Monday, 29 April 2013

A No Sew Weekend

I didn't get anywhere close to doing any stitching this weekend. First off I had to get on with some serious decluttering for two reasons: 1) I had a skip with some space in it and before it goes I wanted to make sure any of the big items I have to get rid of have been deposited in it. 2) After multiple roof leaks we thought we'd best check in the spare bedroom that water hadn't dripped onto the shelves where we had all our family photo albums. Thankfully it appeared it hadn't. But in order to do the job properly I thought I'd get on with a spring clean at the same time. It was exhausting and I still have an awful lot to do. In fact by 11.30am on Saturday I was convinced it was about 3pm. It felt like I'd been doing it for ages.

Sunday Chief got down. We were both exhausted. I was still in bed when he arrived and then promptly dozed off whilst he was lying in bed next to me.  We went out in search of birds and wildlife to photograph but only a female kestrel decided to pose with us long enough for us to take pictures. Unfortunately the light was awful and we don't think our camera's are great in low light levels.

Chief tweaked this a bit for me on photoshop so you can at least see the detailing.

I was exhausted by the time Chief left. In fact he was too. I certainly wasn't with it enough to dare picking up a rotary cutter.

Today I finished work early to go to the hospital with Mum.  So no sewing today either. Still tomorrow is another day so I might just manage to make the last bee blocks for April on the last day of the month. I am finding more and more that life gets in the way and stops me from getting my bee blocks on time. My one consolation is I'm not the only one.

For now I think I need to put a load of washing on then contemplate a snooze.

Friday, 26 April 2013

SideKick Tote - The BIG reveal

Well after I'd written yesterday's post and had a sit down. I decided to crack on with finishing the bag. And it is probably as well I did. Monday they started to replace my flat roof. It was all done and sorted but they had left off some tiles from the main roof, but assured me it was water tight and they'd be back today to finish. At 3am this morning I woke up to the sound of dripping pouring water about a foot from my head. It seems the mains roof was not water tight at all. On closer inspection of the spare room it appeared there was lines of water stain all across the roof at the plasterboard joints too.  So there I was doing a mad scrabble to move stuff and try and find vessels to collect the water and of course find somewhere for my mother and I to sleep - given we don't have infinite spare bedrooms. (In the end I gave up and decided sleep was a luxury I'd have no more of.  This morning the corner that was leaking in my bedroom is bowed, squidgy and blistered with flaking paint. It seems I now have every ceiling upstairs with the signs of water damage. Oh and did I mention that sleep deprivation turns me into a right harpie? So I was fit to kill whilst all this was going on. It's fair to say I will have no time for (and probably even less inclination) sewing today as I clean up the carnage.

So it's as well I finished the tote yesterday and can do the big reveal today.  There are elements of this bag that I do not like the finish of. I think the problem is with my hurried sewing rather than the pattern.  I'll get on to that in a moment. I'm sure you want to see the bag first.


I went with a Liberty of London theme using scraps of Tana lawn to create the square front pocket. It was only when I assembled these pieces I realised that their lovely eclectic look didn't quite gel with the lining fabric I'd originally chosen.  Then I remembered years ago buying a Liberty dress at a jumble sale in the village because I loved the fabric. Much of the dress had been hand finished and it was tiny. Once upon a time I may have been able to fit into it although it was always my intention to cut it up and I have for various projects. The colours and distinctive Liberty style of the design made a perfect lining and it was not the slippery Tana lawn so more robust for a bag lining.

See the lining goes with the patchwork pocket.

I love sneaking some texty fabric goodness into most projects so made the internal pocket out of some Michael Miller fabric.

The main bulk of the bag is made from Essex linen. Although I hadn't enough for the handle so ended up using a slightly different shade. But I think it works OK and the whole bag apart from the strap hardware was created from my stash and I'm loving those kinds of projects!

What I have decided is for a bag like this I'd not bother with the zip bit again.  I don't like how it sits when it's done up. I suspect this is because I've used some vintage Liberty dress fabric and the top pieces were probably cut on the bias so they have a fair bit of play in them.  It also didn't help that I caught the lining when sewing it to the main part of the bag and was too lazy to unpick properly. I'd had to wrestle the bag at the handles to get all the layers sewn together. But bearing in mind I have interfacing and multiple layers of fabric, including lots of Essex linen, there was an awful lot to wedge under the presser foot. I just couldn't face trying to wrestle the handles underneath again.  I unpicked the caught section from the top and used another layer of top stitching to sew it down. This has resulted in some wonky top stitching. But unless you're all going to scrutinise the bag at the retreat I think I'll get away with it.

So there you go that's my Sidekick Tote. I think it'll be a great bag for summer use as the Liberty does sort of mean it has the potential to go with anything I'm wearing.

I consider that a big tick for the Retreat making. Now I need to get back to the clear up.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Side Kick Tote (numpty alert!)

Life has got in the way since I started the Side Kick Tote (which I keep calling the Kick Start Tote) over a week ago and it's only today that I've got back to it with the intention of finishing it. Now I have to say I've put tonnes of zips in in my time. But that doesn't mean I like doing it or that I've ever put an inset zip in a bag.

Part of the reason I'd not progressed with the tote was that little sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that told me I didn't really want to put in the zip. Tonight I bit the bullet. Read through the instructions again and again and got started. First off I didn't think it helped that in the pattern pictures the lining used doesn't clearly show the right and wrong side. That aside the zip went in pretty painlessly. Until the bit in the pattern where it said flip to the right side and set aside. I did so and the zip wouldn't work. It was in upside down.

I cursed a bit under my breath and reached for the seam ripper. This time I would look at what the pattern was trying to achieve (I think I must work better visually where instructions are concerned.) I figured it out and found my own way of putting the zip in far more quickly. Again I got  to the flip to the right side and found the zip was in exactly the same position as previously!!

See the zip is all upside down wrong way roundy

See this will never work as a bag lining

I was just about to curse some more and reach for my seam ripper when I turned it outside in and realised that actually if the zip was in the bag it would work.


I had previously ripped the zipper out for nothing! Doh! The zipper only wouldn't work if you were using this as the external part of the bag. But that would just be silly...

So now I just have to cut out the straps and finish the bag. A job for tomorrow me thinks and hopefully the sunshine will be out to allow me to get some decent pics of the finished bag.  

The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that this is not the fabric I showed you previously.  I changed my mind about the lining and if you're really eagle eyed this may give a big BIG clue as to the theme of the bag.  

I'm just relieved I don't have to put that zipper in yet again!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Meal Time Guests

Just stopping by to let you know I have not disappeared under a pile of fabric. But not only am I getting some organised drawers - I also found the lining I wanted and have started work assembling the Sidekick Tote.  I am loving how it's shaping up and can't wait to show you the finished bag.  Mind even the larger version is smaller than I imagined and I'm not sure I'll get all the stuff I'd need in the bag for the retreat! Thank goodness Anna is designing another larger Tote bag and has it with pattern testers as we speak!

Anyhow, because I don't like blogging without pictures look who came for breakfast this morning.

Breakfast guest

And I forgot to show you a guest (one of two) that joined me for lunch last Saturday.

Look what joined me for lunch!

I was sat tucking into some king prawns in chilli sauce with some nice crusty bread and spotted something brown fly over the fence. My first thought was: where on earth had a chicken come from? On closer inspection it was a young pheasant and soon joined by another.  I grabbed my camera and managed to pull up the slatted blind and snap this through the filthy window.   You can see why Chief likes to hang out in my garden can't you?!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Today I made...

...a headband.


You are probably thinking shouldn't she be getting on with her tote so she can put us out of our misery and do her big reveal?! Well I have been doing that as well. I just had a whole rethink on the lining front and now the pocket is virtually made I decided to use some different fabric to line the exterior pocket. The only problem was the fabric I wanted to use was already earmarked to make one of these headbands.  So I decided rather than cut into the fabric and find I didn't have enough for a headband I'd get on with the headband and use the left overs to line my pocket.

Anyone thinking this fabric would clash with the lining fabric I showed you yesterday is right. I have actually had a rethink on the lining front now that my external pocket plan is going to plan.  Only this is where I hit a snag. I have the most perfectly suitable lining fabric for the bag I'm making. Only I can't find it. I've pulled out drawers and upturned piles of fabric and come to the conclusion that rather than sew, right now I need to empty my fabric drawers and sort out asap. It might also mean I can start using my large cutting mat. At the moment I can't because of piles of fabric that won't fit in the drawers, all over it.

So that's what I'm off to do now. Toodles.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A Decision is Made

A big thank you to everyone who offered advice after yesterday's post. (If I didn't reply to your comment please check as to whether you are a no-reply-blogger as I noticed a couple of folk were.)

The big consensus was that as I'm sewing for pleasure I should do sewing that is pleasurable and not put myself through making stuff that I am really just not that into.  With that in mind, and in response to some other comments, I've decided to put the Weekender Bag on the back burner and concentrate on making myself a kick-ass-cool tote for the Retreat.  I'm not saying I'll never finish the weekender. I'm just not doing it right now, or in time for the Retreat.

I had been leaning towards the large Sidekick Tote.  I'd bought the pattern when if first came out and then as I had no bag hardware I'd not bothered making it.  (It's at times like this I wish we had a local habdash shop so I could pick up a reel of cotton when I run out midway or a zip or ... strap slides so I can make a sidekick tote!)

Then I wondered what fabric to use.  Someone wisely said to use fabric I loved so much that I'd use the bag until it fell apart. That same person might have also said that I'd know the right fabric when I saw it.

Earlier I had a kerching moment. I'd been sat with ideas running through my brain. Auditioning fabric I didn't even own. Fabric I'd window shopped for but not purchased and then it hit me. I already had exactly the perfect fabric and exactly the right idea for a bag that would fit the bill for the Fat Quarterly Retreat in London.  Better still though it would be the sort of bag I could use for other stuff too.

A crucial part of my idea will be kept top secret until I've made the bag. For two reasons. 1) it's too bloomin' cool to spoil the idea by blabbing about it before it's done.  2) It may all go horribly wrong and not work and if that's the case I'll forget I ever told you I had a bloomin' cool idea and just show you the finished bag in plan B fabric.

Sidekick Tote

So the bag hardware has been ordered and despatched. The paper pieces have been printed and cut out.  The main bag will be in this Essex Linen which may well be putty. The patterned fabric is my top choice for the lining. I love that fabric so much I wish I'd been able to score enough for a skirt, but as it is I only have a half yard.  The photo doesn't do the colour justice.

The secret bit is the external pocket. If my bloomin' cool idea does work out I'll have a give away to celebrate. I'm sure I'm due a giveaway. I just won't be giving away this bag :-)

Monday, 15 April 2013

What would you do?

So you probably have gathered my sewing mojo has returned along with the spring weather. I'm already thinking about what making I want to do for the Retreat.

Ages ago I bought the Amy Butler Weekender pattern.

I may need a weekend away just for reading the pattern... 

I got all excited about cutting out the pieces from duck cloth and my plans to do the QAYG method.  Not to mention my plans to blog the whole process. (I only got as far as Episode 1)  I started the QAYG and completely fell out of love with the whole process.  Recently I've been thinking about whether I should finish this or not and with the FQ Retreat on the horizon it seems like a good a time as any to resurrect it or not.  I had a panic that I may have forgotten to add a layer of wadding between the QAYG and the duck cloth. It turns out I had added the wadding - I just couldn't remember doing it.

But I'm not 100% sold on finishing the bag and here's why:

1) I'm more of a case on wheels kind of girl. (And no I'm not going to make a roller weekend suitcase so don't even go there!) Do I really want/need a Weekender Bag?

1) Can I face doing the QAYG on the rest of the bag pieces?

2) Would it be wasteful to abandon the project given the cut up duck cloth and purchase of the pattern?

3) Should I may be not bother with QAYG and just use some Home Decor Weight Fabric to make the bag outer?  I have checked my stash and apart from some peach home decor weight fabric my sister in law gave me about 20 years ago, I only have this fabric I bought in a destash.

DS goodness
I've used some of the pin dot fabric but the rest of the DS fabrics in front are yard cuts.

So what would you do in my position? 

This also brings me on to other essential FQ Retreat sewing. I think I really need to make myself a tote. You know in honour of the retreat and only using fabrics from my stash. But I just can't decide on a pattern/design. I want something roomy and secure enough to see me round London - including any excursions (for that read trips to any fabric shops that may come up.) Any suggestions because now my mojo is back I'm itching to get stitching!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Making a start on summer

Yes, don't faint from shock that's two posts in two days and both feature sewing!  In the Bee a Brit Stingy Bee I was Queen Bee in March.  Ever since the first blocks arrived I've been itching to get them sewn together into a quilt and today I made a start.

Summers coming...
Not the best picture but it's blowing a gale outside so if I tried to photograph 
it out there it would blow away!

I asked for the Road to Tennessee block and I think it really comes into its own when one block is mixed in with others.  I am still waiting on blocks from two people before I can finish.  I've mixed everyones blocks up so there is a good distribution of different fabrics.  One of the blocks I've received is missing from the above quilt because one Bee member made one not two so at the moment I have a stray block.  As I've not made any blocks myself yet for this quilt I may end up making three blocks to add an additional full row.  

I have been thinking about fabrics in my stash to use for the backing and I'm thinking of these two for sure.


A summer inspired quilt really needs some Summersville and the kona Robins Egg is that happy sort of blue sky blue you get on the best summer days.

The weather may be struggling to do the summer thing but at least I'm making a start on summer. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Catching up

I seem to have inadvertently gone absent around here of late. So it's long over due that I had a catch up with you all. Today I've been doing some catching up of a different kind. Finishing the March and April HipBee block.

First up Rachel sent me a piece of butterscotch Kona in the week so I could finally get her March block finished.

March Block - Puss in the Corner
Opps I taped it to the wall on the wonk. But you get the idea.

I've stopped trimming blocks before I send off as I've found from my months as queen bee that you do tend to get an assortment of different sized blocks.  I figure by not trimming down I give the queen as much wiggle room as possible with the other blocks she receives.  The above block is called Puss in the Corner. I'd not come across this block before but having done flying geese the month before for Di it's not difficult at all.

For April Karen requested the Whirlygig block.  Most people in the group seemed to complete this block before my fabric had even arrived. I soon found out earlier why. It's so simple. At least I'm hoping that it was. I find if I'm given too many instructions for some things I tend to find them more not less confusing. So once I had the sizes from Karen I just looked at pictures to complete the block.  Of course I may now post a picture and you all might tell me where I've gone wrong. Then I will not be feeling so smug at all.

April Block - The Whirlygigg
I didn't even need to reach for my seam ripper once!

I actually had a day off of work this week (and not because I was ill!). Chief managed to get down on Wednesday night. His back was very bad.  So at one stage I had planned to go into work after all so not to waste a day's leave. But when it came to it, we hardly see each other, so I decided to have my day off after all. We went out to breakfast which was quite a luxury and then Chief set up his new portable hide in the garden.

The new portable hide

I wasn't allowed to take any pictures identifying him in the hide in case people that know him see him in it! For lunch we had a BQQ. Ok it wasn't that warm and it was a bit drizzly - years in the army mean he's not bothered by a bit of rain. I on the other hand viewed most of the cooking from the window. 

German foods for lunch

BBQ Time!
The lesser spotted Chief.

After lunch we headed off for our first trip of the year to Otmoor. We only went as far as the feeding station.  Chief was really REALLY struggling with his back. In fact at one point I thought we were not going to make it back to the car.  I got some of my best bird pictures at Otmoor on this trip. I'm not sure why. Maybe the birds were just more photogenic that day?!

Marsh or Willow Tit
This is a Marsh or  a Willow Tit - they're very hard to tell apart. 
We're inclined to think this is a Willow Tit.

Male Pheasant
This male pheasant was quite a poser. 

At one point I left Chief sat on a bench while I went for a little wander. I didn't go that far or for very long but when I came back, using the same pathway as I'd walked moments before, I happened to look down and see a grass snake in front of me. I can only assume the muggy warmth of the afternoon had brought it out of hibernation. I'm not sure which one of us was more shocked. I was particularly shocked as it was literally only a couple of feet from me and decided to rear up at me like a cobra would.  It then decided to head for cover so the photos I got were not great. With a 300mm lens on my camera at the time I was actually too close to get it all in shot. 

Grass Snake

Grass Snake

If you want to see more wild life pics from our trip to Otmoor I've put them in this set on flickr.  I hope you're all having a great weekend so far. 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Not really random Thursday stuff

Patriotic Mail 

 Look what I had in the mail from the lovely Helen! I'd been admiring these every time I saw a picture of one and now I have my very own. Other people have commented on not only how lovely it is, but lovely it will be that I can now stop using their lap as a thread catcher. (Well if they have to sit on the sofa next to me when I'm sewing what do they expect? I only put threads on their lap so they can put them in the bin for me or remind me to do it.)

  24 Hour Salad 

 This is the dessert I'd intended taking to Susan's last year when she had a get together. Unfortunately it was the start of a particularly unpleasant run of bad health so the dessert never got made and I didn't get to go to the party. But now as I have some whipping cream in the fridge that runs out in a couple of days time I thought I'd crack on with this dessert. It's called 24 Hour Salad and has Canadian origins.  It tastes better than it looks. Well it would have to really. If like some blog readers you're allergic to, say...bananas you'll want to avoid this.

For those of you living on another planet or not going to the FQ Retreat you may have missed they've started to announce the classes for the retreat and I have to say I'm getting pretty darn excited. Last night I spent ages looking at picks from last years retreat on flickr and wondering whether I should try and finish the weekender bag that I fell out of love with before I really started and what sort of hand/tote bag I should make to take with me.   Decisions decisions eh?

Monday, 1 April 2013

So that was Easter

I could get used to these long weekends. They should become law. Paid of course. The cold weather made me stay indoors more than I'd have liked. I did have some hopes for a day out at least somewhere but really when it was so cold I decided my time would be better spent indoors tackling some decluttering. Necessitated by some changes that could be happening on the home front over the next few months.

Mum and I did venture to a local pub for some lunch. Her first time out since being ill. Despite a roaring fire in the pub it was quite cold so we didn't hang about.

I didn't have an Easter egg this year but did find some mini eggs lurking in the cupboard.  I did need a few treats between decluttering.

Happy Easter

I managed some sewing today. March HipBee block for Rachel.  I had a slight fabric quantity malfunction so I can only show you a WIP but hopefully Rachel will like how this is shaping up.

Opps this is where I'm short 

The block is called Puss in the Corner - which is quite topical today. This morning I went to put something in the boot of my car and this cat came bounding up to greet me. The neighbourhood cats are not very friendly. In fact some look half feral and I'd not want to go anywhere near anyway. Even when I used to feed my neighbours cats they would not come near me if they saw me outside the neighbours house.  

This cat was super too friendly as when I went back to the house it tried to get in. It then started scratching the door and mewing.  I managed to get outside the house again (I tried to gently coax the cat out of the way with a nearby broom only it thought that was a fine game and I was playing.)  to go to the shops but it apparently cried all the time I'd gone and when I came back again it ran out to greet me and then tried to get in the house and even worked out how to open the door handle - meaning we had to lock the door.  The cat then proceeded to try all the windows and alternated between them and the back porch until it eventually got bored and went away.

My new stalker

She looks fairly young and she isn't a bit timid and looks well looked after and she is super cute. But as a bird watcher and gardener, with a mother and other half not keen on cats I dare not encourage her.

I hope you had a lovely Easter and it warms up soon.  During the decluttering I saw all my lovely summer clothes.  I so want to be wearing them!

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