Play time

Scrabble and chocolate mousse

Since we can’t go out to play at the moment, I have been finding some indoor things to play with. As well as regular evening games of Scrabble and Jenga in the limery, I’ve been playing in the sewing room. I have taken the opportunity to make something that I’ve wanted to try for a while and to sew with a new material.

Both my projects resulted from not being able to go to Wonderwool this year as it was cancelled. I had a trip planned with friends and had even bought the tickets. Instead, there was an online event and the organisers invited the exhibitors to contribute links to their shops . I don’t really need any more yarn (still working my way through my stash), but I wanted to support some of the small businesses who are currently unable to trade. I found a lovely little fabric shop – Black Mountain Fabrics – that does not normally trade online and, after several messages backwards and forwards, selected two kits that interested me.

First, a Japanese knot bag. I keep seeing pictures of these and thinking that the construction is interesting. So, what better way to have a go than with a kit? I told the lovely lady who owns the shop what sort of colours I’d like and she sent me photos of fabrics to choose from. I was smitten by some with peacock feathers and we combined it with a teal lining. It was a quick and simple make and I think I’m likely to make more of these – they would be ideal for little gifts and only require the fabric – no interfacing, clasps, zips or drawstrings.

Second, a little kit that included cork fabric. I have been fascinated by the idea of cork for bag-making for a while, but wanted something simple to experiment with. This bag has a simple construction and the most wonderful octopus lining. The handle was easy to fit and it was another quick make. I was interested to discover how flexible the cork is and how beautifully it sewed (at least on my sewing machine). I would certainly consider using it for other bag-making projects.

I know that several friends have found their creativity lacking during this period of enforced confinement, whilst some people are flourishing. Have you been playing with new materials or media recently? Or have you simply wanted to crawl under the duvet and not come out?

All dressed up and nowhere to go

No mending this Monday, so I thought I’d share a make instead.

Last autumn, when we could travel and see friends in the same room, rather than only electronically, I went to London. The main purpose was lunch with an old friend, but I slotted in a bit of fabric shopping and bought a lovely piece of Japanese cotton. I chose it to go with a specific dress pattern and intended to make it almost straight away. However, the need for a cotton dress in the winter is limited and so other projects took precedence. Now, however, it’s spring and the time was right for this piece of sewing.

It’s a simple garment, with raglan sleeves and a zip at the back. The idea was to choose a fabric that would take centre stage. It turned out to be a fairly simple make, although I did have to adjust the shoulder darts a little and may revisit them, as I think the shaping could be better.

So, I give you the Raglan dress (a pattern from the Avid Seamstress):

Now, I just need to be allowed out in order to show it off.

ScrapHappy May 2020

Whilst I may not have managed to write much this past month, I’ve certainly been busy with my scraps. You might remember that some months ago I started using up scrap sock (and other 4-ply) yarn in a scrappy blanket. The last time I reported on progress was in November 2019, and I’d got to this stage:

November

Since then I’ve beavered away and dug out old scraps and small scraps, until I finally had more than 200 little squares. In order to turn them into a blanket, I did have to buy some yarn, but I supported my local yarn store and, fortunately, had collected it before the lockdown happened.

And now, I’ve got all of the bits joined together and all I need to do is work the border. My intention was to achieve a stained glass window effect and I think that I have been quite successful. Unfortunately there is very bright sunshine today, so the photos don’t quite do justice to the most vibrant colours, still, you get the idea…

Some of the squares are unique as I had only enough yarn to make one, some are made with several scraps in order to use up bits. Some of the yarn was left over from making socks or shawls or blankets or gloves, some was given to me by folks who no longer had a use for it and one ball was a dye test. Considering the varied origins I’m rather pleased with the result. Placement was random with the only rule being that I did not put two squares next to each other that were the same.

-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.

ScrapHappy April 2020

A month down the line and how things have changed… I thought that this month there would be more scrappy cards, but events have overtaken us.

Instead, it’s all about face masks… perfect for using up scrap fabric. There are lots of patterns out there, but two different friends recommended the same pattern, so that’s the one I went for. Kate Chiconi wrote about it here and then, when we were chatting via Zoom, my friend Katie (who only lives a few miles away, but might as well be in Australia at the moment) modelled the one she had made from this same pattern. I have, however, added an extra component: non-woven Vilene. Although it’s not medical grade, adding Vilene increases filtration because it isn’t woven. If you are thinking of making a mask, you might be interested in the information in this post from the lovely people at Empress Mills which discusses suitable fabrics.

Anyway, when I mentioned to Mr Snail that I was going to make face masks, he said that he wanted to make his own, so this is our first joint ScrapHappy project, and you can read about his take on it here.

I started off by trialling the pattern and working out which parts might be a challenge for Mr Snail (none, as it turned out). I collected together some likely-looking fabric and in the end I made one mask from a scrap of organic cotton left over from an apron I made (outer) and some Tana Lawn (lining) and one from some snail fabric (outer) and some lovely soft cotton that had once been a pyjama leg (lining). The Vilene (applied to the lining fabric) was a variety of small pieces left over from dress-making projects and there was just enough for two face masks each. Mr Snail’s masks were also made of scraps, and I managed to find enough elastic in my sewing box to complete our projects.

-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.

The right button for the job

Apparently, during this ‘lockdown’ we are all supposed to have oodles of spare time to, as one friend of mine suggested, “perfect our conversational Russian and learn to play the bassoon”. Oddly, here Chez Snail there is no extra time, as my work (always done from home) continues to arrive in abundance, I still walk the dogs every day and I continue to loathe going shopping, so do it as little as possible. Nevertheless, I have been busy with my crochet hooks and have completed two projects.

First, I finally got round to finishing something that has been languishing half-done in a bag for 18 months… since my first visit to the Crochet Sanctuary. Our ‘big’ project for that weekend was a snuggly bunny. I didn’t finish it during my stay and when I got home, other projects were more pressing. However, the lockdown brought it to mind because I was trying to think of a cuddly gift to sent to a friend who lives alone and is normally very sociable. In the end it was a relatively quick make.

But I thought that she looked rather cross. After some thought, I decided to replace the stitched eyes with some black buttons, turning her into a much more happy and relaxed bunny:

And then I progressed on to a cardigan that I only started a few weeks ago. I used some of the yarn that I had won in the Knit for Peace raffle back in 2018. It wasn’t a very exciting colour, so I added a little bit of purple/blue, but even so I felt that it lacked something. I searched my button box, but couldn’t find any buttons that were the right size and had sufficient zing. In the interest, therefore, of supporting small businesses at this difficult time, I bought some lovely Victorian Glass buttons via etsy.

I’m really pleased with the end result. And for the second project running, it just needed the right buttons.

ScrapHappy March 2020

The other day Mr Snail asked whether we had any greetings cards in the stash and when I ferreted them out I discovered that, whilst we did have some made by other artists, there were very few left from my last scrappy card-making session. So, I dug out a random pile of scraps in the hope that inspiration would strike.

Perhaps there’s some left-over inspiration in amongst this lot

During my last card-making session I had started to experiment with sewing paper and fabric together, and I want to continue to explore this. One reason is that, by sewing, I can avoid using glue, much of which is not very environmentally friendly. If I only use natural fibres, my cards will be completely compostable.

I discovered three leaf skeletons and I know that these always look effective on cards. One problem with working with paper is that you can’t pin it in place, but the clips that I use for bag making did the trick , as you can see in the picture below. I stitched the leaves onto fabric scraps (two bits were furnishing fabric samples and one a scrap from a very old dressmaking project – so old, I no longer have the dress!). Next these were sewn onto handmade paper scraps and then finally onto some folded card. By working in layers, only the last round of stitching is visible inside the card, and it doesn’t look too untidy The fourth card was simply made by framing a scrap of snail fabric using some strips of handmade paper. I’m less happy with this card than the others as it’s a bit wonky, but it has all been a bit of a learning exercise and the card will get used anyway – after all, it’s unique.

I had hoped to make more than four cards, but time got away from me, so there may be more next month.

-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 other folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Sue and Sunny

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.

A long time coming

One of my current goals is to end the year with fewer unfinished projects than I began it with. Several of the items that I have on the go have been hanging around for absolutely ages and there are various reasons that they have been put aside: sometimes I’ve got bored, sometimes I’ve realised that I don’t really like/need the thing I’m making, sometimes I’m awaiting inspiration/supplies, sometimes it’s just a long-term project (like the sofa covers) and sometimes it’s because something more interesting has come along and distracted me. One of my abandoned projects, however, was put aside because the pattern I was following was just so badly written.

I started crocheting this cardigan to wear for a friend’s wedding several years ago. I didn’t manage to finish in time, but I battled on with a less than easy pattern until I came to the edging up the front and around the neck. And then the pattern made no sense – I asked other people what they thought and no one understood it, so I contacted the designer, asking if she could send a picture or diagram showing how the motifs were put together. Her reply basically told me to fiddle around until it worked… easier said than done because the very small motifs were crocheted together, with the final joining round constituting a large part of each piece, so I couldn’t make them all and then try to assemble them like a jigsaw. In the end, it was abandoned.

I did revisit it, thinking I might be able to use a different approach with snail-like spiral motifs that I could sew together, but I hit problems again and so, once more it was put aside… until this year. And this year I am determined not to be beaten by any project… so I had a re-think. I looked at the cardigan and looked at it and looked at it. I realised what a very strange design it was and that I would need to use a completely different method if I was actually ever going to finish it.

So, I crocheted rows to fill the gap at the top of the back that was supposed to be filled with flower motifs that didn’t fit. Then I worked around the bottom edge, up one side, round the back and down the other side, until the front edges met, before adding a buttonhole band on one side and a button band on the other and finishing with a small shawl collar. I used some antique glass buttons that I’ve had for ages, to give a nod to the flower motifs that were supposed to characterise this cardigan (and do still run up the centre of the back). Currently it’s pinned out on the blocking mats, as the edges were rather untidy and crumpled and when I put it on Mimi it didn’t hang well.

I’m not sure, now it’s finished, that I actually like it – it looks rather frumpy – but it’s pure wool and therefore warm, so it will be fine to wear around the house if nothing else. Plus it is actually finished and so that’s one fewer project lurking out of sight.

Watch this space for more finished projects as the year progresses (there are lots of them).

93 not out

Before Christmas Mr Snail decided that he’d like to learn to sew his own clothes. It all started when a kit arrived with the pattern and all the bits and bobs required to make a pair of boxer shorts. I’d ordered it because I fancied having a go and the pattern looked good (and had got good reviews). I opened the parcel and there was a little box, with the fateful words “A beginner’s sewing kit…” on the outside. “Ooh,” said Mr Snail “could I make these?”. Well, I really couldn’t say no, because a quick glance at the pattern suggested that they were quite straightforward.

Practice

The main issue was that Mr Snail had never used a sewing machine before, but he was convinced that it couldn’t be very different from playing race cars on his PS4 (which has foot pedals and a steering wheel). I did point out that if he makes a mistake in a video game, no one gets hurt, but that sewing your own finger is extremely painful. Nevertheless, he was sure that he would be fine… and so I gave him some scraps and let him play with my Bernina. Apparently, it turns out, a sewing machine is a lot more scary than a video game and nowhere near as enjoyable. So, we had a rethink…

Fortunately, my family owns a Singer 99K… we’ve had it from new (1927ish) and at least three generations of us have learned to sew using it. So, Sister of Snail dropped it off and, after some oiling and fiddling, we got it running ok (although it wasn’t as smooth as last time I used it, about 25 years ago). It really is much more difficult to sew your own finger with this machine, as you have to put all the effort in yourself, so Mr Snail was much happier.

I guided him through the cutting and construction, and he was able to make his own boxer shorts. A rather impressive first project in my opinion.

Anyway, I was a bit unhappy with the way the machine was running, so we decided to get it serviced. I was pretty sure that the tension spring needed replacing and the presence of an experienced Singer servicing/repair shop just down the road from the flat in Reading seemed like an opportunity too good to miss. On its return, this lovely old machine is running like a dream and Mr Snail has been able to complete a second project using it (which I’m sure he’ll blog about soon).

I’m so happy that our 93-year-old machine is still going strong, and still being used to produce garments. My mum says she thinks it was originally bought by my great auntie Dolly, who was a dancer and used it to make her costumes. I just wish I had some pictures of her wearing some of the things she made. Let’s hope it’s still going strong in another 93 years.

ScrapHappy February 2020

You may recall that at the end of my January ScrapHappy adventure I was left with a selection of zips, toggles, elastic, plastic sliders, velcro, cords, pockets and waterproof fabric…

… and a headache.

Well, the headache went quite quickly, but the materials remained and I had a plan for some of them… I wanted to make Mr Snail a small, waterproof backpack using a pattern that I first used last year.

For this scrappy project, I made use of the following scraps: a zip, two toggles, a slider, a piece of elastic and pieces of Gore-tex fabric from the old waterproof jackets, plus some old seconds wool suiting fabric that had some marks on it. I did have to use four new D-rings, two metal sliders, stiffening and interfacing to complete the project, but the bulk of it is scrappy.

You can see from some of the pictures that I didn’t worry about existing seams in the fabric – they were all flat and I thought that it showed off the re-purposed nature of the materials. In fact, now it is complete, I think it looks anything but scrappy!

-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 other folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Sue and Sunny

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.

Bags of Gratitude

Towards the end of last year I had a health scare and there was real chance that I might be seriously ill. There were trips to the gp, blood tests, a scan and then an appointment on Christmas eve with a consultant at the the hospital, who took a biopsy. In the end I was fine and there was nothing seriously wrong, but I had several very stressful weeks during which I hardly slept or ate… and, you may have noticed, did no blogging. Fortunately three very dear friends helped me get through it – without their support, love and reminders to eat (apparently it’s fine to have chocolate for breakfast in such circumstances), I’m not sure how I (and Mr Snail) would have coped.

The consultant reassured me, but it wasn’t until the results of the biopsy came through and I knew all really was well, that I was able to relax once more and my creativity (which had all but deserted me for the duration) returned with abundance.

So, how do you thank such good friends? I know they would have been there for me no matter what, but I wanted to demonstrate to them how grateful I am. I looked for presents to buy, but in the end I decided that I really wanted to make them each a gift… they all either knit or crochet, so I settled on my other main interest at the mo

I don’t normally name names, but I would, publicly, like to thank Sarah, Kt and Joëlle for their friendship… I love you ladies and I hope you like your bags.

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