Friday, 28 September 2012

Fabric, fabric or no fabric...

"It's taking how long?!"
Over a week and I'm still waiting for the fabric samples.... the pattern pieces are cut; I should start cutting out the lining but, if I find a nice grey top fabric, lining in black might not look right; Glenda waits in the corner and, from where I'm sat, I can't help but laugh at Bob on the wall behind who looks as impatient as we all feel!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The 2013 To-Do List

Springtime is the traditional time for sorting and organising, and there is nothing better than an end of winter clean, but the start of autumn has always prompted a bit of springclean too.  I'm infamous in my little family for always disturbing the peace and quiet with a "it'd be good if we did...", in my mind there's always a little job to be done and in theirs, another time to be doing it!  I'm at my worst come autumn when I can't help but think about all the things we said that we'd do this year and, there's no denying it, I get a little crazy lady about what we should have done and what we need to do now.  It's my mental springclean, and it's also usually the point at which the rest of the family look at me in faint despair and make sure that my wine glass is near to hand and well topped up!  I've been holed up for days, googling and hoarding gardening and cookbooks and this year I have plans... BIG plans, well, ok, two big plans, maybe three... the current list, in no particular order, is:
  1. Reduce our heating bills.  We've been talking about insulating the loft since we moved in, it's going to be a horrible job but now is the time to just do it!  Also, our open fireplace is fabulous but a heating nightmare... it needs to be sorted.... and I rather like the idea of installing a multifuel stove.
  2. Convert the external dog run into a storage shed/greenhouse.  It was going to be my studio but this would be more useful and if we sort the garage out (see below) I can carve out some space there.
  3. Grow some more of our own veg and herbs - nothing fancy but the things we buy a lot of.
  4. Reduce our food bills with better planning - we're pretty good, but fall into the trap of cooking the same thing over and over, I'm hoping that a bit of planning will save some more pennies and liven the weekly menus up a bit too.
  5. Replace the garage roof - no more leaks please!
  6. Line the garage and put in a floor so that we can put is worksurfaces etc.  There is a lovely view out of the back, over the churchyard, I could be inspired sat there.

  7. oh, and 

  8. A wooden floor throughout downstairs.  That may be beyond the budget this year, but it is firmly at the top of the wishlist
(Never mind my musings about needlepointing a series cushions for the sofa, or a rug for the fireplace (post new floor of course), or replanting the back bed of the garden, or redecorating the bathroom (never been keen on the colour), or touching up all the paintwork round the house, or what next years big sewing project should be... the list, truly, is endless.) 

As a slight aside, there's a new series on Nat Geo about American Preppers.  The boyf and I have been watching it, clutching our wine glasses and with eyebrows firmly raised ;o)  When I mentioned the above list and he cited to-do's 1 through to 4 as reasons why I shouldn't be allowed to watch it any more.  If I have any ideas about water storage (there goes the waterbutt at the end of the greenhouse) and underground bunkers, I think he'll be signing me up for therapy!  Though if the underground bunker was a wine cellar and we stored a lifetime supply of cheese, he's all for it... that man has his priorities right.

Now all I need to do is sort out the design for this years Christmas cards, get ready for Halloween, start on the Christmas present planning, learn all I need to know about greenhouse growing and get to work persuading the lovely boyf, who is no fan of either my lists or DIY, that they're actually a pretty good thing!  Now where is that glass of wine....

Hammy, Wordless Wednesday 26th September 2012

He never gets a mention and, at over 2 1/2 yrs old with a large tumour in his ear, may sadly not be with us much longer.  So, here's Hammy the Hamster (what a fabulously uninspired name poor chap!) who in all the chaos last night (dogs, swimming, dinner too late and undone homework) was curled up asleep, the personification of peace and calm.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Give us a clue, Halloween Invitations 2012

Last year's Halloween invitations were fabulous but time consuming, this year I went for something more a good deal more subtle but which should get everyone's brains ticking over.  Our (very understanding) friends are all to be killed off (temporarily, for one night only) and are now in possession of an evidence bag relating to the crime. 

The invitation itself is a handmade tag attached to a sealed evidence bag containing an item.  The item is simply a piece of evidence; it could be the source of their demise, found at the scene, of interest in the case... the choice is theirs.

Very odd having a November date for Halloween, its just not right!

They will be meeting their demise in a variety of ways, the evidence includes a knitting needle, a wooden stake, dried wolfsbane, a candlestick, a corkscrew, a broken flower pot, a kipper (real and quite smelly on delivery!), a kite string, a car tyre and three Naga Ghost chillis (as the hottest chillis in the world actually rather dangerous in their own right)... the list goes on.  It's been great fun sourcing the evidence and each piece means something to the recipient.  Its going to be great fun to see what they all come up with.

A4 card (120gms or more, depending on your printer) in White
Clear Avery Labels
Parcel String
String Tied Envelopes, various sizes
Plain Ziplock Bags
Scissors, Awl or sharp Pencil, Black Pen, Hole Punch
Items to be submitted in Evidence

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Attaching the Foresleeves to the Elizabethan Kirtle

It's been a near perfect weekend: the 11yr old rocked her swim champs on Friday night, the boyf is back safe and sound, we had a lovely dinner with friends last night and today is chilly and rainy.  We managed a walk around the woods with the dogs just before the rain set in, had homemade pea and mint soup for lunch and have settled down to a very relaxed afternoon of pottering and a bit of cuddling on the sofa in front of the TV... perfect!

My potter was to get the sleeves and foresleeves attached to the kirtle, and then get Glenda fully dressed in preparation for making the gown.  I decided to stitch the kirtle sleeves to the kirtle; they are attached at the top of the shoulder with a inch and a half of slipstitching.  At the base of the kirtle sleeves are four eyelets, one at the back (above my elbow) and three across the front half.  These were matched to four eyelets on the foresleeves.  I need to buy 2-3yds of ribbon to lace the sleeves together properly but, for now, each eyelet is laced individually with some spare bits of ribbon.

It's a minor but important detail to get these eyelets done; they complete the base silhouette of the gown and I can take accurate measurements for the gown sleeves.  She's looking good and, now that the foresleeves are fixed in what will be their final position, it's also good to see the puffing of the smock sleeves working well and nicely visible.

The next job is to start tracing the pattern pieces of the gown.  The kirtle bodice needed to be widened from the armhole to waist so I pulled the pattern pieces out of the file and I am going to cut the gown bodice to match them and then fit from there.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


It's not good news.  After three (?) weeks I had pretty much convinced myself that the heavens would shine kindly on me and that the fabric shop would find me another matching 5 meters but no, it's not to be; and I feel like I owe the shop at least a tin of biscuits for their efforts.  

So, I have been sulking, just a little bit, and randomly eyeing up all sorts of fabulously impractical and inappropriate alternatives.  The other local fabric shop has nothing appropriate so I'm back to online shopping.  Impractical flights of fancy aside, I've requested a few more samples; mainly in black, but I'm going to try one last attempt at a grey.  

In the meantime, conscious of the passage of time, I've gathered all the bits that I need together and am going to start on the lining of the gown.  I've also started to finish the sleeves - marking out where the eyelets are to be placed.  Hopefully the lovely boyf will be happy to bash in some eyelets for me when he's back from the Czech Republic.  

Thanks to the overly long arms of the smock, Glenda looks like a slightly demented scarecrow...

*     *     *     *     *

The boyf has been away for a week and I've been rather proud of how I've coped and my military-precision-esque management of the house, the dogs (except for Monday morning when, with about 20 minutes to spare I looked at them both and thought "who's walking you?"; I could hear the boyfs long distance chuckles as I charged around the field with barely dried hair and half-filed nails), work, the 11yr old and her endless amounts of homework.  And then I found out what my good friend JC has been alluding to the last few months.  While I'm patting my back for getting through a week of oven meals (some cheating had to be done somewhere) and dog walks, he's preparing to run three marathons in three days to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer; this weekend in fact.  I am in awe.  It brings it all back into perspective.  Good luck JC x

Monday, 17 September 2012

The Nepali Bracelet

Twenty-something years ago, at a Nepalese stall at the night market in Hong Kong, I bought a bracelet.  Black cotton with silver beads; it was a wisp of a bracelet, so very plain and simple but the tiny detailing on the beads had caught my eye.  The lovely boyf didn't wear bracelets (that I can remember) when I met him, but one Valentines he was treating me to a weekend away, which warranted a nice present in return, so I bought him a black silk and silver bar bracelet from Links.  It was joined that Christmas by a leather cuff with the longitude and latitude of our house engraved onto a silver plaque and finally, after a rummage, my Nepali bracelet.  Everything in threes.  Time has taken it's toll though, the cotton has morphed into I'm not entirely sure what after years of shampoo and soap and wear, a couple of the beads have fallen off and it was so frayed in one spot that it was threatening to be lost.  It was time to replace it.

On of my failings as the mother of a soon to be teenage girl is my apathy towards the friendship bracelet.  I don't remember being all that fussed by them as a girl myself.  I'm not a fan of any of the unbelievably overly complicated kits that the 11yr old gets routinely as presents, the threads were just pinned to the knee of your jeans in my day.  And I'm certainly not chomping at the bit to finish off a half done bracelet just because she'd promised so-and-so that she'd make it.  I just didn't/don't get the point.  All that said, after a quick google and thanks to the great instructions by Fe at Rad Linc Crafts I found myself sat, Saturday night, with a two foot long plywood plank on my lap, far more thread than ever I needed knotted to a screw at the top of said plank and taped at the bottom, as per instructions, a needle and a bowl of rescued Nepali silver beads.

The making of was a bad-tempered affair: I unknotted quite a bit, the boyf looked nervous, the beads went flying once (thank you Megs) and the end result looks more homemade than I would have wanted but, the Nepali bracelet is back on his wrist and I like it just as much as I did the day I bought it.

My inner pirate bear...

My inner voice is doing impressions, this one is now fondly known as the 'pirate bear' and he sounds a little like this: "grrrr aarrrggghhhh, grrrrr arrrggghhhh".  The reason for the impression?  My laptop came back from Sony today.  Good news?  It's sporting a sparkly new screen and I got a complementary screen wipe; all together now, "ooh ahhh!"  Bad news?  A faint but long scratch on the case that will annoy me every time I see it and a newly replaced hard drive, "restored" (for good measure) to it's OS state.  Not quite what I was expecting, not at all.  The gentleman at Customer Services asked this afternoon if I was happy with the repair: not quite, no.  My stuffed to the gills, fully functional laptop with a couple of lines at the side of the screen is now an empty shell of possibility...  do you think they could possibly return my old hard drive? 

This is where is gets tricky.  It is now the property of Sony; without notification or permission, my electronic life is now the property of Sony. " But we tell you to back it up", they say, and I did but that is not the point.  Yes, the majority of it is backed up, but not the entire 30gb of music, or the odd little programmes I've downloaded and found useful over the years, or my extensive collection of bookmarks in Chrome or the, soon to be quite useful, Christmas Present List!  It was only going in for the screen to be replaced. Moreover, had I had any inkling that my personal property was not going to be returned to me I would have also spent time removing files; photos, work items, copies of legal documents, the list goes on.  It's one thing for that data to be on my hard drive in my laptop, which just happens to need a new screen; it's quite another for it to be now be on my hard drive, somewhere at Sony, ostensibly now their property and with no guarantee of any protection of my rights as its owner.

Oh, and I've just remembered, my cheeks burning in annoyance, my 4000+ font collection: grrrrr aaarrrggghhh, grrrrr arrrrgggghhhh. 

I've been reading a great little book from the office library, How to Work Wonders, all about taking positive thinking, stress management and well being into the workplace.  I may yet be returning it for How to Complain Effectively!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Megs & Finn, a Wordless Friday 14th September 2012

Thanks to a very unexpected, pretty miserable, stomach bug (and with my laptop still at the shop being fixed) I've not being feeling particularly bloggy... anything over and above TV and the sofa seems a little bit too much like hard work.  So no picture taking, but I did take this video of Megs and Finn play fighting.  Megs is lovely when you're ill, she snuggles in close and keeps a watchful eye; Finn's not yet got with the programme and got a little restless... this is after a good 20 minutes of non-stop Finn and if anyone doesn't believe that dobes can be the gentlest, most patient, creatures, Megs lives with this every day!  And yes, it's Junior vs Senior on the TV... they are a guilty pleasure :o)  The other highlight of my convalescence was the "sick kit" that the 11 yr old made me:  bright "cheery" green bucket, large roll of paper towels and the Febreeze carpet spray so that "you can make yourself smell all nice afterwards."  Errmmm....

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Tudor Coif

So I popped into the fabric shop last week, and rather wish I hadn't!  There, sat in the end of roll section, at half price to boot, was a charcoal grey poly cotton that looked like a thick linen weave.  It was the perfect colour match against the orange and black and a lovely weight, which draped beautifully.  Unfortunately there were only 5m and I need 10m.  I'm waiting on a very nice sales assistant to see if they can track down another 5m.... it's been a week, I have every finger and toe crossed!

In the meantime, I had a couple of hours clear yesterday morning and decided to make the coif.  It comprises three pieces; the coif, a lining and a band at the nape of the neck.  The first step is to stitch the back seam of the coif and the lining and press them open.

Right sides together, pin the coif and the lining together and then sew around the entire edge, with the exception of the neck seam.

Trim the seam and clip the curved edges.

Then turn, press well and try on.  The instructions state that you may need to trim the peak of the coif, they didn't say that I'd look like a smurf! 

I turned the coif inside out, pinned the the length of the outline of my head and then drew a more curved outline and ran a line of stitching.

It took a couple of adjustments to get it completely right.  The instructions then don't tell you what to do to trim the peak, after some playing I decided to trim it close to the seam and run a zigzag stitch along it; if it starts to fray too badly, I will trim it with bias binding.

Once the coif was fitting better, I sewed the band (right side to right side) along the length of the neck.  Pressed it flat and then turned and pressed the other three edges.  

Once pressed, the band was folded on itself and the long edge slipstitched in place.  The ends are left open and a 2-3 yrd tie threaded through.  I chose to you the same 1/4" black ribbon that I used to trim the smock.  One tudor coif, done.

I rather love it!  Though I have one problem, I don't have enough hair... I should be balancing it on plaits wrapped across the top of my head and may need to start thinking wigs or temporary extensions for when I wear it properly.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

1st Day at Secondary School, Wordless Wednesday 5th September 2012

Poor Indy, the first day of school photo.... could I have managed worse if I tried?!  
Megs says it all in the third picture! Lol :o)

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Tragedy! and beautiful wallpaper...

When I met the lovely boyf told me was that he "didn't do sports."  Having been a football widow for several years, it was absolutely one of the nicest things that he could have told me, though it didn't take long to figure out that this wasn't entirely true.  He loves to snow board, mountain board and blade, but these aren't weekly fixtures and anyways, I could get very used to apr├Ęs ski!  That is until we moved here.  Never mind the village of the damned, we live in the village of the golfers and the boyf has succumbed.  I am now a golf widow.

And so it was, under the guise of going to get food for Finn, that he stopped off this morning at the range to hit some balls.  Leaving me, midway through painting the last wall of the 11 yr old's room, with the dogs for company and oh, what fun we had....  Those of you that don't have dobes (and those of you lucky enough to have a lovely chilled out, low-maintenance dobe!) may not know that dobes can sing.  It is the kind of noise that you can only shake your head at in half horrified, half hysterical despair!  Megs particularly likes to sing when there are people in the church and the, usually dead (pardon the pun) quiet, graveyard.  Half way through my painting, I discovered that there was a funeral being held and I'm pretty certain that the mourners were not appreciating the (mercifully short) heartfelt dobe accompaniment!  Megs came inside, and serenaded me instead.... Finn, in the meantime, was having a fabulous time finding stuff in the 11 year old's room.  I don't know where he found half of it, being the size of a hotdog obviously has it's advantages; he is the search and rescue dog of lost toys and hair accessories!  Luckily, he's more of a hoarder than a chewer, but it's always better to be safe than forking out for vets bills... in the first 50 minutes that the boyf was out, I barely managed a third of the wall; in the last 10 minutes that they finally gave up and went for a nap, I finished the rest of the wall!

So, the 11 yr old's bedroom is finally finished.  It has taken ages but it's my own fault.  I only paint by hand with a 2" brush (I swear that the finish is worth the effort) and the thought of 3-4 coats of paint that it takes to cover that horrible blue has been a real deterrent to getting the job done.  However, I had promised her that it would be finished by the end of the summer and yes, I know that I'm cutting it fine with only 48 hrs to go, but it is done.  All ready for her to start school on a calm, tidy and ordered note... for a week at least I hope!  

I also made a discovery.  Not only had the room, before the blue, been almost exactly the same dusky pink that I have just painted it (!) but underneath all of that was this:

I am pretty certain that it is hand blocked wallpaper; the patterns don't always quite match up and you can see and feel the texture of the paint.  It is such a pretty pattern too, and a real shame that someone chose to paint over it.  The boyf and I, when we decided to buy this place, said that we were never really going to be it's owners but rather its caretakers. This lovely cottage, after 620+ years, is a grand old dame, we are are only here to do the best that we can to ensure that it has stories to tell for another 600... I just wish that the previous occupiers had thought the wallpaper worthy of being part of the tale.

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