New year, New skill

Happy New Year, dear readers.

Sadly the beginning of 2021 has been a bit of a damp squib… we are lockdown again, with no end in sight. Trying to look on the bright side, this means I should have plenty of opportunity to do lots of creative things, including sewing some of the new fabrics I have bought recently. And, of course, I have lots of yarn to keep me occupied. At the beginning of the year I completed a ScrapHappy project, so you’ll have to wait a few days to see that and then I wondered what to do next. There’s a WIP that I’d like to get finished, but it didn’t inspire me, so I turned to my latest Little Box of Crochet and a new technique therein, namely Tunisian crochet.

Tunisian crochet is something I’ve wondered about for a while. It looked to me like a cross between knitting and crochet and I wasn’t sure that it was worth bothering with. However, when you are presented with all the equipment (well, actually just a strange crochet hook that has a cable on the end) and instructions, it’s time to dive in. In fact, it turns out that it’s just crochet in rows with stitches kept on the hook on alternate rows. You work back and forth always with the right side facing.

I’ve surprised myself by rather enjoying making this cowl and I will certainly be exploring Tunisian crochet further and following Natalie, the designer, who blogs at Detroit Knots and has some interesting patterns for sale.

So, have you tried anything new so far this new year?

ScrapHappy Solstice

Yes, I know that ScrapHappy is usually on the 15th of the month and that I’ve already done December’s, but I’ve been very busy with scraps recently and this one includes some solstice-specific makes, so here we are again.

As you may recall, Mr Snail and I do not celebrate Christmas, nor do we send Christmas presents. We do, however, celebrate the winter solstice because it marks that special point in the year when the days start to get longer… and that’s very important to us. I was delighted, therefore, when I came across the most beautiful book on exactly this theme… The Lightbringers. I wanted to share this with some of my friends, so bought a few copies to send as solstice presents to people I haven’t been able to meet up with this year and who I have missed very much.

So far, so not at all scrappy. But then, thinking about wrapping, I realised that I could make use of the old bathroom curtains (the new ones were a previous scrappy post)… they have suns and moons on them and seemed very appropriate. Over the years they had faded in a very patchy way, but this doesn’t really matter for present bags. Four gifts required four bags, and I had plenty of fabric. The ribbon was from a spool given to me in a collection of things that another crafter did not want, so I consider that scrappy too. The recipients should have opened their presents by now, so it’s safe to share.

With plenty of fabric and bag-making in mind, I decided to continue and make a bag to line the bucket (salvaged from something or other) we keep our Qwirkle tiles in. I’ve made it so that there’s a drawstring to hold it in place round the top of the bucket, and another to make a hole in the centre, allowing us to reach in to take tiles without being able to see them. This is turning out to be a very scrappy game, as the tile racks were one of Mr Snails recent scrappy creations.

I made an additional spare present bag with the remaining fabric and that was one whole curtain converted into useful things. I still have another one left, but inspiration has not yet struck… watch this space.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

In a rut

I don’t know about you, but 2020 has been something of a challenge here. Whist I like my home, and being confined within it is not a terrible thing, being obliged to stay there all the time has been difficult. It is incredibly easy to get into a rut and to develop habits that you’d rather not have… over consumption of cake and chocolate, for example. One of the things that I have missed most this year is spontaneity. No one ever calls round unexpectedly for a cuppa; we can’t wake up in the morning, see it’s a lovely day and decide to go and visit my mum; for quite a while we couldn’t even go anywhere in the car to have a different dog walk. So, what to do?

Recently, Mr Snail and I have decided to make the effort to do some different things… and to plan to do different things, even if they are not very exciting. For example, on Wednesday we set off early and went to the fruit and veg merchants in Carmarthen, where we stocked up… now we are in the process of making big batches of soup to go in the freezer. It’s the first time we’ve done this for months and months. We’ve also been down to the beach a couple of times recently with Sam and Daisy. It’s fun for us and they have certainly enjoyed themselves:

Beach time

The other thing that I did earlier on the the autumn was to take out a subscription to “Little Box of Crochet” – which means that once every two months, a project with all the materials arrives on my doorstep. In the past, I’ve felt that I don’t need to be given a project to work on, being quite capable of thinking of things for myself, but sometimes inspiration wanes and maintaining creativity over recent months has sometimes been hard. So, I decided to to let someone else do the thinking for me, and enjoy a parcel every now and again. I met Amanda, creator of Little Box of Crochet, at the first Crochet Sanctuary that I went to a couple of years ago and I know what care she puts into the boxes, so I was certain that I wouldn’t be disappointed. The latest one arrived just yesterday and will challenge me to learn a new skill: Tunisian crochet. It’s not something that I would otherwise have tried, but sometimes it’s good to get the brain cells working and have a go at something new. So far I’ve had three of the boxes and the two previous ones have resulted in a duffle bag (which I’ve shared pictures of previously) and the most lovely pair of fingerless mittens made with wool from Baa Ram Ewe in amazing colours.

I’ve spent no money on going out for the past 10 months, so it’s nice to use some of my savings to support another small business.

So, what have you been doing to amuse/inspire/motivate yourself in 2020?

ScrapHappy December 2020

Thank goodness for ScrapHappy – without it I might never post!

As we continue with our enforced time at home, I realise how many items with potential to use in ScrapHappy projects there are about the place. Currently, in our living room, there is a big heap of yarn left over from past projects and I am trying to make use of at least some of it. The easiest and quickest thing to make is granny squares, so this past month I dug out all the double knitting (ish) wool that really is wool, or at least mostly wool. I seemed to have quite a lot of earthy tones and they came together quite quickly in a rather nice lap blanket. As a bonus, I was able to incorporate a few squares left over from the woolly dog bed I made a while ago. It didn’t reduce the heap as much as I had hoped, but every little helps.

And mention of the dog bed reminds me that I decided it finally needed a new cushion as the old one was not very nice and the stuffing was squashed almost flat. I dug through my fabric scraps and found an old roll end of some furnishing fabric. I knew I’d had it a long time, but I was a bit shocked to discover that it was actually marked with a date… 1985! About time I got round to using this particular scrap:

A cosy cushion for dogs

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

Rising to the occasion

One of the joys of 2020 has been my success with sourdough. I love the fact that Homer (my starter) is unique to me, because how he has grown has depended entirely on the micro-organisms available here Chez Snail and in the ingredients that I use. I also love the fact that Homer’s offspring (Bart) is leading a happy and healthy life round the corner with a friend who we have got to know (rather than just saying hello) during this time of restrictions (we chat when we meet during our dog walks).

Recently, at the recommendation of Kim (The Material Lady), I bought a copy of Emilie Raffa’s book and have had great success with some of her recipes, including some really lovely chocolate chip bread. So, thank you, Kim.

Next experiment is going to be brioche – drool.

A bit of glam

I was going to save this post for next month’s ScrapHappy, but I just couldn’t wait four weeks to share it.

Many many years ago I was invited to a wedding. I and the friend who I was going with had form in terms of making and wearing outfits for various events, but we were both feeling a bit lazy and decided that we would buy something to wear rather than do the sewing ourselves. We discussed what to do and finally settled on a trip to The Bombay Stores in Bradford… I would buy a saree and she would buy an Indian suit. Off we went with my mum and had a wonderful time choosing our outfits. I think hers was really vibrant, whilst mine was lilac and gold. And then… we were asked to be the bridesmaids.

Our Indian outfits were put to one side and we ended up wearing deep purple velvet dresses. That could be the start of a ScrapHappy post in itself, as Mr Snail has a waistcoat made from my dress – I may even have the remaining scraps somewhere. But that’s not what this post is about… this post is about that saree, which I have had ever since but never found the opportunity to wear. I came across it when I was sorting out my work room and decided that its time had come.

Spending a lot of time at home this year, I have increasingly become aware that some parts of the house are tattier than others, and that some revamping is in order. During our latest lockdown I decided to tackle the bathroom. Really the whole bathroom suite needs replacing, but that will have to wait. However, I had already bought some paint to spruce things up a bit and so I was able to improve the walls quite quickly. Obviously the curtains had to come down and once they had I knew that they weren’t going back up again as they had suffered over the years and faded in stripes. Interestingly, the linings had survived perfectly, although the rufflette tape was disintegrating. I dismantled them, retained the lining and bought some more tape… and then I took a deep breath and set to with my scissors and that saree.

Fortunately the width of the saree was perfect for the drop of the curtains so no top or bottom hems were required, and I only had to shorten the lining a little. I put the wider border at the top, where it conceals the stitching and provides additional strength. I did iron the fabric, but because it had been folded in pleats for more than 25 years it’s going to take a while longer for the creases to disappear completely. I’m rather pleased with the outcome – what do you think?

Oh, and I still have a couple of metres or saree left to do something else with.

ScrapHappy November 2020

For some time now I’ve had a project in mind and finally this month, with the assistance of Mr Snail, it came to fruition.

One of the things that often delays me whilst I’m sewing is having to get out the ironing board and iron to press open a little seam or apply a bit of interfacing. Ages ago one of you lovely scrap happy contributors (and for the life of me I can’t remember who nor find the post) described making a little ironing board for just such jobs and I thought ‘I need one of those’. It remained just a good idea until now, although earlier in the year I did buy myself a little steam travel iron in anticipation of the great day when I had a little board to iron on.

I discussed it with Mr Snail (read his take on it here) and he sorted out an appropriate piece of wood for me to use, plus he removed some old upholstery pins from a very tatty chair that I have long intended to resurrect.

For the padding, I used half an old towel, left over from making a scrappy head towel last year . I doubled this and secured it with the old upholstery pins:

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A double layer of old towel around a bit of old shelf, secured with old nails

Then I covered it with a piece of an unwanted “real” ironing board cover. At this point is did have to resort to some new upholstery pins as we’d run out of useable old ones:

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Add a layer of actual ironing board cover (bought in error a while ago)

And, voila, a little table top ironing board:

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Ready to use

We discussed adding feet, but it’s nice and stable and I don’t think there is any need. I’m very pleased with this new addition to my rearranged workroom – it has already come in useful.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

“D’oh”

Back near the beginning of the year, you may recall, I began my experiments with sourdough. It was before lockdown and it was just a whim… a vague desire to see whether it was really possible to create, from scratch, a viable culture of micro-organisms with which to make bread. And then came coronavirus and everyone had to stay at home and madly started hoarding random things… including yeast. There was no yeast in the shops and so, suddenly, sourdough became “the thing”. By this time my culture was well established and I was using it for most of my yeasted baking. I’m sure that most cultures that were started during lockdown have long since passed away, but mine is going strong.

Anyway, a couple of months ago Kate (Tall Tales from Chiconia) mentioned that it is traditional to name sourdough cultures. I wasn’t feeling inspired, so I asked Mr Snail to come up with a suggestion. He though about it for a while, and finally proposed Homer… “because ‘D’oh!'”

And so, Homer is our sourdough starter. This meant that when we passed a portion on to a friend, it was naturally named Bart. Apparently Bart too is still going strong.

Anyway, in recent months I have become a little more adventurous with Homer and was delighted to discover what beautiful sweet, enriched dough it is possible to make. I found a recipe for cinnamon rolls that I adapted slightly to make apple Chelsea buns, and it was a triumph… better than my previous attempts made using commercial yeast.

The filling is grated apple with the juice squeezed out through a cloth, then mixed with melted butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. The glaze was made from the apple juice mixed with a bit of sugar (rather than the traditional milk and sugar mix), Although the dough is sweet, it actually doesn’t contain too much sugar, so the result is not sickly, especially if the apples are a bit sharp.

Homer is also now our go-to source of yeast for all bread-making and the packet of commercial yeast is languishing in the fridge, being used only occasionally because I feel I should use it up.

Please plesiosaur me

When you sew your own clothes you are removed from the constraints of fashion and other people’s ideas of what you should wear. Admittedly, it’s not always possible to find exactly the fabric you have in mind or a pattern that’s exactly the right design, but if you keep your eyes open, lovely and inspiring fabrics do crop up, and as you get more experienced, patterns can be adapted. Sometimes, however, you fall in love with a fabric and you find just the right pattern, and you can make an item of clothing that you would simply never find in a high street store.

Currently, the world needs to smile more, and this dress is certainly making me do that at the moment:

The pattern is Indigo from Tilly and the Buttons and the fabric is Jurassic Sea by Lewis and Irene. My only slight criticism of the fabric design is that you can either have the pink plesiosaurs the right way up or the blue ones, but not both… I chose blue although I think this means the ammonites are actually upside down.

The pattern is great, although next time I make it I will move the bust darts as they are a bit low for me (I’ve already marked the pattern accordingly so I don’t forget). There is no zip and no buttons, making it a very straightforward piece of sewing and a garment that, I suspect, is going to be made many times in the future.

Months of yarny makes

Being trapped at home over the past few months has not inspired me to write much, but I have been busy making, so I thought I would share some of what I’ve been up to…

There’s been plenty of crochet and a bit of knitting. I finally got round to completing a coatigan in Jacob wool for my friend Kt. This latter project got held up whilst I awaited the arrival of some beautiful handmade toggles, plus I added some pockets , which the original pattern did not include. It has gone to it’s new home now and seems to be greatly appreciated.

I made a duffle bag – a kit from the lovely Little Box of Crochet, who I’ve taken out a subscription with to provide me with a parcel of cheerfulness and inspiration every two months. Although the pattern didn’t suggest it, I lined the bag, which I think will make it much more useable. It’s rather subtle bleached driftwood colors, so I chose a nice bright green lining to provide a startling contrast. I also made a poinsettia mandala, which uses a surface crochet technique that was new to me and can be used to produce lovely effects., Then there was a tiny Daisy-alike using a pattern from Toft. Finally, there has also been a bit of knitting in the form of a pair of socks which had been hanging around unfinished for months prior to all this staying at home business and which I finally got round to working on because I needed a portable project to take with me when I went on a mission of mercy that required a lot of waiting around.

I’ve also made some more Dorset buttons after my initial trials. First, a peacock brooch and then a variety of sizes to form a necklace. They are fun to make and I think many future projects are likely to incorporate them.

As the winter draws in and we’ll be spending even more time at home, I’m planning a big scrap yarn project plus I have plenty of lovely wool just waiting for inspiration to strike, so I don’t think I shall be short of more yarny creativity for a while yet.

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