Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Mooove over Darling

Having finished at last the quilt for my friend’s baby I’m excited about trying more challenging quilting.  It’s not a complex design - just squares sewn together although I’m considering hand quilting round some owl shapes for definition, maybe one owl per square – that it whipped up really quickly.  I stitched the squares together in rows first and then stitched the rows together.  I’ve read different things about pressing seams in quilts – pressing them open or to one side - and decided to go for the to the side option.  Given it’s for a baby, I thought that might add some strength to the stitching as they wouldn’t be under pressure where the seams were pulling apart by being pressed open. Maybe that’s factually incorrect but was my sense when looking at it. 

Sewing the rows together, I thought I had matched up the seams perfectly but on the first row one of the square is out by about 2mm.  This of course means that my rotary cutting was also off on a couple of squares but sliding past that it made me really focus on matching my seams for the rest of them and gosh darn it if it doesn’t look pretty flipping good if I do say so.  I had a bit of a tip off that the baby’s room is yellow so am glad about the colours I’ve chosen for it.  The OH thinks it’s very bright but I did remind him it’s for a baby and besides, OH lives in a world of magnolia and coffee coloured things – and in my view a bit of bold never hurt anyone.  How we’ll manage when we live together I don’t know – the first time he came to my house, I saw him balk at my Wedgewood blue dining room and vintage yellow Royal Ballet poster.  Hey ho, change is evolutionary so I’m hopeful he’ll see sense about colour adding richness and excitement to life in general.  And I am already convinced that neutrals help to bring those colours to life so there’s room for his pale (and not stale) muted tones. 

Too bright?  For a baby?
I had been hemming and hawing about what to do for the backing and binding and settled on a white cotton with a sage green stripe for the back.  For the binding I was going for a taupe mini dot and thought I’d put a thin band of this across the middle of the back to break up the stripes and unify the binding, back and front.  Once I’d pinned it together and machine quilted it was obvious that a dark solid would really pull it together so I opted for dark brown – one of my original purchases so the tip is to listen to your instinct.  Plus I’d forgotten to do the strip of brown mini-spots across the back.  Cough cough.

When putting it together, I was a bit uncertain about the basting stage.  Given time constraints and lack of experience I thought spray basting (I gather in the community of quilters I should probably whisper that) might be the way forward but given it’s for a baby and I didn’t plan to wash it before giving it to my friend (hence it being stored in a ridiculously cautious way and washing my hands every ten or so minutes when I’m working on it) spray basting concerned me slightly – what are the risks of using spray adhesive on a child’s quilt?  Anyway, after I’d rolled the top and batting together and then started smoothing the three layers together it dawned on me I was too late anyway and I quite liked the pin basting – it’s repetitive and soothing, and to quote a great man those curved pins have a “nice action”.  Sigh, Alan Partridge, how right he was. 

Onto the mojo part.  My boss brought in a selection of children’s books that she no longer needs and she thought my nieces and nephews might like.  One of them was Click Clack Moo – Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin.  I hadn’t seen this book before but I was pretty uncool when I read it.  I think “laughed like a drain” probably best describes my reaction to it.  Now it might be that I’ve been working in HR for too long, and it had been a particularly tedious day of disputes, conflict, grievances and petty griping about all sorts of stuff and nonsense that would push a nursery teacher to their limits but a simple soul like me to near hysteria - but the protracted negotiations of the cows and chickens, and then the militarism of the ducks at the end struck a chord.  The pictures are lovely and reminded me of blocks for a quilt so I thought about using them as inspiration and trying to make a story quilt for my littlest niece perhaps with a copy of the book as a gift for her.  A long-term project with all the other things I have on the go but I do like the idea (clearly I wouldn’t infringe copyright and it would be a source rather than a copy, but it is just a thought). 

My jumper hit a bit of an impasse and I had to seek expert advice – I would blame the pattern (who wouldn’t) but I can’t.  I’m always nervous about ripping back as I’ve never managed to get the stitches back on a needle when I’ve done that.  I carried the picture around with me for a day or so then spoke to someone who really does know what she’s doing and almost as soon as I had her on the ‘phone it was obvious what was wrong.  That’s always the way – sometimes I ask someone else in the team just to pop in if I’m wrestling with something technological as it always resolves itself magically as soon as they’re nearby.

We had a very relaxing weekend in Suffolk – it’s a place that really shakes the cobwebs out, not least because it’s flat and quite windy - and came home feeling like we’d been on holiday.  Then tried to change a light bulb in the bathroom.  I love my flat but it’s fair to say the DIY Dad who lived there before me seemed to have a pathological fear of a job well done.  It’s as if he couldn’t bear to get a light fitting in straight, or fix the giant hole in the ceiling he had made trying to put up something in the hallway (I still don’t know what).  He was a barrister.  Now I’m not casting aspersions on his profession or practical abilities, but something about the state of the finish of the DIY tells me he may have been better suited to more “thinking” pursuits than practical ones.  The light fitting in the bathroom is such a total b7g8er to undo and redo that it took an hour to change the light bulb.  It was not our finest moment.  Chatting to my sister last night she told me about her husband grumbling that she had forgotten to pack his mobile charger for a business trip he was packing for himself.  I was reminded of the OH’s comment as I stood on the bath several feet away from the offending light fitting looking at his grimacing and unhappy face when he dropped a bit of the fitting.  “You moved it” he squawked with not a trace of irony.  Which led to one of those conversations reserved only for couples – “how could I have moved it, I was at least a MILE away”, “ I didn’t say “you”, I said “we”, you misheard” – not convinced I managed to bite back “you misspoke” – I’ve had a bathroom in darkness since before Christmas and I really did need that light to be fixed.  Ah love, it’s not for everyone.


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

2012 projects for the New Year (or thereabouts)

Happy New Year to anyone who may be reading.  It feels I’ve missed the boat for a round up of 2011 adventures and besides, I’d much rather look forward to 2012 and all the adventures to come.

I do have a couple of pictures from my first forays into cake decorating.  This isn’t me diversifying my hobbies as frankly at this rate I will have no time for anything else.  It is an essential skill that, having made and nurtured no less than six Christmas cakes over the last few months, I simply had to learn.  I took myself to Cakes4Fun in Putney for a Saturday of cake decorating and was genuinely surprised by the results.  The tutor made everything look incredibly easy which it wasn’t, or at least certainly not for me and my impatient, large-handed self, but with a few simple techniques the class were able to pull off some pretty great results, if I do say so myself.

First steps - crumb coating

Next step - icing

Final step - decorating

Glad I got a snap of this one - the holly leaves fell off during the car journey home
So to home and the cakes for the OH’s mother and my family Christmas (the latter of which travelled to York, Putney, Winchester and then got mislaid in Winchester so didn’t make it to Devon – I hear my brother has scoffed the remainder which has to be a good sign, although the niece thought the icing “tasted funny” – well, that’s Dr Oetker’s problem and not mine; besides, I rather liked it and for us the priority was a super thick layer of marzipan – in an ideal world we would reverse the current ratio of cake to marzipan I think).

My first solo flight
Although I sewed my sister a very small Christmas token – we don’t do presents for Grown Ups – I’ve not been at the sewing machine much.  However, I have treated myself to some lovely, simple dark green 100% wool crepe from Linton Direct, suppliers to several of the top fashion houses including Chanel.  My reasoning was that every woman should own Chanel, but most women can’t afford it – I certainly can’t so this gave me a cheap-ish thrill (it was in the sale section) and I still feel rather darned special.   I plan to use this for the Merchant & Mills trapeze dress once I’ve tracked down a lining fabric (quite hard to get as excited shopping for the linings isn’t it). 

My sister-in-law also very kindly gave me some fabric for blinds for the craft room.  After the “Great Light Shade debacle” of December 2011, where two lightshades arrived very squashed and then didn’t fit anyway (“what the blazes” were not my exact words but you get the gist) it will be nice to get started on the finishing touches.  I had a devil of a time cutting out and squaring up and I managed to very slightly burn the lining fabric so there is an iron shape on the top corner of the back of one of the would-be blinds.  Could have been worse I grumbled.  If these go well, I might even make blinds for the living room and take down the rather too-grand-for-the-room theatre style curtains I have up at the moment.

The OH has started mentioning moving again, and although in principle the idea sounds good, I am both incredibly attached to my flat and very averse to the hassle of moving.  Now I have my lovely new craft room the motivation dwindles further.  Oh, if only he would consider living in my lovely flat but men are funny souls and this one is funnier than most.  Clearly my almost bat-like tendency not to be dislodged from a comfortable spot also makes me a rather funny creature so I’m not complaining, just observing.  Anyway, his mentionings have meant I’ve pushed my RSN course back to later this year which is sad but practical and it doesn’t stop me continuing to learn techniques and skills.

So I mentioned I’ve not been at my sewing machine much but I have been knitting up a storm – here is even a shot of me knitting in the car on the way back from New Year in Devon. 

For reassurance I’m just backseat driving on this occasion.  It will eventually be this jumper with one important adjustment.

from http://www.knitonthenet-shop.com/
The front is done and I’ve nearly finished the back.  The reason it’s taking about half the time it should is because I quite clearly missed the festive deadline so decided to veto the colour work.  The colour work was about a quarter of the reason I decided to make this jumper, and the rest was the fabulous sleeve shape.  I’m a huge fan of 40s and 50s styling and am always sad that my day-to-day lifestyle of City work means I can’t really indulge my passion for dressing in a way that more positively reflects me.  It’s always a watered down version which only started to happen when I moved into this type of firm six or seven years ago.  I’ve noticed that the tendency to “tone things down” has spread into my home dress sense too which I think is a shame, but ultimately as you get older you tend to dress more practically anyway.  For example, for Christmas Day lunch with my lovely sister and all her lovely little people (the children, her husband is a very tall man) I had plotted a rather natty little dress and cardigan ensemble in the morning but thought about three children and their sticky fingers and opted for the failsafe jeans option.  And I was jolly glad I did – mini-Moo started teething in earnest so by the end of the meal she had wiped turkey and veg all over herself and even getting her upstairs and into a nice toasty bath meant I got covered in food too.  She looked a real poppet in her romper afterwards though – all cherubic and lovely.  Anyway, it’s just not practical to wear something that you really love in that situation as you know it’ll end up being ruined so there’s inevitably a compromise between the inner style maven and the external presentation of conservative girl about the City. 

Just before Christmas I had to work from home to wait for a couple of deliveries and it made me love my new craft room even more.  Not only could I work at my desk properly, but whenever I need to find anything, I know where it is.  Ah, well I will do – there are a few teething problems on the organisation front (anyone else find that?) but I am getting there and things are starting to find their natural spots.  Who knew I owned such a vast array of old biscuit tins although it explains a lot about my current fitness level.  Keeping things simple is definitely my motto for this type of organisation, but it’s just a case of things finding their place and me getting a proper chance to use the room more. 

I’ve already lined up my projects for the coming months which will help with that.  First and foremost I must clear away the last of the piles of dislodged debris.  Largest of these is my shoe collection which I think will need to be housed in the loft (with my rogue Wasp nest) with just a choice few pairs retained for day-to-day use.  There is currently one last Dratted Corner of Shame, the last area to be sorted and then the flat has been reclaimed from fabric, yarn etc.

Once the piles are dealt with, I need to make the blinds for the craft room, and possibly the living room (and the dining room could do with something too).  I’ve done the cutting out for the baby quilt I’m making for a friend so must crack on with that this weekend – I’m still not confident I’ve grasped doing a border but that’s a way off and I think I need to find a new fabric for it anyway.  I really need to plough on with my embroidery which has been very slow going so need to ramp that up a bit.  The knitted baby blanket also needs some attention.  I think I’m nervous of the entrelac border and so am neglecting the body of it.  Surprisingly, the border worries me less than the likely boredom of sewing a long border on; but if the worst came to the worst I could always crochet something.  I’m no longer sure that I like the colour though which is more problematic. 

Once those shoes are in the loft, the room really will take on a life of its own for working in.  It’s such a cosy spot and already feels like a haven.  Once it gets some projects under its belt I see it becoming very hard to leave.  And just in case I wasn’t busy enough, I start my creative writing course next week – all those years of writing scraps of fiction that never come together into a whole will have been good practice I hope.  Having read Dorothea Brande’s “Becoming a Writer” it certainly seems that regularly writing is the key.  Mine has never been regular but learning how to structure things would be rather useful and even if the scraps remain in the bottom drawer forever, it will still be a really interesting way to spend the next few months.  I spent a good chunk of Christmas reading the collected short stories of Agatha Christie and it has left me pondering many things about short fiction and answered a lot of questions I should reasonably not have had about why my efforts have been unsuccessful. 

So 2012 kicks off busy but it sure does make time fly.