Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Making winter gifts: things to do with a fat quarter part 3

January is on its last legs, thank goodness, and although the thought of February does not exactly fill me with untrammelled glee, I am beginning to be of the opinion that Emma and Mrs Thrifty are right, and Making Winter is the way to go.

What with the teeth falling out and the dodgy hand, not to mention the brown paper bag over my head to cover the only part of me visible above the endless layers of knitwear encompassing my rapidly inflating muffin top (or perhaps that should be muffin middle and bottom as well), I had begun to feel that the only Making that I was fit for this Winter was Making a Break for the Fireside.

A robin isn't just for Christmas (from Sew Sweet Violet)

However, I have been to see the nice lady with the computer program for retraining recalcitrant hands, and she encouraged me to try a little light needlework or knitting before I return to her cosy office and warm congratulations and patting on the back at my skill in playing computer games (sorry, Activities) that my children could have mastered before they were out of the cradle. (My left hand pinch grip might be pathetically weak, but oh I have such control of the movement - see, all that sitting by the fire and knitting and sewing might have overstrained things, but it has helped me to top marks in Control and a big happy gold star [I have always had Control Freak tendencies, so make that two stars].)

A winter gift

Having had severe needle withdrawal symptoms since overdosing on housework with consequent collateral damage to my pinch grip, I almost managed to skip back to the car (except that the hamster cheek kept bobbing up and down (mainly down) inside the large scarf and impeding my progress).

And so here is one I made earlier - a dinky, zippy bag known as a Ditty Bag (pattern from Keyka Lou), which I stitched up as a present for a very special person - and just the thing to make a small inroad into my embarrassingly large collection of fat quarters (which have been becoming even more embarrassingly guilt-inducing over the last few weeks as I pondered why I had a collection of fat quarters compendious enough to keep my family and friends in winter gifts for the next century when I couldn't sew a thing what with my dodgy hands and dodgy teeth to boot).

As ever, the lovely Keyka Lou pattern was easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy (very important when you are feeling small), and easily completed over the course of a quiet Sunday afternoon, listening to the radio, and getting distracted along the way. It comes in three sizes - I chose the large one as consuming the largest amount of fat quarter, but even so had enough left out of two fat quarters for little purses or wallets like the ones I made here and here.

The fabric was from the Annie's Farm Stand range (available from the Fat Quarter Shop), and I have a some handy little hints for you (as you know, I have a penchant for handy hints).

To speed up cutting-out time, if I have to cut multiples of a particular pattern piece I do a bit of folding and stacking - layer the two fat quarters together, and fold them over or concertina them if more than one piece of each colourway, and you can cut out all the pieces at once. (For these little bag and purse projects super-accuracy is not needed.) This also works well with interfacing.

It is well worth buying a teflon pressing sheet for interfacing - it saves glue on the iron and the ironing board, and tears at bedtime, and in my mind does justify the outlay.

And if you have so many fat quarters that you don't know what to do, weep not - you could make some pretty baskets like this (instructions here and no pattern required), or go into mass present production as I did here (and they were all a great success at Christmas time, I am pleased to tell you), or even another thrifty little present (those fat quarters are a historic cost, so you can feel very thrifty about using them up).

As to my hand, it is so cold here today that I am losing touch with my extremities - all is quite numb. I wonder if I could squeeze on another pair of gloves and some more socks. I have taken the paper bag off though, and am wearing just the one scarf . . .

PS My January has been singularly unproductive, but if you head over to Lily's Quilts, you can see what lovely things the busy bees over there have been making, as it is Fresh Sewing Day when everyone has to stand up and be counted. (She shifts uneasily on her seat and points to one solitary Ditty Bag).

Sunday, 29 January 2012

An unfortunate encounter

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the first time that she has seen the cold light of dawn from an upstairs window for many weeks, and the cold light of dawn is one of her favourite phrases, betokening as it does all sorts of elopements, escapes and adventures.

She has had an adventure herself this week, having been marauded by a cheery dentist, who smiled and smiled but was yet a villain.

His gleaming white teeth were mouthing platitudes as he bent over the chair and as she opened her mouth to reply politely, wham! there was a needle embedded in her jaw, just a little scratch as it scraped the bone and made her teeth creak (he was actually holding it behind his back, would you believe, do they practise this on dental training programmes, the big smile, the pleasant conversation and the quick draw?).

And then what a sight she was (were people laughing and pointing in the street, she didn't dare look).

Would foundation be able to cover that big purple bruise? said Princess Bunchy. (Certainly, it would need stage make-up of a heavy duty sort.)

Your face has sort of dropped down on one side, said her dear sister, helpfully. You look like you have Bell's Palsy. (She tested her facial muscles by raising her eyebrow and essaying a tentative grimace. No, not a palsy or a stroke, one must be thankful for small mercies.)

It's all right, it's not a haematoma, said the dentist when she showed him that she really had turned into a hamster, in spite of what the receptionist had said on the phone. He smiled gleefully and said that perhaps she could wear a large scarf if she needed to go out.

A brown paper bag, more like, she muttered bitterly to herself, except then she would no doubt fall over and add to the effect so ably produced by the man with the sparkly teeth.

There was nothing for it but for her to retire to an armchair by the fire, eat copious quantities of very soft chocolate muffins broken up exceedingly small, and sulk (I think she will thus have a rotund midriff to match the hamster visage, and thus feel even more unable to meet her public face to face).

She would also like to thank all the lovely people who have sent kind emails and enquiries as to her wellbeing, and apologize profusely for her tardiness in replying, her only excuse being that January is the cruellest month and a period of hibernation proved to be the only solution.

February is almost as bad, but at least you don't have to get up in the dark quite so much.


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