Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Painting apron March 29, 2010

Filed under: Crafts,Gifts,Sewing — lauravw @ 7:46 pm

Another sewing project completed – and I’m amazed how well this has turned out since I made it up as I went along. It’s a smock/apron for my friend’s little girl, Belle, to wear when she’s up to artistic endeavours. Which basically means it will soon be covered in paint and glue and glitter and goodness knows what else – but at least whatever she’s wearing underneath will be relatively unscathed.

The fabric for this one is recycled, in that it used to be a blind in our bathroom (which I also made, but can’t take much credit for that since it was simply a big rectangle with a hem). It was originally sold as a shower curtain, so it’s hopefully going to stand up well to whatever art materials a two year old girl can throw at it. It was an interesting fabric to work with (I’m calling it fabric, but I think it’s essentially plastic), because when you cut it, it doesn’t fray – and of course you can’t iron any of it or you’d end up with some sorted of melted disaster stuck to the bottom of your iron. So I used bias binding to edge much of it – and hemmed the rest.

I made the pattern up and drew it out on newspaper – which was odd in that the finished pattern for some reason contains a rather large photo of Tara Palmer Tompkinson. Some unorthodox materials were employed in the drafting stage too – the curve along the bottom was produced by drawing round a hula hoop, and the shape of the neckline was the result of drawing round the lid of a big tin that sits on my kitchen counter. At the back it’s held together with a bit of velcro, which will hopefully make it easy to get in and out of.

I was a little bit nervous about whether this would fit: I live far away from Belle, and so was working blind, other than a few very basic measurements. But happily it fitted well, with plenty of room to grow into. (Is it just me whose parents/grandparents would always say, whenever they bought me an oversized garment to wear, that I would ‘grow into it’? When I was a child I think it was rare that I wore clothes that actually fitted me right there and then… It’s not done me any harm though!)


Liberty, quilts and the V&A March 26, 2010

Filed under: Places to go — lauravw @ 9:05 pm

Yesterday I took the train to London to visit a friend. We met at Liberty’s, and had a lovely time looking round at the fabrics, homewares and bathroom goodies. My plan for visits to Liberty is to treat it as a museum rather than a shop – it’s hard to go in there and not be envious of the fact that some people can afford all those pretty trinkets… I had actually allowed myself enough of a budget to buy a metre of whatever Liberty print fabric caught my fancy, but on the day nothing was quite perfect enough, and so I’ll save that privilege for another time. (Incidentally, you may have heard about the raised eyebrows caused by the current window display at Liberty: a series of quilts of a fairly adult nature. Scandalous!)

We then went to the V&A in time for lunch – a museum I don’t think I’ve visited before. Their quilting exhibition has just opened and seemed to be drawing a great crowd – there was a gift shop attached that had all sorts of fabric for sale (not cheap!) and it was thronged with people. The V&A is huge, and it’s the sort of place that is not easy to find your way around. At first we tried to find specific exhibits we were interested in, but that was too much like hard work, so we simply took the lift up to a floor that sounded appealing, and then wandered around. Even then we got lost – it seemed for a while as though we were trapped, with every doorway and staircase fenced off. Even doors we had previously walked through were locked, and we thought we’d have to live there. Happily we eventually found the gift shop, and from there you can see daylight and the world outside.

I love the sort of museum where you can see a diverse collection of stuff, from all eras and from all over the planet. We looked at jewellery made thousands of years ago, and telephones from the 1960s (we have a repro one of these in our house!), then statues from Thailand and China. There were marble statues, stained glass windows, and all sorts or religious artefacts, such as a set of tiny cups for communion wine.


David Sedaris and vampires on Radio 4… March 23, 2010

Filed under: Radio and TV — lauravw @ 8:17 pm

…but not together, obviously. I’ve spotted two upcoming Radio 4 treats that may take your fancy: first up is a four part series called Meet David Sedaris. I love his books but haven’t heard him on the radio much – I am so excited about this series and will be marking it on my calendar to make sure I don’t miss a minute.

And secondly, vampires! In Scotland! From the blurb:

“When Pc Alex Deeprose was called to Glasgow’s sprawling Southern Necropolis on the evening of 23 September 1954, he expected to be dealing with a simple case of vandalism. But the bizarre sight that awaited him was to make headlines around the world and cause a moral panic that led to the introduction of strict new censorship laws in the UK.

Hundreds of children aged from four to 14, some of them armed with knives and sharpened sticks, were patrolling inside the historic graveyard.

They were, they told the bemused constable, hunting a 7ft tall vampire with iron teeth who had already kidnapped and eaten two local boys.”

The programme, called The Gorbals Vampire, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 30 March. The article says it’s on at 2300 GMT – but I think the clocks go forward this weekend, so perhaps that will mean it’s on at midnight? Confusing, but worth listening out for, with garlic at hand just in case.


Making your own dress patterns

Filed under: Books,Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 1:08 pm

After reading Flossie Teacakes’s praise for Cal Patch’s Design it Yourself Clothes, I decided to treat myself to a copy. It arrived just before our visitors, and so I’d only had time for a peek at it until now.

As Florence outlines in her post, there’s a lot to take in. I’m keen to think more about the clothes I can make, and I think that, rather than jumping ahead to tops and dresses, I will work on better and fancier skirts. I’ve made five skirts over the last couple of years, and I’ve learned a little from each of them. I’d like to start embellishing things – as mentioned before, I’ve found it tricky to find attractive dressmaking fabrics, and so I’m wondering if working with a plain fabric would be a good way to proceed. If I can find some nice, fairly heavy plain material, I could then embellish it with smaller pieces of patterned fabrics. That’s the plan, anyway… I need to start sketching out some ideas, but I have not been gifted with the ability to draw, and so that step is harder than it sounds.


Handmade Nation in Nottingham March 21, 2010

Filed under: Crafts,Radio and TV — lauravw @ 3:33 pm

Yesterday Nottingham’s Broadway cinema was filled with crafty people – and they looked to be a rather well-dressed bunch! They had all gathered because Nottingham Craft Mafia were showing the Handmade Nation film, and selling their wares at a craft fair in the bar upstairs.

The film was very interesting, and it was great to hear the voices of people whose books and blogs I have long enjoyed. But – and this is a big but – the low budget nature of the film meant that much of it was shot on hand-held cameras, and it didn’t take long before I had motion sickness. I sat quietly in the cinema, realising I’d have to cancel my plans for a fancy lunch afterwards. I thought it was just me (I get migraines and am susceptible to motion sickness), but my friend Eloise was also ill – she’d had to close her eyes through most of the film. When the lights came up, we headed outside for some fresh air. (It sounds like we weren’t the only ones to have had this experience.)

It was a while before we felt better, so we never got to go for lunch or to do any shopping. We managed a peek at the craft fair, but weren’t really in a fit state to do it justice. I did see a few things I want to check on at the Nottingham Craft Mafia shop though – in particular I liked Amy Blackwell‘s creations (there’s a little gallery here).

And thinking back to the film, there was much about it that I enjoyed: I loved the posters made by the Little Friends of Printmaking; Jenny Hart was inspiring; Nikki McClure‘s paper cut artworks were fascinating and beautiful; and I liked hearing Jill Bliss talk about her work, of which I am a big fan. And in general I loved the fact that these people lived in worked in normal places – they didn’t all have glamorous studio spaces or giant homes; they just did their creating where they could.


Thank goodness for spring! March 19, 2010

Filed under: Flowers and plants,Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 2:16 pm

It was a long, snowy, icy and sometimes gloomy winter, and so the arrival of spring feels even more special for me this year.

Today I took a walk through our local park with my camera, to try to capture a little bit of what it looks like covered in a carpet of crocuses. There’s one patch of the park that is completely covered in them, and it looks wonderful this week.

Other signs of spring are all around: we’ve had a daffodil bloom in the garden today, and there are one or two bees buzzing around out there. I even saw a little butterfly – the first I’ve seen this year. And a week or so ago there was a thrush singing in the same tree each morning as I walked to work.

You can see more of the crocuses here.


Entertaining foreign visitors March 18, 2010

Filed under: Places to go — lauravw @ 7:49 pm

Have you been reading Megan’s account of her trip to Europe, over at Not Martha? She and her husband, Scott, travelled to Paris for a holiday and she’s been writing about their experiences of exploring the city.

They caught the Eurostar over from Paris to stay with us here in Nottingham for a few days, and it was a lot of fun. I knew it would be fun to have them to visit, but there was an unexpected benefit in that I now have a better appreciation for both Nottingham and for England in general. When you see a place through the eyes of someone who’s never seen it before, it forces you to take note of all the little things that you’ve taken for granted over the years. I do appreciate the little spot we live in, but it turns out I have been taking for granted some aspects of British life, like vibrant, pedestrianised town centres; our supermarkets; the fact that I live in a city with a castle; and John Lewis. (Not that I take John Lewis entirely for granted, but if I were to move away, I’d miss it.) And Muji – I’m very lucky to live near a branch of Muji!

We spent time before Scott and Megan arrived planning where we could take them, but there was bad weather during their visit and so that altered things somewhat. As a result we never got to take them to Wollaton Park, with its Elizabethan hall. And we didn’t get to have afternoon tea at Langar Hall, a country house hotel with views over the Vale of Belvoir. But we did get to do a lot of other stuff – including tea and cakes at The Walk – a high-end cafe/tea room that I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time. It’s the sort of place I’d been saving for a special occasion, and their visit certainly fitted the bill. And we had lunch in the cafe at Nottingham Contemporary (which I believe is managed by the same people who run The Walk, but has a completely different atmosphere). Their current exhibition is of Soviet space artwork, including a few pieces that I think the kids would call ‘mash-ups’ – of Soviet space art mixed with images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary – and the Pope. Fascinating stuff for me, a convent school girl who wanted to be an astronaut when she was a child! I heard that Nottingham design legend Paul Smith himself visited the gallery this week.

Megan’s writing about her visit to Nottingham this week: part one, part two. She’s got some good pictures of the giant spacesuit that’s on display, so do go and have a look. I was in Nottingham Contemporary again last week and one of the museum staff told me that when the exhibition closes, the spacesuit is being taken to Poland, where it will be turned into a bar!

The weather may have altered our plans in terms of where we went, but not what we ate: we stocked up on all sorts of British foods before they arrived. We got through crumpets, toasted teacakes, Marmite, Yorkshire tea, toad in the hole, spotted dick and sticky toffee pudding. Plus a lot of chocolate and some real ale – and luckily for me there was plenty of chocolate left over, so I’m working my way through it all (well, someone’s got to do it).


Making a second Cath Kidston bag March 9, 2010

Filed under: Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 7:42 pm

Spring is definitely starting to spring: there are crocuses out in the park (and a few in our garden), and the birds are singing. We’ve even had some sunshine. I’ve been making myself a new handbag and it’s the perfect look for a Spring day: the fabric is Babushka by Prestigious Textiles, and I also used it for the knitting needle case I made for Gemma. The lining is a different print from the same range – big stripes in the same colours as the florals (you can see it on this page). I really like Prestigious Textiles and have used a few of their prints over the years – we have a bright and cheery roller blind on our landing that I made from one of their prints.

The pattern comes from Cath Kidston’s Sew book – I was really happy with how my first bag from this book turned out, and was keen to try another one. I think that’s the sign of a good sewing book: you want to jump in and start making things immediately. The instructions are brief (not that that’s a bad thing) and I have a feeling sometimes things in the book are the wrong way round – this could be just me, but I felt there were times in the book where it said to do one thing when it meant the opposite. Still, if you’ve got your wits about you, you might fare better than me. You can see a picture of my completed bag here.

There are other patterns in there that I want to try – one involves using a magnetic bag closure thingy, something I’ve never used before. I’ve bought one and will see how I get on with it.

That same bag also has canvas/webbing handles, and you’re advised to use a stronger needle on your sewing machine if you’re working with that weight of fabric – again this is something that’s new to me but I suppose it’s time I tried to broaden my sewing abilities. Already this year I’ve learned how to do buttonholes (as evidenced in this photo!), so I feel I’m making progress.


Britain’s most picturesque street March 8, 2010

Filed under: Places to go — lauravw @ 9:24 pm

My great grandfather was born and lived in a rather fancy building in York. I’ve been back a few times to admire the place, and to shop – it’s now a store selling kitchen goodies and a lot of ornaments. It’s on a pretty street, and the building itself dates back to the 15th century.

Not far away is another pretty cobbled street called The Shambles, and I was happy to read today that it has been voted the most picturesque in the country. If you’ve not visited York it’s well worth a trip – admittedly it’s usually crawling with tourists, but an out of season visit can be very enjoyable. And as for my great grandfather’s home, well, it’s directly opposite Cath Kidston on Stonegate, so do go and have a look!


The rocks that I’ve got March 6, 2010

Filed under: Crafts,Shopping — lauravw @ 4:38 pm

I received some particularly nice Christmas presents this year, and I’m wearing one of them today: a purple necklace from Pebble. I actually bought this myself, but then when my mother saw it, she said she wanted to buy it for me as a Christmas present, and so it ended up being taken away and wrapped up. I like it because it’s beautiful, but I also like it because it was designed and made so close to home: Jayne from Pebble creates her jewellery at her home in Nottinghamshire, and you can buy her pieces in Nottingham and on Etsy. Her Etsy shop’s empty at the moment, but there are pictures of her pieces on the Nottingham Craft mafia website.