I am not friends with this ring. It's STUPID.

Disaster 1
I burned my hand taking the baking tray out of the oven (ok, 'disaster' might be a bit hyperbolic...but it's been a tough week)

Disaster 2
While squishing it flat (the plastic curls up in the oven and you smash it flat with a book or something when you take it out) I managed to dent the soft plastic. You can see it in the top left of the photo above.

Disaster 3
I like the snowflake design I drew, but the surface is really rough and dull. Does anyone know how to combat this? A couple of coats of PVA later and it's still not the shiny, polished surface I had in mind. Clear nail varnish?

Disaster 4
The PVA needed to dry overnight so I had to fix it to the ring base on the morning of the Christmas lunch. I splodged the glue in place and went off to have my shower. Once dressed, I put it on my hand and decided that although it wasn't perfect, it was fine to wear for the day to add a festive touch to my outfit. Settled down with a cup of coffee. As the caffeine kicked in I realised that I'd been a bit hasty in putting the ring on and it was in fact now superglued to my finger. Cue much panic and some swearing. A layer of skin later and I was off to work, sans ring and not feeling in a very good mood at all!

Any more crafting disasters this week?! Anyone else managed to mess up shrinky dink plastic?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

An update and some links to spread the festive cheer!

a little cross stitch I made last year...who doesn't <3 tea?

Hello, happy Tuesday! What are you all crafting?

I have a few projects on the go this week - I have finally finished the Simplicity dress I started making with Liberty fabric back in....June? I won't have time to take any photos until the weekend though (and I am hankering after a better camera as my photographs leave a lot to be desired - most are iPhone pics), so I'll post the results then. And last night was spent extremely pleasantly watching Elf and playing about making fabric brooch prototypes. I think I'm happy with the results now, so I'll hopefully find time this week to perfect them and maybe write up a wee tutorial in case any of you like them enough to make them yourselves.

In the meantime this week, and in spite of an impending cold, I will be attempting to keep up my festive cheer by avidly following :

  • Elsie who blogs at A Beautiful Mess and her '12 Days of Handmade' project
  • the Penniless Guide to Christmas for the frugally festive
  • and perhaps, if I'm VERY lucky, making it along to the Rust open day to pick out my Christmas pressies from my boyfriend Matt (ha, wishful thinking - I have picked out my engagement ring from there, sadly it is £3550 so a little more saving is required). Rust is run by the lovely Artemis who writes one of my favourite blogs, Tales of A Junkaholic

Luckily my work is feeling pretty festive just now, so it's not hard to get in the spirit. The two pics below are from the photo booth at our Christmas party (I think I suit a moustache? Perhaps I should have done Movember), and the Narnia themed events that are going on in and around the library - can you see Aslan hiding amongst the trees? You entered Narnia via a massive wardrobe, I kid you not. It looked magical!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Snowflake garland and Christmas festivities

This week has been light on the crafting as it's been filled instead with Christmas festivities.

Tuesday night was mulled wine night at Drink Shop & Do. For just £1 we were given all we needed to sew mulled wine sachets and fill them up with cloves, bay, nutmeg and cinnamon. There was also a tempting array of cakes and cocktails on offer, and we all went for the 'Hot Granny' which was delicious. I was particularly charmed by the tiny candy cane that comes on the side! Karen from Did You Make That organised the meet up and it was lovely to meet both her and Tilly for the first time. I've been a fan of their blogs for months now so it was great to finally put faces to names. I loved that we were all wearing handmade things as well. Tilly and Karen have both blogged about the event much more eloquently than I could so check out their postings!

Wednesday night myself and my colleagues went to the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park where we froze our toes off drinking mulled cider, trying to knock coconuts off sticks, were snowed on rather heavily and invented our signature dance moves for the work Christmas party....

...which was on Friday! Today has been largely spent recovering. We had lots (too much?) wine, dancing and a photo booth with a dressing up box, all on the house.

So this week all I've managed to craft is a crocheted snowflake garland using this tutorial from Attic 24. Here's a close up:

And this is it hanging in pride of place on my fireplace (please excuse the rubbish photos, I'm too tired to take any properly):

I plan to get back on the crafting horse tomorrow and finish off the snood I've been making for my sister (who just got engaged yesterday! She's 5 years younger than me and I am not yet engaged so I have mixed feelings about this. Humph.). I made it ages ago but have yet to decide how to embellish it. Flowers, bows, a felt badge with liberty appliqué...I can't decide!

And now for some Alan Partridge and another cup of tea.