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

Sewing small things May 31, 2010

Filed under: Gifts,Sewing — lauravw @ 1:51 pm

Although my recent skirt project was a success, I still don’t have the confidence to get started on the Amy Butler Liverpool shirt dress pattern. It’s just too fiddly! I’ll get round to it eventually (I’ve already bought the fabric so I’m running out of excuses), but not yet.

Instead, I did a small sewing project: two bibs for a baby that’s due to arrive in our extended family any day now. I’ve made these before so there was nothing to be anxious about – it’s a very straightforward pattern and I was able to go from start to finish in the course of a quiet Sunday afternoon.


More mouths to feed May 29, 2010

Filed under: Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 10:00 am

I’ve been spending a lot of time looking out of our kitchen window over the past week, keeping an eye on the birdfeeders in our garden (of which there are quite a few). This is something I do all year round, but particularly at this time of year: there are a baby birds around, and I like to watch them as they learn their way in the world. I also like to try to keep them safe by chasing away the neighbours’ cats!

A young blackbird appeared several weeks ago. He comes into the garden a lot during the day, and is usually accompanied by his father, who sits on a fence or other vantage point and keeps an eye on the young bird. I can actually see the father bird in the garden as I type this – it’s a damp morning, and that is keeping the cats away so there are plenty of birds pottering around out there.

We’ve also had young squirrels running around. There are some tall evergreen trees a few gardens over, and I’ve been watching the young squirrels practise their climbing skills by flinging themselves all around these trees, from top to bottom.

I’ve not seen young robins or great tits yet, but I have seen the adult birds making very regular trips to collect food from our birdfeeders, always returning to the direction they’ve arrived from – which makes me think they have a nest somewhere and hungry mouths to feed.

And as you can see from this picture, we do have baby starlings. These two little ones sat impatiently on the fence while the adults fetched them food from the feeder. A little later I caught a picture of one of the babies on the birdfeeder, feeding himself, which must make life a little easier for its parents.  I was pleased that they hung around long enough for me to be able to take pictures showing the difference between the adults and their young.

What’s been happening in your garden – any new arrivals?


I made this May 28, 2010

Filed under: Fashion,Sewing — lauravw @ 4:42 pm

…and I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. You can see a couple more pictures of it on Flickr, and there’s information about the pattern and fabric in this earlier post. The pattern was nice to work with – I can honestly say I did not swear during the making of this skirt, and nor did I threaten to throw the whole project out of the window. (I may have done this on previous occasions…)

When you make a skirt, you take your own measurements and cut your cloth to fit your body – and yet I am always surprised when the finished object fits me. I think it’s that part of me that knows that my homemade skirt won’t be as well constructed as some that I might buy, and so my expectations are lower than they need to be.

Susannah at Cargo Cult Craft wrote a post about this subject recently that caught my interest: Handmade or homemade? She writes: “The problem is that my eye is so accustomed to the mechanical perfection of mass-produced clothing — perfectly spaced buttonholes, perfectly even tucks, perfectly parallel rows of topstitching — that anything else, even a meticulously handstitched hem, looks somehow shabby.”

It’s worth reading the whole post, and the comments that follow it. The next pattern I plan to tackle is Amy Butler’s Liverpool shirt dress. I am terrified of it. I opened up the instructions and they look so daunting – there’s so much going on, so many bits to cut out! And there are choices – four different lengths, and sleeve options. I think I have settled on the tunic length, but I haven’t even thought about the sleeves yet. With the bank holiday weekend ahead of me, I may get chance to start cutting out my pattern pieces, so it is making-your-mind-up time.


Bookishness May 23, 2010

Filed under: Books — lauravw @ 1:30 pm

For plenty of people, all this sunshine and long hot days are very welcome. But for me it means hiding indoors with a migraine and hoping for a break in the weather so I can venture outside. Happily before the days heated up, I had ordered a new and rather large sunhat from Boden, so I’ve been able to hide underneath that on the rare occasions I’ve stepped out.

But there is plenty to do indoors! I have been going through old magazines and cutting out the articles I want to keep, filing them away in a pretty polka dot folder. And I’ve almost finished my study hall skirt. I’ve also been accumulating library fines – I like to think this means I’m helping the library buy new books, but it does infuriate me that so often I’m late returning my books (bear in mind I pass the library twice a day, and they let you renew your books online and by phone…). At least the fines were on books I’ve been enjoying: one in particular was a really good find. It’s Marie Claire Idees: Papercraft, and if you’ve ever read (or tried to read) Marie Claire Idees, you will know that it is in french, whereas this book has helpfully been translated into english. I did A-Level french and was reasonably good at it, but much of the vocabulary used in a craft magazine is rather specialised, and so I’ve struggled to make much sense of it. Not so with the book though – and from looking on Amazon I can see there is also a Marie Claire Idees book about bags.

There are a couple of new books that I’m looking forward to – Bill Bryson has written a social history book about domestic life, which I’m really looking forward to reading (once it comes out in paperback, I think). And later in the year Amy Butler’s new book about sewing bags will be out, just in time to be put to use making people bags for Christmas presents.

And now I think it’s time for some more ice cream.


I’ve been sewing May 16, 2010

Filed under: Fashion,Sewing — lauravw @ 5:11 pm

It was a slow start, but it’s getting there now: at long last I am sewing my Anna Maria Horner Study Hall skirt. Other than my own lack of speed when it comes to projects, this one’s a slow start because she has you zigzag stich every bit of fabric before you start sewing them together. Which I’m sure is a very sensible thing to do, but it means it’s a little while before you actually start constructing the skirt.

But now there’s no stopping me! I’ve made the front and the back, put in a zipper I’m really happy with (I think this is the best job I’ve ever done in putting in a zipper), and I’m soon going to be sewing the front to the back, then trying the whole thing on and admiring it.

It’s a little bit on the bright side, but no matter – I’ll wear it with a dark brown top and I’m sure that will tone it down enough. I love the fabrics – the main print is Splashy Rose in Pumpkin by Sandi Henderson, and the one inside the pleats is Henna Garden in Brown, from the same collection.

And of course, now that I’ve actually made something, I can (almost) justify buying some new fabric. I have my eye on something already – Filigree by Patricia Bravo.

And then there are new fabrics being unveiled by some of my favourite designers: Amy Butler has a new collection out in the autumn. I like the look of it, but I can’t see colours in there that would suit me if made into clothing. But Heather Ross’s new collection has a print that I love and want to wear, so there are possibilities there. It’s a shame the pound-to-dollar exchange rate is no longer in favour of us British girls…


Sewing club May 14, 2010

Filed under: Crafts,Food,Sewing — lauravw @ 11:36 am

There’s an informal sewing club in these parts. While we call it sewing club, it’s a rare evening that we actually sew. More often than not, it’s simply tea and cake and gossip at someone’s house.

There are just two members (which makes it a whole person smaller than our previous organisation of some years ago- knitting club): me and my friend Eloise. Eloise, you may remember, is an artistic sort (take a look at her shop to see her beautiful greeting cards), and the other week she presented me with this little print she’d done.

This week’s meeting was at my house, and it was a baking-themed affair. We baked fairy cakes and cookies, and then we ate them. And of course there was plenty of tea. Not a stitch was sewed, but we did show off our recent projects and talk about our plans for future ones.

The fairy cakes are from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook – vanilla ones, with vanilla buttercream icing. And the cookies are oatmeal cookies from the Little Red Barn baking book – I love these. We put chocolate buttons in half of them, but I think I prefer them without.

The cake cases were a gift from my mother – I have these pink and white spotty ones, and a matching set in brown and white.


The big vote: behind the scenes May 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lauravw @ 9:07 pm

Will you be staying up late on Thursday to see the election results come in? I’m planning to – assuming I can stay awake. I think I’ll watch Channel 4’s coverage of things, with a few checks to see what’s happening on the BBC.

I’m usually a bit more closely involved when there is an election on: I work in local government and in the past have often been one of the people sitting counting up the votes, late into the night. It’s a stressful, tiring, repetitive,and yet interesting job to do. Election counts often take place in local sports halls, and there are a lot of people involved. The election candidates and their associates are allowed to walk around and watch you as you work, which can be unnerving – they are looking to see if you’ve missed a vote, or mis-counted. On top of that, the local and national press may well be filming the event and broadcasting live from the site.

In the UK, we’re allowed to vote up until 10pm – at that point, the staff from each of the polling stations shut up shop, and drive the votes that have been cast during the day to a central venue for the area, where they are all counted together. It makes for a very long day – polling stations open at 7am, and so when counting finally gets started at around 10.30pm, people have been up and working for a long time. If the result is close, there could even be a recount – this means all the votes get counted again, and of course by this time it’s even later at night and people are really flagging. Where I live, it’s a safe seat – so there’s unlikely to be a call for a recount. But you never know – it seems like there is change in the air this year.