Sunday, 10 March 2013

Happy day

A picture of my smiling friend ...


and a long walk in the sleet with her and my big boy from afar.

A basket of flowers from my littlest princess ...


and a card enclosed in a card, which made me look back with a wry smile, and remember, and think, yes, it has all turned out all right (apart from the split infinitive).


(And the end of a big undertaking, all done and dusted for now.)

I hope that you had a happy day too, and can start the week with a feasibly small tick list.


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Nearly wordless Wednesday: keeping watch

Intruders beware

Why do Scottie dogs always have a scarlet collar and an air of importance quite out of proportion to their size?

Who is really doing the taking?

(It was just too much being completely wordless for the second Wednesday running, she said, her head over-running with words all spilling out on to the desk. Three books on the go and an index to fit into under three pages were having an interesting effect on her brain. Did somebody mention barking?)


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The waiting is over

Today has been a very special day.


Two little balls of fluff

We have been brooding and waiting for three long weeks ...

Brooding

I was on tenterhooks yesterday, constantly nipping out to check on the mother-to be.

And this morning I knew when I heard the squeals of joy from Princess Bunchy that the waiting was over.

Hatching

Our small miracle had happened - those little blue eggs had cracked open, out had come two tiny balls of fluff, and a third was just emerging. (If you look very carefully at the picture you can see it happening.)

Indignant

And someone else's beak is completely out of joint - she has been turned out of her home lock, stock and barrel until the little ones are big enough to be introduced to her.

Spring has sprung indeed.

Look at the pretty baa lamb

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Technical information: the fluffy white hen is a Silkie, a breed reputed to be the very best mothers. The indignant looking one is a Brown Speckled Sussex. They and the fertilized blue eggs came from Blue Egg Hens.

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Technical development: Pomona is now on Instagram - if you would like a picture postcard from me more often than I get round to blogging then you can find me @pomonaspics.

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Monday, 25 February 2013

More scrapping; or, using up those teeny-tiny bits of fabric you have been hanging on to just in case

I'd like to tell you that I have made a huge hole in my scrap basket with my next project for using up scraps ...


but actually it's more like a small dent.


Still, it was a very satisfying little make, with handy little pockets just the right size for cards and lip balm. I used Ayumi's Pink Penguin Patchwork Wristlet pattern which is exceedingly easy to follow (and also exceedingly alliterative).




Although I suppose it doesn't really count as a wristlet this time, as it just has tabs, which are definitely too small for wrists, but somehow have an air of usefulness even so.

I think the secret to its air of jollity is using scraps from a wide range of fabrics and colours and not being too cautious about what colours you put together (you will find my first version here).




And you can make these zippy bags even more thrifty by making the tabs out of the tiny scraps of ribbon from clothing swing tags (you may recognize a certain brand here [not one I wear myself, but I am a great scavenger of bins ... ]). (I also cut out the narrow pieces of ribbon you find inside dresses and tops as extra shoulder hangers - they are very handy for embellishing zipper pulls.)

Zips can also be saved from old make-up bags, skirts and dresses - you can always cut them down to size if necessary, or if you need to buy them, Zipit on Etsy is one of the best value suppliers I know.

So there's no excuse for you now - get scrapping!



Friday, 22 February 2013

Scrap happy; or, what to do with all those leftovers

It is a truth universally acknowledge that the more sewing one does, the more the scrap pile grows, and so does the need for ever-increasingly large scrap baskets.

Scrapping

Personally, I view scraps as a higher form of stash - a very virtuous form of stash, because they do not speak of grand schemes left undone or projects never got round to - they are evidence of industrious activity, of stash cut into, of potential realised, and thus don't engender that guilt by association which can assail the heartiest souls when gazing into the abyss of stash beyond any human need, stash enough to take the keenest needlewoman into old age and beyond.

A modest proposal
My smallest scraps are rapidly outgrowing the modest basket on the window sill, and those of more robust dimensions jump off the shelf whenever I open the stash cupboard to indulge in a little therapeutic folding (usually when I have some sort of imminent work or study deadline which calls forth the most ingenious forms of displacement activity).

Scrap happy
So I was most enchanted to find a book for the scrap happy when I was spending my Christmas book token.


The title is Sunday Morning Quilts which is evocative enough, but the sub title is Sort, Store, and Use Every Last Bit of Your Treasured Fabrics (note the Oxford comma, for which I have a soft spot). It is by two very talented quilters and bloggers, Amanda Jean Nyberg (Crazy Mom Quilts) and Cheryl Arkison.

Not only does it have the most enticing patterns for quilts made from scraps ...

... almost as good as a slab of cake
... there are sections on how to manage your scraps and even how to increase your stock (just hack into all those hopeful fat quarters, perhaps?) ...

... and more fun than filing paperwork

... not to mention a pattern for colour coded patchwork scrap baskets. I want shelves just like that (well, maybe not the orange, but definitely the red and the blues).


The slab method of making scrap blocks inspired me to make this scrappy potholder - I decided that I wouldn't mind if the Head Chef made it greasy and scorched, because it was so quick to make, and just used up tiny leftovers (and more quilt batting leftovers too, yippee!).

Scrappy or what?

I just made an 8.5in square slab and layered it with similar size squares of quilt wadding, Insul Bright (for reasons of Elfin Safety), and plain backing - although you could make that scrappy, too. I used some leftover premade wide bias binding - and for speed and utility's sake I just zigzagged round the edge to fix the front rather than hand stitch it. Too much of that sort of effort and I would have to forbid the Head Chef from using it, and this is not for display, just for everyday.

So Cheryl and Amanda Jean have quite opened my mind to the whole scrap universe, and made me realize that as long as one dimension is more than 2 x 1/4in for seam allowances, then really very few scraps are too small to keep. This concept has also freed me to throw away the really tinies, which can then be composted and thus recycled another way.

Oh what a good girl am I - recycling, reusing, ever the thrifty housewife. Forgive me if I go away and polish my halo.

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And if such virtue is, quite understandably, just all too much for you then do go and visit Susan and indulge yourself with her wonderful, decidedly unLenten, recipe. Then after that drop by and say congratulations to Annie, who is handing out blogoversary presents and cups of tea, and if you are feeling lucky then lickety-split your way over here to join in with the biggest and best raffle that Blogland has ever known with lots of the most covetable prizes.

Phew! The weekend starts here, I think ...







Monday, 18 February 2013

A helping hand

There has been much talk of random acts of kindness recently - what would have been called a good deed for the day when I was a mere scrap.

Nature of the spring will dream ...

On Saturday I heard a kind soul (her name was Bernadette, that is all I remember) discussing on Radio 4 Saturday Live how she had resolved to do a random act of kindness every day for a year, and had found it so rewarding that she was continuing her project even after the year of good deeds had ended.

Alone

And then yesterday I read about a fellow blogger and crafter, Gretel Parker, and how her life has taken a most tragic turn recently.

Helping

And I have also read about the way in which the good fairies of Blogland have rallied round and are trying to help Gretel.

Companionship

If you too would like to commit a random act of kindness today and help Gretel, then you can do so here.


... the stillness where our spirits walk

Or if you would like to buy a ticket in a raffle with the most amazing array of prizes donated by bloggers, then you can find out more here.

Two roads diverged

And whatever the nature of the blessings you are able to give out today, I hope that you receive them back a hundredfold.







Friday, 15 February 2013

Accessories after the fact

The good thing about working for yourself is that not only do you get to set the agenda (well, most of the time), but that also you can choose your own footwear and wear a voluminous cardi to work (several cardis in my case, and when I am working at home probably a coat, scarf and mittens).

Accountancy was always out for me because of the whole suit thing (although I do rather like dealing with figures) and anything so executive that it involves power heels, painted nails and well-groomed hair. (I would fall off the heels, and am sadly slack on the whole grooming front [dogs and all are rather unkempt round here].)

And I do remember commuting to London for a week and being totally depressed by the ocean wave of black coats, black bags and black briefcases spilling off the train and into the Big Smoke.

Very businesslike
 So when it comes to executive accessories I am afraid that I sadly undermine my executive credibility by carting them around all wrapped safely in flowery cosies - the padding is essential for the inevitable outbreaks of butter fingers and associated muscle spasms which see me dropping breakables on the floor at regular intervals, or even just missing the table when I put things down, the cause of many a mug fatality in our house. (Not to mention my endearing habit of missing my mouth with the glass of water, the source of much amusement to the Head Chef [which is why it is good to wear more than one cardi at a time as you can just remove the damp one without further ado or kerfuffle].)

Cosy cover

So I have had a bit of fun this week making a very comfy cosy cover for an iPad, using the Tablet Sleeve pattern from Michelle Patterns. This also provided the opportunity to use up some of the leftover quilt wadding mountain which is building up at one end of my office - it is growing apace, but the problem is that the leftover pieces are never big enough to use for another quilt, not even a baby one. The answer is definitely to step up production of comfy cosy covers for iPads, iPhones and assorted executive accessories.

Executive

The pattern comes in two sizes, so you can make your iPad case big enough to accommodate those lids and covers with the little triangular prop-up bit if you want (I rather like these ones from Lente Designs, particularly as they come in all sorts of colours other than black, and are less than half the price of the very smart covers that come from a certain fruity store). So it is quite safe to make pretty cases for friends with boring black Smart Covers - they will not have to eschew their Smart Cover in order to make their Tablets cosy (I am afraid that the word 'Tablet' still evokes a vision of large white elephant pills in my mind, and is not one which is at the tip of my tongue when discussing technology. Alas, I am surely A Digital Immigrant, as I hear so often on the wireless ...)

Tabby

You might notice that I have a bit of a ribbon tab fetish at the moment - I seem to be putting them on everything I make. Why on earth would you want to attach anything to a phone case? (I am pondering on the significance of these tabs, and seem to be returning to Baudrillard and redundancy.)


An Apple pincushion from Amy

The phone case was a pattern of my own making - it took me three goes to get it to fit the phone in question, in the course of which I found that I had made Princess Bunchy an iPod cover and a Blackberry-a-like case, neither of which she uses, because gadgets belonging to teenagers don't stay out of their hands long enough to be put in a comfy cosy case. Next time I will use Michelle's phone case pattern - I think it is worth paying $2 to save the useless prototypes and cursing and swearing as I try to wedge a phone into a case a millimetre too small all the way round.

Thrifty
And to impress you with my domestic economy, all my very executive accessories were made with leftovers - the iPad case is leftover quilt backing (an American Jane fabric, I think), and the notebooks and phone cover were various orts and scraps - oh, so very thrifty indeed.

I am now thinking of making my own comfy cosy case to snuggle in when I sit at my computer in my office - the question is, where should I put the velcro?







Sunday, 10 February 2013

Sunday musings

It has been a quiet week in Lake Woebegon, Garrison Keillor used to say, in a rather comforting way, at the beginning of each tale about the eccentricities of life in a small town far, far away.

I wish that I could say the same for my little corner of the universe. I seem to be becoming far too well acquainted with the Minor Injuries Clinic, not to mention Major Injuries affecting printers. And spending too much time failing to nurse said printer back to life.

... from me to you

We are now possessed of inky hands, a Head Injury leaflet and a Chest Injury leaflet, both of which latter have a rather disturbing advertisement for what are commonly known as ambulance-chasing lawyers on the back page.

Sadly, our injuries were self-inflicted so I can only laugh bitterly (and then grimace with pain) at the thought of profiting from our jolly japes.

But perhaps you can profit from the warning to beware of garden tools, in fact, please don't venture outside at all, for the outdoors is a dangerous place.

Trim

And if your printer is out of its guarantee, then don't waste a morning haunting the forums of the tech-savvy - don't mess about, just kick the printer hard (or perhaps not, you may find yourself the grimacing possessor of a Leg Injury leaflet) and spend an hour or two locating a new printer which uses the same ink cartridges that you have just spent £50 on in a vain effort to heal the old one.

Fold

However, I digress. Having shown you some photos of a storm-thrashed quilt I now present the interior shots to comfort myself with the fact that some weeks are better than others.

Pieced

In answer to some of your questions, the front was pieced from a Cabbages and Roses Athill range jelly roll and charm pack using a downloadable pattern from Sweet Jane called Market Square - a great pattern, easy to follow. The fabric has a wonderful, soft, antique air, and produced a vintage-effect quilt. The backing was also from the Athill range, with a pieced strip using the leftover charm squares, all bought from JB Quilting (I can highly recommend them - their service is so efficient, with next-day delivery if you order before lunchtime, and a huge range of fabrics). I hand quilted around the small centre squares and the pieced squares in a light greyish-blue. I don't think I have ever finished a quilt so quickly - I am quite astonished, but a looming deadline is obviously what I need to improve my work rate.

Dappled

And thank you for all of your lovely comments - I know that I have been dreadfully remiss about responding, but I am breathing very deeply to avoid pneumonia, the Head Chef has a rearranged hairline, and I have a century-full of Admirals and a battleship steaming up behind me, so please do forgive me for my silence.

And I very much hope that you have a quiet week in your neck of the woods ...

Thursday, 31 January 2013

How to photograph a quilt and make it look pretty

Or not, as the case may be. I know that I will never be more than an amateur at this game.

Up against the wire, a quilt for a very special person is finished just in time. It sits squashed in a bag in rather rumpled folds for a day or so. I roll it up and tie on a bow.

Pretty picture

Oops - I remember just in time that I must take a photo. The camera batteries are flat, clouds are threatening, gales blowing (why does the wind always get up when I go outside to take a photo?).

The Head Chef is also an amateur at this game.

Beware of the quilt monster

Try and hold it straight, I say, as he steps back into the flowerbed.

Your slippers are going to get muddy, he said. And worse, I think, as I realize that I am standing just where the henhouse was until a couple of days ago. I don't have a coat on, and my hands are cold.

I promise you that it is a very pretty quilt. It has a quaintly antique air, and is not really as crinkled as it looks. And I will come back after the official presentation with some better pictures and some profound musings, or not, as the case may be.




Sunday, 20 January 2013

Sunday afternoon

The Ploughboy has driven off into the snow with his car packed with possessions, a removal in the offing.





I distract myself with orts and scraps of fabric to the haunting tones of Princess Bunchy's flute.




And for my special friend in the north who complains about my lack of posts, here are some pretty pictures especially for you, my dear.














Well, as pretty as I can make them in this grey-white light ...



And there's another quilt to bind,



a sock to knit,



and a rather nifty pattern for an Idea Pouch to play with. Ideas always come in useful, especially when one is feeling rather Sunday afternoonish.

In such a time of change, I am glad that I have so many things to stitch, and boats bobbing alongside, and books about soil to study, and deadlines to meet.

Hoping that your Sunday is full of Ideas, too.






Monday, 15 October 2012

Living on the edge - a thrifty hint

Warning: the following post contains items of extreme thrift which delicate souls might find disturbing.

I felt that I should preface this post with a public health notice because I know that there are different types of frugal mindset, and while some go for the buy one, get one free, others are quite willing to explore the farthest reaches of soap recycling.

Which is where we are going today, so if a shiver of horror went down your spine at the words 'soap recycling', then please look away now. If, on the other hand, it was a shiver of excitement at the thought of a bit of cheeseparing (or, rather, soap paring, as you will see), then do stay with me.

These cakes are not for eating

How much you will save by recycling your soap depends, as with most thrifty hints, on how extravagant you have been in the first place. It is one of life's little ironies that the super-frugal have to be satisfied with saving pennies as their tight budget has already been slimmed down to the minimum, but the lucky old spendthrift can save lots more with much less effort.

My own first forays into soap recycling saved me lots of money - it started when I was given a set of Penhaligon's violet soap for Christmas many years ago. The bars came in a little set of drawers, and were really almost too nice to use, but I decided to prolong the experience of violet-scented soap by saving the soap ends and stretching them a little further. (The idea first came from reading The Penny Pincher's Book by John and Irma Mustoe, I think.)

Grate

So first catch your soap - every time a bar of soap gets down to the teeny-tiny bit which is too small to use, I let that little piece dry and pop it into a small jam jar. When the jar is full, I know it is time to get grating. Grate all those little pieces - thick or thin doesn't really matter.

Line

Line a couple of ramekins (or any small container which you have to hand) with clingfilm (reused, of course).

Fill
Then fill the ramekins with the grated soap.

Press down and smooth
Add a few drops of warm water and pack down - this is where you need to go gently. You don't want a ramekin of water with soap gratings floating in it - aim for a ramekin of grated soap moistened enough to stick together. I do it gradually - add a few drops of water, press the soap down, add a little more grated soap, press down and smooth with the teaspoon. It needs to feel reasonably firm and not at all sloppy - just moist enough for it all to stick together and not crumble.


Aim for about an inch, or a couple of centimetres, deep of dampened and packed down grated soap (these are quite shallow ramekins so I fill them half full). Finish off by pressing down firmly and smoothing the top and then put the containers in a warm place - I keep mine on the shelf above the Aga, but an airing cupboard would do.

Check after a day that it is all sticking together - you can add more soap if it is too wet, or a drop or two of water if it is too dry, but when you have made it once you will get a feel for the consistency.

After a couple of days you can peel off the clingfilm, and turn the bars up the other way to dry further. I leave it for a couple of weeks at least before using, checking and turning occasionally so that the soap completely dries out.

Rustic

And hey presto! you have made two new bars of soap out of little pieces that would otherwise have been thrown away. Perhaps not quite up to the standard of Penhaligon's triple-milled, but that warm glow of frugality makes all the difference. And the more you spend on soap to start with, the more you will save - isn't that a fun thought?

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This post is dedicated to those two Queens of Thrift, before whom I feel quite humble: Angela at Tracing Rainbows and Mrs Thrifty Household. Do visit them for a continuous stream of Thrifty Hints and Tips and ways to elasticize your budget.


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And tell me, which are your favourite thrifty books?  I am always on the lookout for books that will save you the cover price - I find it an infallible justification for the purchase.





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