Saturday, 28 December 2013

Leaving 2013 behind and 10 Things I've learnt this year.

So how as Christmas? Did you have a good one?! I did and I hope you all did too. But now it's over it's that betwixmas time when I feel that the year is all but over, and before I start to look forward in earnest, I look back.

So what did I learn this year, creatively speaking?

1. I am not super human. OK so I never really thought I was. From November 2012 right through to November 2013 life threw all kinds of things at me and sometimes I was left wanting. I left one bee I was in when it came to it's end and regretfully left the other bee part way through. It was not an easy decision to make.  Letting people down is not a nice feeling. It's all too easy for people to say get your bee commitments sorted at the start of the month and avoid the stress when life gets hectic later in the month. But what if life is busy or your ill at the start of the month and doesn't let up from one month to the next? I tried to scale back other commitments too. Like I say, letting people down is no fun for anyone.

2. Most people were lovely if I was late or messed up commitments. To those who were not. I think it speaks more about your inadequacies rather than mine.

3. Vintage Sheets Rock! Mary has completely converted me. The first quilt I finished this year was made entirely from vintage sheets. I am already looking for ideas for my second and can't walk past a charity shop without checking to see what they have in the way of vintage bedding. I even dream I've found good sheets in charity shops!

4. HST's are the easiest thing in the world for me to stuff up. Ask me how I know. Or rather don't. I can't bear to think about it. Which is a shame because I've always wanted to make a traditional HST value quilt using left over charms and fabric entirely from stash.

5. Shaukat made me hyperventilate. I don't get into bricks and mortar fabric shops very often. I knew it would be good. I just didn't know it would be that good. I need to go back. I want to visit more bricks and mortar fabric shops.

6. Fat Quarterly Retreat was not what I expected. Not for the good stuff that happened or the not so good.

7. Sorting my WIP's during my recent declutter so they each have their own plastic bag and then putting them all in one big basket has shown me I have far more WIP's than I realised.

8. I am completely converted to Aurifil. (And probably the only person in blogland left to win one or score in a goody bag one of those sample packs.)

9. I learnt what a frixion pen is.

10. I am best not to make plans about what I will or won't make. The moment I do it doesn't go to plan. Like when I said I'd not be sewing before Christmas and then hand stitched these together. They're destined to become a cushion cover.

Just a few bits to sew. But should I go bigger or sash what I've done so far?

So here's to a fantastic 2014 - for us all! I have a milestone birthday coming up next month and I intend to drag out the celebrations all year. Doing something every month at least. I hope to fit some sewing in amongst the fun too. 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Advent: Oopsy

The title of this blog post refers to my not realising that I hadn't done an advent post for five days! Oopsy. I had intended at least doing three day round ups. There has been much going on around here, although no sewing. It seems there are lots of people to catch up with and places to go in the run up to Christmas.

Chief came down on Wednesday night because we will not be spending Christmas together and we wanted to sneak in one last visit before the big day. The weather was horrendous for travelling and he picked up a take away on his way in.

Take away time

I'm showing you the take away because you'll see a rare sight. My dining room table devoid of sewing stuff. You can just spot the machine covered up in the back ground. I doubt I'll sew this side of Christmas. 

Chief stayed over and we went to Otmoor and did a lot of walking and taking pictures. I haven't sorted mine yet. I had borrowed a 'big' lens of Chief, which whilst it wasn't as bad to carry as I thought, I did have Chief to carry my camera bag and I need to work on lifting it up to take pictures without wobbling it too much.

Fieldfare feeding on berries

I did like this picture I took at the top of our road of a fieldfare enjoying the berries. 

I'm off out gadding tonight. A meal out with a friend who was recently 40 so we are having a joint Christmas/Birthday get together. Hope you all have great weekends and if I don't sneak back with a post before Christmas. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Advent 13, 14 &15: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

It's up! I could tell you I have not been blogging for the last two days because it's taken that long to put the tree up. The reality is I didn't have anything interesting to say. Or at least those things that were interesting were not photographed, so not interestingly  blogable.

Deoorating the Tree 2013

I can't take credit for this years tree as my niece did it. I just sat on the floor unwrapping decorations that fitted in with this years scheme. We were going for a modern silver/purple/white combo with retro touches. Yep, a complete mash up.  There are just some decorations I can't bear not to put on the tree.

Decorating the Tree 2013

I put a Christmas jumper on for the event. I suspect this is the last year we'll put up a big tree. A small house and a fat tree mean furniture has to be moved and stuff reorganised. It is feeling a lot more like Christmas around here. I have a very busy week coming up and have had to pretty much accept I will not be sewing again this side of Christmas. Maybe not this side of the New Year. Which is kind of a shame because I had intended making some new Christmas place mats. It feels all of this year I've been behind on what I wanted to be doing sewing wise. I hope I find my sewing groove properly in 2014.  I've not found sewing so enjoyable with all this stop-start business.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Advent 12: Are you a no-reply blogger?

Do you often comment on my blog and never get a reply?  There is a reason. Your settings mean you're a no reply blogger. This means that when I get an email notification of your comment and go to hit 'reply' that reply is going nowhere rather than back to you.

simply square button

Chances are you leave comments and wonder why on earth I never respond or maybe you may prefer it that way. But it makes me sad I can't answer questions direct and maybe leaving you feeling...well a little unheard and unloved. In fact I sometimes am so keen to answer I hit the reply button and respond anyway and it's only at some point in the future I twig that my email is probably just going out in to the great ether.  

So if you are regularly commenting on blogs and wondering why people never respond to you, take a moment to go this blog and find out more about no-reply blogging.

And thank you to everyone who does take the time to comment, offer advice or just stop by to say "hi". Even when life is really hectic and I don't get to answer every single comment, I certainly read them all and appreciate them. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Advent 11: An unexpected Thank You

The other week I had an unexpected afternoon spent photographing the children of a colleague. They'd offered to pay me. But I am not a professional photographer and said I would do it as a favour. After all I was getting to practise my photography skills in an area I'd not normally have chance to.

I have to say I had a nerve racking time after I'd handed the digital files over, as the colleague who asked me was pretty much out of the office for the rest of the week. I was lucky if I got to say 'Hi and Bye' as we passed in the office.

Yesterday he mentioned he had something in the car for me that he mustn't forget to bring in. He then took the car into the garage where it spent a good chunk of the day getting repaired. Today, he brought in this bag.

I'm glad the orchid survived the car going to the garage!

His wife had put together a little goody bag as a thank you for taking the pictures. Which according to the thank you card they liked. (Phew!)

An Orchid, Chocolates and Body Lotion

What a lovely surprise on a grey miserable foggy day! 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Advent 10: Gone Knitting

Some dedicated readers may remember this post from the spring when I had a complete nightmare knitting with some yarn I'd bought from Ebay. I had purchased two balls of this type of wool and came across the other when I was doing my sewing room declutter. After my experience with twisting yarn earlier in the year I had wondered if I'd ever bother trying to knit with that brand of yarn again. However, I decided to give it a go. In less that two hours I'd knitted a scarf and no breaking off before the end of the ball. The only difference I can think of with how I approached this, was last time I remembered the paper band breaking around the ball quite soon after I'd started. I thought at the time, well that's OK it'll save me keep pulling lengths free from the ball. However, as this yarn is prone to twisting it's much better to keep the band around the ball come-what-may. So as it starts to twist you can hold up your knitting and let it swing around and untwist. When the band got far too big for the ever decreasing ball, I taped the band to make it smaller so it was once again a snug fit. I can't believe how much easier this was compared to last time!

I'm only showing you a sneaky peek as the light is poor hence the not very good colour and it's a present.

Look what I made

It feels satisfying to have at least made something as I've snuggled on the sofa. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Advent 9: What happened to Advent 7 & 8 you may ask.

I woke up on Saturday am with a banging headache and feeling I'd been smacked in the face. Strangely the other side of the face that had caused me to rush of to the dentists a few days before in case I was about to get a tooth related nasty. I've been feeling really ill after I've eaten too. I was wiped out for Saturday so had nothing to report or blog about and the laptop didn't even get switched on. Chief and I agreed he shouldn't come down Saturday night as perhaps we both needed a good night sleep. He did come down the next morning though and surprised Mum with an early Christmas present. Thursday in the gales our bird feeding station crashed over snapping in two. It was obviously corroded and the wind was just to strong for it. The real pain was just the week before we'd bought three new bird feeders and when the pole crashed over two of them smashed.

It broke yesterday in the gales

Little did Mum know as she was wondering if Bro could fix it or if I'd take her to buy a new one, was the week before Chief had bought Mum not only a new pole, but some feeding stuff to go with it, as her Christmas present. 

He suggested he brought it down early before she got the broken one replaced some how herself.

An Early Christmas Present for Mum

She was perplexed as to why she was opening her Christmas present on Sunday.

An Early Christmas Present for Mum

She was surprised and pleased. Just a bit confused when Chief suggested we 'made' a pole with the insides of wrapping paper. 

An Early Christmas Present for Mum

Little did she know that the three pack of wrapping paper had pole sections in side them!

The pole is up in the garden and the birds are loving it. I hope to get a picture in decent light soon.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Advent 6: Black Friday Purchases

I was pretty restrained over the whole Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday discount offer shindig. I looked at loads of places and came back to where I was originally going to shop from and only bought from there. I definitely went down the essential rather than: Oh pretty lets just buy it and put it in a drawer for a while, route.

I got all these lovelies from Cindy over at Fluffy Sheep Quilting. I've never known Cindy to be beaten on her Aurifil prices. I've never tried variegated Aurifil before. I thought it might be good for Chiefs quilt - if I ever get it made. I had to guess the colour would be OK from viewing on a computer screen as I don't own a shade card.

It's arrived black friday purchases from @fluffysheepquilting thank you 

The only other black Friday discounted purchase I made was the Noodlehead divided basket. I'd seen this around, but not really followed it up to see if it was a purchased pattern, tutorial or none of the above. Seeing Sheila's fab make for Sarah's baby shower made me see the potential of these baskets for all manner of gift and storage situations. I just now have to find the time to make one!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Advent 5: Velveteen Infinity Scarf

This afternoon has ended up different to how I expected. (It is beginning to be that kind of week.) I had had a mouth related niggle for the past few days and I was concerned I was going to develop a full on tooth ache just as my dental practice is shut for the weekend. So I managed to get seen this afternoon. An X-ray was taken and advice given but it seems my gum is irritated in that area and that's what's causing the issues. It may have cost me a price of a nice bundle of fabric from somewhere. But it's money well spent for peace of mind and hopefully the easing of symptoms. It has meant though I haven't been able to get a decent picture of the velveteen and voile scarf I finished yesterday.

It would be a bit of an exaggeration to say the office where I work is the coldest on the planet. But I have rarely been warm in there during the last few winters unless I have quite a few layers on and a cosy scarf around my neck. Out of all the scarves I have nine times out of ten I reach for one of the flannel and voile infinity scarves I made a couple of years ago.

Back in the summer when Pink Castle had some kind of deal on, I stocked up on a few fabric bits including two half yard cuts of velveteen.


When it arrived I thought the pink would get a lot of wear in an infinity scarf. I don't tend to wear a lot of pink but I liked the way the pale pink contrasted with the other colours in the print. However, I looked at the brown and couldn't see when I'd use it. I didn't think the colours would suit me and as I'd made so many people infinity flannel scarves in the past I wasn't sure who'd appreciate a velveteen version. I added both pieces of Velveteen to my stash and started looking out for some voile to go with the pink velveteen.

Who knew that finding voile would be so difficult. I trawled the UK shops and in the end I bought this voile from Pink Castle fabrics. I can't remember who makes this voile; it's not Anna Maria Horner. 

The blue fabric on top is voile.

When it arrived I didn't like it. I don't like the texture/hand of the fabric. I guess AMH has spoiled us with her buttery soft voile, which reminds me of Liberty Tana Lawn.  I added this voile to my stash thinking that was another mistake purchase.

Fast forward to last week and a chance comment on Instagram. I had velveteen and no voile and Mary had no velveteen and a stash of voile and suggested a swap. I thought I'd best show her a snap of the velveteen first in case she didn't like it! Luckily she did and she had a great selection of voile for me to choose from.

Due to my sewing clear out it's taken me a few days to get sewing, but I have. Thanks to the swap with Mary I now have a lovely snuggly velveteen scarf to add to my winter wardrobe.

Ignore my blotchy chin. I finished my velveteen and voile scarf
Excuse last nights IG picture the light is appalling now so I won't be able to better it.

Now I wonder if I can find anyone to swap me something for that blue voile?!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Advent 4: The Jobs that Must be Done

Sorting out Christmas cards.  Is it bad I'm leaving some until the last minute in case people die?

I am doing chores today. Christmas related ones. Like:

  • Trying to find the Christmas labels because I've been wrapping presents, as they arrived and assumed I'd remember what they were and who they were for, only now I'm not so sure.
  • Writing the rest of the Christmas cards. Started ages ago and got bored. Mum kindly addressed a few envelopes for me while I was at work today, but says I do have to finish writing the rest of the actual cards.
  • Thinking really hard what to buy some people because I still just don't know.
  • Getting ready for post all the various parcels type thingies I need to drop off at the PO
And all the while I'm doing it I'm making a dent in these...

They were meant for Christmas.  I just can't wait that long

...which were meant for Christmas.

I'm trying not to get too freaked out by how close Christmas is and how much I still have to do.

Are you prepared or just about to implode at the thought of all you have to do?

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Advent 3: Forever Winning?

Last week I won not one, but two prizes. One from the lovely Reene (more about that another time - thanks again Reene!) and the other from Alison over at Silicon Bullet Forever.  A while back I'd entered a give away on Facebook to win some Aloe Lips by Forever Living.  I'm always up for trying a product that will keep my lips soft and conditioned. I used to be someone who wore lipstick no matter what.  Then I started noticing that some lipsticks made my lips so dry and sore it felt like someone had taken a sander to them and rubbed off a good layer of skin.  It was horrible and I can't blame cheap lipsticks because it seemed any lipstick: cheap or pricey could cause me issues. Most lip salve has had a similar effect, so I'm forever on the look out for one that does what I want it to: condition my lips and stop them being dry, painful or sore.


 Alison also told me it's not just good for lips. Aloe lips can be used on cuts, bites, burns and scratches. She also mentioned some of her customers had told her it was good for!  I joked I'd definitely be using it on my lips and not piles! (I don't have piles!) When my winnings arrived Alison suggested I proved it was for use on my lips. (She was probably really grateful I wasn't going to use it on piles and provide photographic evidence!)  So I decided to try some selfies with my mobile. But apart from accidentally taking an arty shot of a lamp, I didn't do very well. I handed the phone over to my mum (not renown for her phone use, let alone her photography skills.) and the best she could do was this action shot of me applying the Aloe Lips.

When selfies failed I put mum in charge.  My forever living prize in use

I've been using the product all week. I don't have to keep replying it. It has a lovely texture, smell and taste and this will now be my go to lip salve product.

To find out more about Forever Living why not pop over to the Silicon Bullet Forever Facebook Page? There are details of all the Forever Living Products as well as Aloe Lips.

Ps. This is not a sponsored blog post. I won and thought I'd tell you all about my winnings!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Advent 2: Not the afternoon I was expecting.

I was sat at work this morning when a colleague asked me if I could do him a favour. Or rather could me and my camera do him a favour. I did one of those raised eye brow things and said: "Ok but I'm not going up on any ladders or onto roofs." (Last time he wanted my photography skills he wanted me on a roof taking pictures of solar panels. I'd literally only got the camera that week and DSLR's were new territory to me.)

What he wanted was some pictures of his gorgeous girls (all 5 and under) with the plan of doing photographic Christmas presents for various family members.  It seemed like a good opportunity to practise my camera skills. He then arranged for me to visit this afternoon after work.

I got home from work and had a little stress. What do I know about photographing people let alone children?! The light is appalling this time of year. I don't own an external flash yet. Flash would probably scare small children anyway. OH. EMM. GEEE. what had I agreed to?

There were panic texts to Chief who said, "practise on your mother". Which I did. On the agreement I didn't post her pictures on the internet. They were pretty crap. I texted Chief back with my issue and he gave me some camera settings to try. "You'll have to go to full manual though", he said casually.

So I set off without really much time to think about it  much further.

Luckily all the girls knew me a bit at least. The eldest was happy being the model. The middle one up for it too. The youngest one was just not that interested. Oh the pressure!

I'm not going to show pictures of other peoples children here; but on the whole, all things considered, I'm ok with the results. I have critiqued them a lot. And know what I'd do differently another time...should anyone ask.  I keep telling myself that this is all totally new to me and really I shouldn't be so fussy.

Tomorrow I'll find out what the parents think. Wish me luck!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Advent 1: Celebrating Bean

I was one of the fortunate ladies that got to attend a virtual baby shower for Sarah last night. It was the brainchild of organiser Rhonda.  There has been a private flickr group so Sarah couldn't see what we were plotting, planning and making for her and we've been sending off shower gifts for her to open on the night for several weeks now. All this secrecy has meant I couldn't show you what I made until now.

Actually I really racked my brain what to make once I realised that whilst she might not mind having 20+ baby quilts, maybe I should make something different. But what?! I can't knit so no cute baby knitting and my dressmaking is not up to scratch. In the end I decided to have a go at making a baby changing mat. I looked online for tutorials; the only ones I could find just reinforced what I had in my mind to do, so I did it my way.

baby changing mat

This is the business side. It's a new hand towel with the edge and hems trimmed off. I wanted to make something a decent size as babies can (soon) be longer than expected. I had half a yard of the birdie fabric, which I had to join for the backing and the overlap. It matched the grey towel so well I just had to use it.

baby changing mat
Excuse the scrap of towel photo bombing the picture.

I didn't quilt through the layers because between the front and backing is a layer of nylon ripstop fabric, that I'm hoping will make the mat baby bean-pee proof. The whole mat can easily be slung in the washing machine and also rolls (or folds) up, so it could be used on the go.

baby changing mat

As for the party - well that was fun!  At one point it looked like it might not work out as poor Sarah had no broadband. Thankfully she managed to phone into the party - although this meant we didn't get to see her. It was sad that there was only space for six webcams because it would have been nice to see the senders reactions as Sarah opened their gifts. Luckily we could either hear or read what people were saying. It was amazing it all worked so well given the attendees were spread all over the world.

I was quite pleased to be able to put my webcam off - no make up and covered in thread from decluttering!

I think we'll do this again, only a smaller scale so we can easily talk and see each other. What a great way of meeting up with quilty friends who are spread all over.

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