Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Way to Bake (A Delicious Cake)

This is just a post to share a couple of unrelated photos - seemingly unconnected apart from the song title -
Starting with one of this cake ....
made by my friend Gina - one time machine embroiderer, and textile artist and tutor, NOW magnificent professional baker, under the name 'Apricot and Fig'. 
I'm slightly disappointed that she dismissed my suggestion for her business name - "Bake Well Tart" on the basis that it may attract the wrong kind of customer. (I just know that if I was cooking, I'd have to try anything to get people to buy MY cakes.)
Anyway, we had two cakes, one with icing, and one with just fruit and nuts, which we've just tried.
Firstly, can I say that she hasn't paid me to endorse her products, or given it to me as a bribe, or even said that she won't be my friend if I'm not nice about it, so this is my unbiased opinion - it was the loveliest fruit cake I've ever had, very moist and even the fruit had fruit, if you know what I mean.  My Dad - who is a fruit cake connoisseur - said he has never tasted better.  You can't say fairer than that, so thanks Gina.
And how could I NOT share these next photos .. 

Our very own Snow White.  
She's SO going to hate these pictures when she sixteen.

Happy Christmas everyone xx

The Way To Bake (a Delicious Cake) - by Snow White

Friday, 18 December 2015

China in Your Hand

Last week we had our Creative Sanctuary 'works Christmas outing'!
Angela kept it a secret about where we were going, and all we knew was that it was going to be a creative evening.  Anyway, it turned out that she had arranged for us to go to Elly Wall, a local potter with a studio in her garden,  to make Christmas decorations.  It was a great evening - first of all Elly explained that we needed to roll out the clay as if it was pastry (like I've ever made pastry - but I think I must have seen it done sometime, because I soon got the idea), and then we pressed different textures into the clay, and used cutters and letter blocks, before glazing the final pieces.  We all agreed that it had been a fun thing to do and we'd really enjoyed ourselves.
I'm afraid there are no photographs of the event as my hands were too mucky, but I got a text today to say that the pieces had been fired and were ready to collect from the shop - so here's mine
I'm really pleased with them, and I plan to book some classes next year, to see if I can manage to make a pot or a mug.  Maybe I'll apply to the Great British Throw Down - although I'd get fed with with that bloke bursting into tears all the time.

China in Your Hand - T'Pau

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Hostess with the Mostest

Wow - missed November altogether in a frenzy of stitching and knitting - and lolling about, if I'm honest.
Anyway, I'm here now to show you my Holiday Hostess frock - fab Michael Miller fabric with Doris Day lookalikes in festive poses.
I used my tried an tested Emery dress pattern

I don't have much of a waist (obviously, I don't mean it's tiny, I mean it doesn't seem to go in much) so I made the front waist darts a bit smaller, and did away with the back waist darts altogether.  I also wanted the skirt as 'puffy' as possible so I didn't bother with the skirt pattern pieces and used the whole width of the fabric - just in case it didn't look quite ridiculous enough as it is.
I'm not sure how much wear I'll get from such a season-specific frock, but so far I have got four occasions this year when I intend to wear it - fortunately with a different 'audience' each time, so that'll do me.
Anyway, it had it's first outing yesterday when I wore it to the Christmas lunch of the North Herts and Beds branch of the Embroiderers Guild.  Sounds very grand and boring, but actually its a bunch of about 70 women who like to paint/dye/bead/burn/stick/print/stencil/hand and machine stitch - in fact all things textile-y.  Some people even embroider! If you're reading this and fancy finding out more about the Guild, email me - we are always looking to attract new members, and, if you are not local,  there are branches all over the country.
Our speaker at yesterday's lunch was the most famous male cross-stitcher in the UK today - Jamie Chalmers aka Mr X Stitch - a really entertaining speaker who talked us through some incredibly inspirational works by textile artists.  
Anyway, that's me and my totally age-inappropriate frock.
Better 'mutton dressed as lamb', than 'mutton dressed as mutton' I say.

The Hostess With The Mostest - Frank Black

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Blue and Green

Gorgeous Gracie ....
will be spending her first Christmas in Ireland with her Daddy's family, so I thought I would make her something appropriate to wear - and what better than an emerald green Christmas frock.

I used the Spencer dress pattern from Minikrea which I got on a recent visit to Raystitch.  The link is for the older girls' pattern, but mine is for 6months to three years.
Sometimes I cut patterns and sometimes I trace, and as I thought I might make more of these as she gets older, I traced the smallest size.  I managed to squeeze it out of half of metre of a cotton linen mix and some 'Owl'  christmas fabric for the lining.

Sorry about the creasing and the tacking - I wanted to get it photographed before the light went, but I have hemmed it now.  
I wanted it to be reversible, so instead of buttonholes on the shoulders, I used a press stud, and then sewed on buttons 'for decoration only' - red shiny hearts on the blue owl fabric, and self-covered buttons in the owl fabric on the green.

Being two layers, it should be fairly warm, and I'm going to get her a T shirt to wear underneath - maybe blue and white stripes?
Anyway, hopefully she'll like it, she's a very happy girl
Well, all except when she's forced to watch football with Uncle Rob!
Look at that grumpy face!  I don't think she likes football.  

Blue and Green - Van Morrison (talking of grumpy faces!)

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

It's Been Awhile

Blimey - over a month - no excuses, I just didn't get around to it.  I have a little bit of sewing though.  I made this dress ...
My second Merchant and Mills Factory dress.  As my last one was very much on the loose side, I decided to cut a size smaller.  It's still very loose, but that's the style and I don't think I'd be tempted to go any smaller - I just checked the pattern, and this is a size 12 - and to be honest, its a number of years, and even more pieces of Millionaire's Shortbread (other calorific cakes are available), since I would consider myself a size 12.

I made this version in a dark blue lightweight denim - not so light as to be a chambray, but lightish, and soft.  Its very comfy and easy to wear and will work in all seasons - cool in summer, and in the autumn and winter I'll still wear it but with long sleeve Tshirts underneath.
Anyway, I love it, and its probably my favourite 'what shall I wear today' dress.  I was therefore a bit miffed the other day when I caught the pocket on a door fitting and ripped it - not just the seam but the fabric itself.  Horror!  Fortunately, however,  as it was near the pocket, and due to the voluminous shape, I was able to take it in a smidge and the rip has disappeared inside.

I'm trying to think what else I've done - I've had my sofas recovered and while they were away I had the lounge decorated and the carpet cleaned.  Given the size of my flat, it meant that for ten days I was either busy in the garden during the day, or holed up in my bedroom in the evenings.  No tele - but I did watch DVDs and so I spent the week eating dinner whilst lying on my bed and catching up with Season 2 of Ripper Street.  Yes, I know, everyone else has done Season 3.
Mum and Dad have been down for a visit, so we met up with a few family and old friends, and did some more gardening.

Oh, and I've started running again, after many years of abstinence.  I suggested it to my friend Jill who I was sure would talk me out of it, but surprisingly, she was up for it too, so two or three times a week we get out and walk a bit/run a bit until we've had enough. Not sure my knees entirely approve, but we are taking it steady, and so far, both of us have made it back home again.

It's Been Awhile - Staind

Friday, 11 September 2015

Nick of Time

During August, Karen of 'Did You Make That' launched the Made Up Initiative.  You can read all about it HERE, but basically it involved bloggers/stitchers, making a donation to National Literacy Trust, and then pledging to make a particular item, big or small, by Friday 10th September.  My pledge was to make a dress for the Christening of my great niece Grace.  The Christening isn't until October, but  as I am notorious for leaving things to the last minute, I thought that this pledge was ideal for me.
Naturally, I still left it to the last minute, but I got it finished in the nick of time for the deadline, and I have to say that I am absolutely delighted with it.
It's my second Mortmain, made from a stretch cotton, in a kind of vintage-y looking print, which is just the perfect weight for this dress.  The bodice is lined in a beautiful crushed raspberry taffeta, gifted to me by my chiropractor's Mum, believe it or not (thanks Catherine's Mum!)
The only changes to the pattern from last time was a very slight adjustment to the back bodice which was just a tad too long, resulting in a little tuck above the waistband.  Not, I have to say, something that would EVER have bothered me in RTW, if I'd even noticed it.  But, one of the main benefits of making your own, is to get the fit as near to perfect as possible.  So I shaved 1cm off the back bodice, tapering to nothing at the side seams.  

The only other change was that I added in-seam pockets - I always thought the Mortmain called for pockets.  And, just to prove it, here I am looking smug about them.
Thanks for organising this Karen - a great initiative for a good cause - and it made me get myself in gear for once!

Nick Of Time - Bonnie Raitt

Friday, 21 August 2015

Baby Wants a New Dress

My niece telephoned a week or so ago to say that Baby Grace had asked for another dress, suitable for the hot weather (she's very advanced for her age).   I had a quick rummage through my fabric stash and found something suitable.  Well, I say suitable, it was nice and soft, so I was prepared to overlook the fact that it was a little bit on the garish side.  I used the free Made by Rae dress that I used here so it only took about half a metre.  I cut it out that evening, stitched it the following morning, and posted it off that afternoon.  

The very next day I got a text message with a photo, showing Grace wearing it.  That's better than any 'Prime' service!
I did suggest that the fabric would be suitable if she was planning a Carribean cruise, but she seems happy that it's bright and cheerful.  

Baby Wants A New Dress - The Danny Johnson Band

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Pink Shirt

I've been following the 'Refashioners 2015'.  You can read all about it here, but basically the idea is that you take a charity shop/donated/recycled shirt and refashion it into a different garment.  There have been some really innovative designs, so inventive that you'd never recognise them for what they were.  
I quite fancied having a go at this challenge myself, but what actually triggered a burst of activity, was the fact that my boiler had it's annual service yesterday, and I had to clear the entire cupboard, including a suitcase that contains out-of-season clothes.  I had a look to see what was stashed in there, and  came across a pink shirt that originally came from a posh menswear shop, but that I bought (apparently unworn) from a charity shop a couple of years ago, with the vague intention of making it into an upmarket painting apron.  Well, that never happened, so I decided to combine my fancy for a refashion, with my current love for the Sorbetto and here's the result -
Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the original shirt, but I guess we all know what a man's shirt looks like.  

Anyway, I kept the original hems and button stand, but cut the neckline, armholes and side seams from the Sorbetto pattern, ensuring that the top button was going to end up in the right place.  The sleeves were quite full, and there was plenty of fabric for cutting bias binding.  Having done all the cutting, I stitched the front darts, resewed the side seams, and stitched on the binding. 
I'm really pleased with it, and I'll be keeping an eye out for more fancy shirts.

Pink Shirt - American Suitcase

Sunday, 16 August 2015

I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles ...

It's the last day of the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, so if you haven't been - too late, you've missed it.
Anyway, in case you did, here's a little taster -
Oh, you'd better look away now if you are prone to migraines, but I thought the stairs were fab
and I think the walls must have been painted especially for me - I was tempted to paint my lounge in exactly this pink, what do you think?

Obviously, with such a huge amount of diverse art to see,  there was obviously some that I didn't like (maybe because I'm too thick to understand it)
but there were loads of pieces that I loved ...

and some pieces that made me smile ...
But the work that I had read about, and made me determined to see the Summer Exhibition this year, was The Humument by Tom Phillips.  A kind of up-market altered book, this was art created from a book called A Human Document by W.H. Mallock, and purchased by the artist for threepence in 1966.  He has been working on it for nearly 50 years, and continues to revise and develop it.
I could have spent hours looking at, and reading, the separate pages - and the idea was very inspiring. I bet there were a few exhibition visitors who went home with the idea of creating something similar.

Even if, like me, they probably never get around to it.

Oh, and the title for this post is taken from a light installation in the 'pink room'

I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles - by West Ham supporters everywhere.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

1, 2, 3

I've just discovered the Colette Sorbetto pattern - a free download from HERE.  I actually printed the pattern off a while ago, but rediscovered it in one of my 'pattern mountains' so thought I'd give it a go.  I've been really pleased with the Colette Laurels that I've made and this looked to be an easy make - and it was.
The first one was cut from a seersucker gingham in red which was intended just to check the fit, but I've been wearing it lots
As you can see, it's a simple vest shape, with a front pleat and bias trimmed neck and armholes.  I used my bias maker - such a brilliant little gadget. My trusty and much-used overlocker had finally given up the ghost  (it's since been replaced with a shiny new model) so I used french seams to neaten the inside.  A check of other versions on the internet suggested that the darts might be a bit high, and I thought I'd want it a bit longer too, so I slashed across the pattern between the armholes and the darts, and added 5cm there, both front and back.

I was so pleased with it, I had a look to see what other suitable 'Sorbetto' fabric I had, and that resulted in this version
and then on my birthday at the Creative Sanctuary sew-in, I cut out my third version, and finished it when I got home
Look at that terrific pleat placement - deckchairs slap bang in the middle!  Actually, I can't claim any credit for that, if Jane hadn't mentioned it, I'd have just cut it out without thinking about it, so thanks Jane.  I think this is my favourite version - and I'm very tempted to get the same fabric in pink too.

I've also made a 4th version for my friend Jill, in a fresh green and white floral print, but I forgot to take a photo before I gave it to her.

I can thoroughly recommend the pattern as a simple and quick summer top - there will definitely be more.

1, 2, 3 - Len Barry

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Happy Anniversary

Just had a lovely few days in Norfolk.  My reasons for the visit were two fold.  Firstly to see this little sweetie ...
who is, incidentally, wearing her first Me-Made dress.  I'd seen reviews of the Made By Rae Geranium dress and I was all set to buy the pattern for future use, when I discovered that there's a free download version for newborns.  Perfect! - with only four pages to download and super-quick to make, so I just had time before I headed off.
It's a long time since I made something so tiny - it felt like making dolls clothes.  The fabric was a remnant from my stash, which looks and feels like Liberty Lawn - so soft.  The pattern calls for buttons on the back, but I thought they might be a bit uncomfortable, so I used the tiniest little press studs.  I'm definitely going to order the full pattern which has some sleeve and neckline variations.  Poor kid's going to be in ridiculous frocks before she knows it.

The other reason for my visit was to celebrate my parents' 65th Wedding Anniversary.
I love these old photos - check out the one bottom right - Dad is wearing stripey socks to match his tie, and my Mum appears to be wearing black gloves.  How very stylish!
We had a lovely little Anniversary tea party for family and neighbours on the day - I even made a cake.  Coconut, Lime and Cherry cake - and it was edible!  I can't believe I didn't take a picture, it's such a rare event.  Also, for some reason, I didn't get a picture of Mum and Dad together, I think we must all have been too distracted with the newest addition -
She's a very contented baby - doesn't seem to mind who has her as long as she's getting a cuddle.
Oh, and a not-infrequent snack -
You wouldn't think it's the first time Dad's done a feed in getting on for 60 years!

Congratulations Mum and Dad, with love from us all xx

Happy Anniversary - Slim Whitman

Monday, 20 July 2015


My recent shed building has given me a taste for woodworking as a change to dressmaking.  So, when Mum and Dad were here last week, I asked if Dad would give me a hand to make a wooden obelisk for the garden.
I searched the internet for garden obelisk plans and found one that looked reasonably simple - I wasn't about to start trying to cut mitres or anything fancy.
Anyway, we did it - I learnt the proper technique for sawing and drilling and we put it together, using this plan as a basis but adapting it to our own specs (see, I'm getting all the jargon)
And I didn't get my Dad to do it all either - he just advised and assisted - and posed
He did question whether I wanted it quite so tall, but it seemed a pity not to use the full length of the timber
I must admit, it does look a little bit big in the middle of the garden but I think when it's painted and in among the shrubs it'll be fine
Mum believes we must have been influenced by our recent trip to London, and has taken to referring to it as 'The Mini Shard'.
Anyway, it cost about a tenner in materials, and only took two drizzly days to finish - and to be honest, it wouldn't have taken that long if it wasn't such a long-winded process for my Dad and I to get down on our knees and back up again.  
I'd seen similar wooden obelisks on t'interweb for up to £100 quid, so I think it's a bargain.  It just needs to be painted and for Dad to do me a hand-turned finial (knob to you and me) for the top.

By Wednesday the  weather brightened up, so I had lots of outings with Mum and Dad - coffee with Gina for a sneaky non-weekend look at her Open Studios, visits and meals out with relatives, and on on Saturday to Art Van Go for their summer 'gathering'
Mum's not a textile artist but she was fascinated by watching the various artists demonstrating and seeing what a huge range of art materials are available.  
So, a lovely week all round - and this week has started well too - my niece called me this morning to say that they would like me to be godmother to baby Grace.  I can't tell you how proud, honoured and delighted I am to be asked.  Are WE gonna have some great times kiddo!
I'm only really mentioning it here so that I've got an excuse to post another cute baby picture.

Obelisk - The Tank (you wouldn't believe how many songs there are called Obelisk on itunes - this is one of the least worst)

Monday, 13 July 2015


She's arrived!  
My wonderful niece Sarah has just had the most beautiful baby girl.  
3 hours old
Grace Elizabeth Linda was born on 10th July - by coincidence, on Sarah's own birthday - what an amazing present!  Big BIG congratulations to Sarah and her husband Brendan.
I can't wait to go and see her and have a cuddle, especially as her Mum says she is 'adorably cuddleable'   (no, we're not sure if that's a real word either)
So, in addition to my great age, I am now a great aunt - and my parents are very proud Great grandparents for the first time.

I am hoping that I will still be fit enough when I'm about 74 or 75 to take her to her first gig - I took Sarah to see the Darkness at Wembley Arena in 2004 - no Westlife/Sugarbabes nonsense for us.

I just know how very delighted and proud and excited my sister Linda would have been at becoming a Nanny.
So, at risk of being sentimental, and just in case she does have Internet access where she is, this one's for you sis.

Grace - U2