Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Some days just can't help but make you smile.

Do you ever have days like these? Days when just out of the blue a few lovely things happen, simple things and you can grab a moment to smile.

A few truly lovely things have happened today, nothing really important in the scale of world peace, more simple pleasures.

My days started with an email form a lady who had attended my blind making wrokshop last Friday. It said this....

At the end of a workshop I always try to ensure that people are happy, that they feel that they have learnt something and that they'd come back again if the right workshop was offered. People always tend to say yes and you hope that they mean it. To get a line from someone saying so, just because they wanted to, really made my morning smile.

The sun came out this morning too, it glowed and brought the garden to life. So as I sat and hand finished come curtains for a client I listened to Radio 4 with a cuppa, garden doors open and with bird song joining in the discussion. Does earning a living get much better than this I pondered?

Jobs suspended for the school run I allowed myself to set off ten minutes early to post a letter. With one of the local secondhand shops calling to me I popped inside. Treasures were to be found! A wonderful book on needlecraft, the sort that you can browse through for hours and covers all sorts of things. A wonderful set of drawers that fit cotton reels perfectly. My only debate is which colour for which drawer... or whether to fill a couple of the drawers with buttons too. And, yes you've guessed it, a wonderful piece of fabric. I've got some very similar in a much darker colour way but this piece looks like it was once a cushion cover and will turn into a wonderful bag for the summer. Some days a rummage finds nothing, another there are treasures galore.

And then finally, the sun is still shining and I have been able to get out in the garden and photograph the props for my new display at Miss Mabels. Every now and again I think that it is a good idea to completely change the look of the stand so that people are encouraged to stop by and see whats new. You can add bits as you go but sometimes they don't show enough. So to grab the eye this time I am back on my peg bag theme that seems to surface every year when the sun comes out. You can read all about it from March last year here.

When  I helped Niamh raise some funds at a local nearly new sale last weekend I kept the business head on and searched for a few garments just perfect for conversion. I tend to find it harder to get the perfect shirts for the male examples but found a fair few this time. Need to get girl searching now... but what do you think?

I think it is just the best way to keep those fond memories and favourite garments in everyday use. All the shirts have been sewn shut and the top buttons undone. For the girls items its different depending on what they are but the dungarees work really well.

So as I sit and drink my final cuppa and eat my eccles cake before embarking on the end of day clear up there is a big smile on my face. I wonder if tomorrow will be as good?


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

How the sun can lift the spirits

I am sure that everyone enjoyed the lovely weekend and getting out into the fresh air. I know we did. When we have been trapped inside due to the rain or cold for so so long it felt like we were on holiday.

After a rather luxurious Saturday afternoon when friends cam round for a late lunch/early dinner and we sat and saw the rain poor down we were determined to get out on Sunday. Jobs done in the morning we set out at two for a sunday afternoon stroll. We returned some four hours later having enjoyed the South Downs, Ditchling Beacon and a 99 Flake!

Little Niamh was just great, only tiring some 15 minutes from home. We did discover new tricks though... it's amazing what a walking stick and listening to stories can do! You'll see her little bag on her shoulder, well it carried a cassette player (remember those!) and Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets read by Stephen Fry did us proud Sunday afternoon. At 99p from Oxfam it was an absolute bargain!


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Brighton Artists Open Houses

Oooo here's the artwork for the Open House in Brighton that I am joining during May. Very excited but it makes it a really busy time getting everything ready alongside workshops and making. Still much nicer to have such exciting things going on.

I love my patchwork houses looking fab.

It's busy house with lots of Artists so one worth a visit don't you think? 

The main website, which can help you plot your route around, can be found here.


Monday, 8 April 2013

Family Time

The end of March is always a busy time as I have three very important birthdays on the bounce. It seems that I have a best mate with a birthday on the 28th, my Dad with a birthday on the 29th and a fabulous Mr B with a a birthday on the 30th. I now also have a nephew with a birthday on the 3rd April and a dear Nan to remember on the 6th. Add to that Easter and it always seems to be a very busy time.

Hand made cards are great, but not always when you have so many to put together. However with a little bit of planning there's less pressure and the creative streak can work its magic.

As I work with the sewing machines every day either teaching sewing or making soft furnishings I had decided that, if I was to feel like I had a proper break over the Easter week, I needed to refrain from sewing. Rather than sit on my fidgety hands all week I took to the crochet hook and started a little early to craft this card for my dear mate affectionately known as boat lady. (Long story for another day)! Whilst I didn't get chance to finish it with a stamped "happy birthday" as I had intended I did make the lovely crochet flower into a removable brooch. I thought she might like to have something cheery whilst we continue to suffer from the cold weather.

The cards for the males in my life are always harder but I took some inspiration from party decorations and put this one together for my dear Dad. A really simple idea that I'd seen somewhere and I pulled from the memory bank! As I was putting it together my head told me to use only blue and green for the strings but I rebelled and added some other colours. It looked all the better for it. Not to self, listen to the rebel within!

I didn't craft for my wonderful Mr B. Shameful? Possibly. However, he is a big fan of stick men drawings and I found the perfect stick man card for him a few months back. It produced the smile on his face that I had imagined when I had passed the money to the shopkeeper so decided that I need not feel guilty. Meanwhile Cait produced this great washi bunting card...

...... a style that Niamh and I stole yesterday to make two more for birthdays this week.

It was wonderful last week to spend some downtime with the girls and Mr B and try to disengage a little from my ever growing to do list. Working for yourself and from home is hard work. With a  tendency to grab odd moments for quick jobs you can constantly feel like you are stealing family time from work or work time from the family. I'm still working on allocating separate quality time! I did teach a  bespoke workshop and run a few work related errands but in the main the most that I did last week was keep an eye on the email. Time for some fun then!

With the weather still so cold it felt more like a February half term than an Easter break but we did get some outside time and our little Maebh has now broken through her fear of the outside and happily goes into the garden, even left unattended! For the past few weeks she would only go outside if we left the door open.. far too chilly for that most of the time. Break through number 1. 

Tuesday Niamh and I spent some time reacquainting ourselves with her bike and we're now riding confidently without stabilisers! Initially achieved last summer there had been little chance to practice and she had lost her nerve. Thanks to the lovely quiet roads around where we live she is now confidently riding on the the roads, actually preferring them to the pavement. Break through number 2.

All things come in threes as we know and break through number 3 was Cait's realisation that she could read crochet patterns after all. I think it just finally clicked. With that she was off. I had a wonderful crochet partner and she has been producing little amigurumi animals from this book by the lovely Nicki Trench. 

Nicki was the lady that taught me to crochet many moons ago and she always chooses a lovely palette of colours for her work. This is another great book of hers that I enjoy working with.

So what I have I been crocheting? Well I made this rather snazzy tin can cover and little flower. It is now residing very happily on our teeny tiny mantle to make me smile in the evenings

I have also been working my way through a number of these. I have made about ten now, stealing moments in the evening before watching may favourite box set and during the day over a cuppa or on the train. I would usually crochet watching telly but Mr B and I are watching a fabulous series called Borgen at the moment which is sub titled. It makes the crochet kind of tricky!

Ultimately they are all going to be put together with some chain stitch to create a colourful garland.

So saving the best until last.... the girls and I made a rainbow cake last week! 

I had bought all the food colourings last summer as I had intended to make one for Niamh's brithday but then run out of time. Cait had recently been on a trip to London and seen one at Harrods so we thought should have a go. It made for rather a messy kitchen as we had to split cake mix across seven bowls to get the range of colours that we needed. Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain. The blue, indigo and violet were by far the hardest to get to the right shade but we were hopeful that once cooked the colours would become more vivid.

They looked rather fun as they started coming out of the oven. Thank goodness I had four cake tines in the cupboard that were all the same size. When my dear Nan and Gran both passed away a few years back I asked if I could having baking trays and sewing baskets.... things that I knew I would use in everyday life and that could remind me of them. Thanks Gran for the four tins the same size!

We made some scrummy cream cheese icing, pondering that butter cream may just be a bit too much. Not only do you need to cover the outside......

But in between each of the seven layers too.

Ta da! What do you think?

The blue and green came out similar, as did the indigo and red, but that just means that we need to have another go another time!

If you want to have a go yourself just make your vic sponge recipe and split it to add the colouring. We made a double batch of cake mix and split it across seven using smallish cake tins. Plenty big enough for us but they can look even better on a bigger scale. Here's a pic from the internet. Next time I think we just tip all the food colouring in!

Busy week but packed with lots of fun and quality time with the family. Perfect.


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Top Tips... this time it's all about mending.

In an age when clothes can appear to cheap in the stores a whole generation may forget that it is possible to extend the life of a garment whether it is a favourite or not. Some of us may be a little daunted, with little understanding of the best way to go about some minor repairs. So, to help, here are a few of my top tips.

1.     Seams. Split and unravelled seams can be relatively straightforward to repair. The best thing to do is study the inside of your garment before you start and try to gain an understanding of where the original seam line sat and which other seams it may join with. If you follow the original seam line as best you can you’ll ensure the best fit. Where splits or tears have occurred you may need to deepen the seam allowance. Do this very gradually over a long length of seam to get the best results. If you don’t have access to a machine to complete your repairs hand sewing will work just as well, and can sometimes be easier depending on where the seam is. Just remember to complete the repair with a back stitch rather than a running stitch. It will give a better finish and will be much stronger in the long run.

2.     Holes. Address them, early. Small holes are like small children. They grow and get messy! Take charge. Small holes may be able to be ‘caught’ and sewn closed (darning). Larger holes may need a little disguising with perhaps a patch. It may be possible to match patch from the rear/inside and sew the frayed edges to secure. Or, you may need to patch from the front, this can be made into a feature – very easy to do on children’s clothes. Just don’t forget to patch the back as well to prevent it from worsening due to further friction.

3.     Woolens. Getting a hole in anything woollen can be soul destroying as you witness it unravelling in front of you. I have this issue currently with a favourite scarf and a playful kitten. As soon as any yarn appears to be ‘pulled’ do your very best to push the ‘pull’ through to the inside of the garment. A crochet hook can come in handy here. Never, ever, cut the pull to get rid of the excess. The moment you do this it is free to unravel. If the pull has created a snag across your garment you can also use your fingers and fingernails to ease the snagging and thus reduce the size of the ‘pull’. Sometimes the pull can disappear completely. When you have the loose ‘pull’ on the inside of the garment you can then see if it is possible to knot this to secure it or weave it in to another place on the inside hereby tucking it out of the way. It is also sometimes possible to use clear nail varnish or fray stop glue to prevent any further deterioration to any holes left.

4.     Zips. Zips in garments can be very tricky things and some repairs are not worth attempting unless you are quite confident in your abilities. That’s what tailors are for. However there are a few tips to know. If your zipper seems to get stuck as it slides up and down try rubbing a graphite pencil along the zips teeth. It’s sounds too simple to be true but I have done it and it works! If the zipper sticks because fabric or thread is caught in the zip pull stop pulling straight away. Take a look to see what is getting caught and see if it is possible to release it. If you need to move the zipper, it is generally best to pull the zip pull back in the direction it came. This will normally release any fabric and threads, though you may need to ease them down with your finger nail as you pull to help release them. Any individual thread can always be cut loose and then gently pulled through the zip.

As always the internet can be a useful source of advice on any mending matter and for the most simple of problems there will always be a choice of solution. So remember, when it comes to mending you are not alone and there are lots of us doing it.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Mother & Daughter Craft Along

One of the best bits about my venture into Made and Making is helping others. Whether it is making curtains to help someone finish a room or teaching someone a new skill that they take away and develop it has to be one of the best bits. And certainly makes up for all the hard work and late nights.

Saturday saw Elaine and I host our first Mother and Daughter day and it was a real pleasure. 

A long day with set up starting at 9am we were having a sneaky cuppa when the first mothers and daughters started arriving at 10:30.

There was a whole table of fabrics to choose from for the bunting plus my big scrap baskets to find other little treasures too. I had decided to stick with a key theme of the red, green and blue. A true Made and Making pallette and perfect for boys and girls alike. After all, you never know who the bunting will be for!

Elaine had some lovely pieces on the china decoration table to inspire. During the day they would be making their own washing line tea plate but how charming if you could do the cup and saucer too.

So 10:30 and the doors opened and we were off! Lots of activity with a variety of generations. Some were making their own strings of bunting and some were making big ones together.

For a while the hall went quite quiet, well apart from the music, as choices had to be made and triangles cut.

And then the bunting began to appear as if by magic.....

.......and it grew and grew!

With Elaine there was much fun as washing lines were designed.

Then it was all change as the tables swapped.

After a lovely lunch of bread and soup (the simple things really are the best) it was time to bring everyone together around a rather large and odd shaped table for the final project... some corsages. A new craft for everyone there was plenty of time to play and experiment.

It was great seeing how different they all looked despite everyone starting off with the same materials. That's one of the other great bits about what I do. Seeing other people create.

And by 3:30 there were lots of smiley relaxed faces.

As we allowed ourselves a well earned cuppa before the big clear up and pack away at the end there was a chance to reflect on the day and those that we had met. It was a lovely group of people that came. Three generations in one room and some very very well behaved children that created some fabulous work. Thank you everyone.


Monday, 18 February 2013

Proud moments

My Mr B has been at it again!

After last years little challenge of cycling Lands End to John O'Groats he set himself a mild challenge of completing the Brighton Half Marathon. 

So yesterday morning we were all up a rather unusual hour for a Sunday, 7am! Our house normally rises a little closer to about 8:30am so it was a shock to the system, especially as it was the start of half term. No complaining though, there was cheering to to be done.

Mr B set off on the train at 8am to join all the other runners for the 9am start. Niamhy and I drove in to Hove to find the best views and a nice breakfast whilst we waited. It was a glorious morning, sunny with a slight chill in the air and as Niamh and I strode along and chatted it didn't feel that there was a better place to be. I did suggest that perhaps we should do it again without the prompt of a half marathon but it appears that I was alone in this thought.

We headed down to the cafe on Hove Lawns arriving just as they were setting up but soon found ourselves settled at a table with a cuppa and a hearty breakfast. It was amazing just how quickly the cafe filled up and breakfast calls kept coming. Time then for a second cuppa and a little bit of hooky before were heard the sirens announcing that the lead man was approaching and off we dashed.

It really was quite inspiring and humbling to see so many people completing this challenge. All ages were out and some were clearly finding it tougher than others. When I found my arms and wrists aching from all the clapping as they went by it felt foolish to take a break when all these men and women were facing their challenge.

Our eyes were peeled for Mr B and we look we did. We had our chant all ready and Niamhy was ready to run along the road. Very proud of her dad she was.

Only, here's the bit that we're not so proud of..... we managed to miss him! And not once, but twice! You see they ran one way along the seafront and then turned around and headed back the other way. How foolish I felt! We know from his timings that we were in the right spot at the right time so I'm blaming that fact that after saying goodbye to us in 'head to toe' black Mr B took it upon himself to add a red jersey to his outfit. And anyway, he managed to miss spotting us when we had hardly anyone in front of us blocking his view!!!!!

Maybe you need practice at these things?
Maybe next year.