Wednesday, 14 October 2009

I'll be back

Not that anyone reads my blog, but then again, I never post anything, so why would you. I have excuses, mainly focussed on my lack of dining room and ergo lack of computer. But now it's back, so so should I be. One of these days. Soon. I promise.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

A bag for me

We're having our dining room floor re done. The dining room is where the computer lives, so at the moment, we have no dining room, all the dining room furniture in the wrong places (2 tables in the kitchen anyone?), all the contents of the dining room furniture (good crockery, a zillion glasses, all my material and wool) stacked in the spare room and no computer. So I'm writing this at work. Don't tell! But my work computer won't let me edit photos. So one of them is sideways. Sorry.

It's another of the Buttercup bags, like I made for Anja from some jeans a while back, but in red cord, like Child B's red cord trousers I made in the winter (now, sadly, lost), and lined with some lovely Indian printed cotton that lovely Rosie bought me.

I blogged about Child B's trousers when I made them. For months he had demanded red trousers. Whenever I got him dressed, he wanted red trousers and cried when I couldn't provide them. Shops only make red trousers for girls, and though that usually wouldn't bother me, I just couldn't find a pair that would do. So I made them for him. When he next demanded red trousers, I produced them with a flourish, but he just cried all the harder. Not those red trousers. But it's his birthday today (3, my goodness), so I'm feeling indulgent. Happy birthday piglet.

I love you and my new red handbag.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Anja's birthday present...

... is a gardening apron.

It's made out of the back of her husband's ruined jeans, and some lovely fabric from Brixton market. If she's very good, I'll stick some secateurs in the pocket too.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

World Wide Knitting In Public Day

We went to Dunster. It's on Exmoor. It has a castle.

And pubs with picturesque beer gardens

And a historic medieval yarn market.

And even though it lacks any actual yarn shops, you can still knit the first round of your new socks there, in the yarn market, to celebrate WWKIP day.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Tshirts to dresses

I do like a wardrobe refashion and I particularly like it combined with a clothes swap.

This little dress was a tshirt. You know what a tshirt looks like, so I didn't take a picture first. It had capped sleeves and was fine, but nothing special.

I had been holding forth about how easy it was to make little girls dresses out of tshirts, and then someone rather called my bluff, by saying go on then.

So I did. And I must say, I'm rather proud of it.

It's got a ruffle.

It's got a pouch type pocket.It fits the child it was intended for.
I proved a point.

Job done!

The second tshirt is for another friend's little girl. Still a work in progress, but nearly there.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Friday cupcakes and a picnic

I feel like I spend all day everyday at work (although it's the only place I have any peace and quiet to arrange childcare and think about food shopping), but on Fridays I quite often stay at home with Child B. And even on days when I don't, I come home early to pick up Child A from school.

Like many parents (well, mums) I've found the transition to school traumatic. Nursery used to run from 8am to pretty much 6pm, with snacks and naps all round. Even though it bled us dry, financially, it was a source of emotional succour as the pastoral care was provided as much for the parents as for the kids. School, in terms of weekly budgetting, is a godsend, but in terms of hours per day it's a nightmare. I mean who on earth can fit a working day between 9 and 3? Especially once the guilt laden 15 minutes extra in the class room are accounted for. Even when I work from home, 9.20 to 2.55 hardly constitutes a working day. But in a way, the worst thing is what to do with all that extra time with your child! Much as I love them, I can't be the first mum to think that the less time she spends with her children, the harder the time left becomes. Firstly I don't know what they like to do. Secondly I forget how to play, or how to let them play. Thirdly, there's a lot of pressure to make all the time together precious, when inevitably some of it will be fractious, or involve wiping noses, administering vegetables and shouting.

When it's sunny, we often go straight to the park after school. When it's not we bake a cake. Sometimes from first principles. Often from a packet. The boys mostly eat porridge for breakfast, but porridge augmented (secretly with fruit) with hundreds and thousands, chocolate sprinkles, food colouring, whatever. I think it's still more nutritious than Krusty Flakes, or (insert generic sugar laden cereal here). I means though, that we're at the top of our game when it comes to icing cakes.

Lucy from Attic 24 always takes such beautiful pictures of her little people's works in progress, and manages to even make her housework look lovely and colourful. I'm not quite as adept, but in the spirit of at least trying, here are our little bowls of icing. Oh no, darned computer won't move them. They're at the bottom.
Here we all are at Chepstow Castle. In the sun. Glorious!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

A little birdy told me

These pretty little birds are from spool. I've been making a batch to give to people who I'd like to give something to when they've had a baby, but for whom a knitted blanket wouldn't really be appropriate.

They're sitting in the fence that separates us from our lovely neighbour. Her garden is much better than ours, so it's nice to be looking that way.

The look we aspire to with our garden is something along the lines of repossession chic. Our gardens go back to back with our neighbours, so it would be quite a feat to get a car on bricks through. However, if we did manage, it would feel right at home.

We used to have a pond. Considering our garden is not large, the largeness of the pond was a particular insult. That it housed newts was a redeeming feature, but it did threaten to drown most children / cats that passed its way. A couple of years ago, Mr Kinkatink decided to fill it in. But first he had to dig another pond. For the next two years, we had 2 ponds, taking up about 50% of the garden.

At the bank holiday I freaked out at the allotment after bastard slugs ate EVERYTHING (well, not the bind weed) so I decided to abandon the allotment (it's going spare, if you'd like one - time wasters need not apply). By the end of the weekend, we had somewhere to sit and drink pimms, and more importantly, to photograph little birds. They are now winging their way around new babies in the greater Bristol area.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Bundles for babies

I might have mentioned once or twice that it seems like everyone I know is having babies at the moment. Yes, I know I've got two, but they'll be 5 and 3 within the month, and they just aren't babies anymore. So I have to make things for the new ones. And their mummies, and their siblings. In the past, it was always local people having babies, and I'd turn up with a card, homemade bread and soup, something nice for the mum - some nail varnish, or mascara (blue, so when it smudged, it would just look like eye makeup), a blanket for the baby, and a little something for the sibling. I have a stash of cards, blankets and small presents for siblings, so in the event of a surprise birth I'm good to go.

I've made the same cards for a while now: cookie cutter bunnies out of green/blue/purple paint samples on a pink or blue background. I just use two the same, and invert one, but you have to be careful what they're called. I painted a room Sexy Pink once. You wouldn't want to put that on a birthday card. Gender stereotyping from birth is all well and good, but that's a step too far!

In one batch, I was left with two bunnies but not enough samples for the card, so one of the cards like this has two bunnies on. I thought it looked fine, but I think now it's going to have to wait until someone pops twins. Boy twins. No pressure guys.

This here is the parcel I sent to my good friend Joy. I've known her since university days. She was the first to have a baby, who is now a very grown up nearly nine year old (and my god daughter to boot). Time has passed, and we've all grown up a bit, and Joy now has a new husband and a new baby, and I don't see nearly enough of her.

The blanket is tiger eye lace. I did have a pattern for it (as a scarf) but the site seems to have disappeared. It was a bugger to knit! But very pretty, so I guess worth it in the end.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Billy's jeans: the remix

The bag I made for Billy has been received to a surprising amount of critical acclaim in the office. Several months on, he's still carrying it, says his Mum (who sounds, in his words, awesome) approves and receives compliments on it. It also led to a commission for me! How exciting. My friend and colleague Anja, who puts the mental into environmental, had a job lot of jeans for the charity shop, so redirected them my way.

I've upped my rates a bit, so this cost her 2 pairs of jeans, 2 tshirts and a jar of lovely home made jam. Oh, and some fennel, but I think I was doing them a favour after a veg box overload.

So I made not one but 2 bags - essentially, and without wishing to gender stereotype, a boy bag and a girl bag. Except we're grown ups now, aren't we. A Man Bag and a Lady Bag. Look, Grown Ups get Capitals.

The man bag is the same model as Billy's bag. I think I put it together in a slightly different order, and there was a bit more jiggery pokery with the tshirt lining as I did it all with one pair of jeans and one tshirt. If I say so myself, it's rather nice.
For the other one, I actually followed a pattern, and you can too. It's a Buttercup Bag from Made by Rae There appear to be a zillion of them out there, but none, as far as I could see, made from Anja's old jeans. Also, they all seem to be much bigger. Maybe something went wrong somewhere.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

A good haul

My immediate family is small, and reasonably close, as these things go. But going back a generation or two, they're possibly a bit closer than they should have been. My grandparents, on my dad's side, were related (third cousins, once removed, since you ask) before they got married. They were both from large-ish families, so my dad has lots of cousins. They were all at the same school, which, eventually, I went to as well, though I'm a girl so I don't count.

There's an episode of the Simpsons, where Lisa is worried that there's a Simpson's gene, that kicks in when you're 10 and turns you stupid. Not unreasonably, she's based this on her experience of Homer and Bart. But Marge, as ever, knows better, and in a lovely example of experiential learning, organises a party for all of Homer's cousins. The cousins, including the women, are clearly all drawn from the Homer template. Most of the men look like drop kicks, but there's one, in tux, who Lisa figures looks successful (error #1). Lisa approaches him to ask what he does. On closer inspection, his tux is slightly shabby. Turns out, he impersonates rick people at parties. Fortunately, the female cousins are all far more successful, being Pulitzer prize winning novelists and the like. Lisa deduces that there is a Simpson gene, but it only affects boys. Her and Maggie are spared.

Why this is relevant to this post is because of the similarities of Homer and his cousins. When I see my dad with his cousins, it's like that. Even the ones that aren't related to each other, other than as like fifth cousins, once removed. They don't all look like one another, but you could arrange them like a colour chart, and go, via my Dad, from my uncle Peter all the way to cousin Tony. Anyway, the only time I ever see them all together now is at the funerals of the generation above, my great aunts and uncles.

Most of the great aunts and uncles lived in the North of England, in Cumbria, and over the last few years, there's been a nasty outbreak of funerals. I went, when I was pregnant with Child B, for Great Aunt Cicely's. This was catered by the Women's Guild who treated it as a cake competition. I sat on a knitting needle on the train on the way home, causing considerable blood loss, and the first and so far only knitting injury I have sustained. Even funeral's have high and low points. But a trip to one of these funerals inevitably involves staying in Penrith, which is a funny little northern market town. My mum thinks it's Satan's own market town, but I quite like it. We even went on holiday near there a couple of years ago. We went to Eden Ostrich World. They have a zebroid. A zebroid no less. It was brilliant.

Sadly, this year Great Uncle Vernon died, so we all traipsed up again for his funeral. He was in his nineties, and had been a vicar. There was a considerable ecclesiastical turn out at the church, possibly the most men in dresses you get outside a transvestite convention.

Penrith is one of those towns that seems to have a lot of bed shops, and a lot of children's clothes shops. Perhaps because it's so cold and bleak, all there is to do is go to bed. And once you're there, you better make some babies cos otherwise you'd get bored. But it also has a fantastic book shop and a knitting shop with one of the rudest women in I've ever met. So rude in fact I'm not going to link to her. Yeah, that'll learn her. But I did still buy some wool from her, to make some edging for a blanket I think I've made and posted off without photographing. Whoops.

It's a terrible picture, but the wool is lots of pinky purply colours. It became a scalloped edging for a chunky cream moss stitch baby blanket.

But really, the star of the Penrith shopping scene is Help the Aged, where I went on the rampage, coming out with three silk scarves, which I think will embellish skirts I have yet to make, and some beautiful vintage buttons. I had to keep bartering the shop lady up. She was trying to give me three for two deals and all sorts, but I put my foot down, and said I was completely happy to pay 50p a scarf, yes, even for the smaller one. I went into raptures for the buttons, and have vaguely fantasized about going back (it's 5 hours away) for some more. They had a whole shoe box of vintage ones. So, all in all, it was a good haul. Just a shame to bury Uncle Vermin though.

Saturday, 21 March 2009


January is Jamuary in our house. Well, technically it's marmalade, but that doesn't quite have the same ring to it. We do family marmalade, the boys on the juicer, the man on the chopping, me superintending with a clipboard (only a slight exaggeration). We've made marmalade every year for gosh, years, using the handy kits from Riverford the marvellous Tesco of organic veg. You know, they're ubiquitous, you feel you ought to go a bit more local, but they are handy aren't they.

One year Helena arrived mid marmalade, when it was a team effort with 2 other women (that's about a zillion oranges). I think she was a bit surprised to see a quiet Sunday, family kinkatink style.

So this year we made normal orange marmalade, plus extra exciting pink grapefruit marmalade. And then we decorated them all with pretty stickers and tops that my mum bought me for Christmas. Now we have a whole cupboard full of preserves, which should last a whole year.

We copied my friend Kate's recipe for marmalade ice cream and served it for Burn's Night supper, alongside brown bread ice cream, which I thought was quite witty.

Roll on summer and genuine jam. I hope you like jamming too.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Billy's jeans

A little while ago, I saw a lovely wall hanging made out of jeans pockets in Sew Hip. Aha, I thought, that would be perfect for Child A to put all his little things in. Not too whimsical. Not too girly. Not too hard to make. I thought I could just trot along to the charity shop, stock up on jeans and get chopping. Little did I realise that charity shops charge Lots Of Money for jeans, and don't sell battered ones cheaply, preferring to sell them to the rag man. Now, I couldn't bring myself to spend £30 on jeans to cut up. Nor could I really justify wrecking 5 pairs of perfectly servicable trousers to feed my habit.

As you do, I then started whinging about this at work, to my poor office mate, a 23 year man, who just should not be expected to care about my crafting dilemmas. But (fanfare) he did. And he cared so much, the next day he arrived with a carrier bag full of jeans. He's called Billy. I've had this stuck in my head ever since. Only with alternative lyrics.

Billy's jeans,
Alright my lover
He's just a guy who think's that I'm like his Mum
But the kid is not my son...

So I made a wall hanging thing

Which was a bit weird, because it made my house smell of fabric conditioner. Who knew young men could be so fastidious (or that we are so slovenly, that a well conditioned pair of jeans could change the whole smell aesthetic of our house).
It also left me with 5 pairs of trousers with no bottoms. Which was a bit weird too.

Billy could tell me all about all the different pairs of jeans, and what they meant to him, so even though I don't know the stories, it's nice to know that the whole hanging is embued with the sort of memories that crafters often attribute to their scraps and stashes. But one pair clearly had particular meaning as The Best Jeans Ever. Face it, we've all had a pair, we all know just how much they mean to us, and that, daft though it often seems, we don't ever think it will be recaptured. I did offer to repair them, but on inspection realised they were entirely beyond repair. And I'm not his mum.
So I made him a bag out of them. It took rather longer than I expected, and broke 2 sewing machine needles. But I learnt a lot in the process about how jeans are constructed (rather well it would seem)
I made a closure for it with the button from another pair, and managed to salvage the original Levis badge for the front. I lined it with a holey tshirt from my husband. It was a real challenge to make a bag for a man that wasn't too handbaggy, but I think Billy liked it. He certainly said 'Awesome' a lot when I gave it to him, and I see him use it (which makes me smile). But it does have an ongoing air of 'jeans' rather than 'bag' about it, so that when I see it dumped on the floor by his desk, it does just look like someone's left their troos on the floor. My children are given to doing that, but I expect slightly better standards of dress in my office.
I've also made a couple of pairs of 'jeans' for small girls from the rest of the legs:
And now seem to be taking commissions for more. The going rate is 2 pairs of jeans, 2 tshirts and a bottle of wine. I think I might have to up the rate if I'm going to make my fortune!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Wish list

In only a couple of short weeks time it is, in chronological order (as opposed to order of priority, alphabetical, what they add up to if you wrote them in binary) it is Spring (yay!) Mother's Day and My Birthday. Also, by then I'll have done my half marathon, and therefore will have fallen off the wagon in, hopefully, quite a spectacular way. But not immediately afterwards, because I did that in 2006 and it hurt really badly for days, and then I was pregnant.

So, if anyone out there (and really that just means my husband) is wondering what I might like to celebrate with, may I make some suggestions*:

And, most importantly

  • Time to play with it all!

*Not being the greedy type, I don't expect all of this stuff. But a couple of bits would be nice.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Time travel

So, I thought I'd written a good long post last night about some of the things I made for Christmas. Except then it vanished. There's a lot to this whole blogging thing I don't get: inserting html; remembering to give credit where it's due; formatting text around my pictures. All this I can deal with. But when I write a post on February 2nd, and it gets published on December 5th - of a whole previous year - that phases me a bit.

If you want to check out what every one got for Christmas, scroll down. If you know how to do anything about my little time travel problem, let me know.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Christmas gifting

Gosh, I was such a busy bunny before Christmas, I was too busy making stuff to blog about it. Also, there's always the possibility that someone for whom a gift was intended might read. A slim possibility, it must be said, but one nevertheless.

So having decided not to make Christmas cards, I saw some old sheet music in a charity shop, and was inspired. I also used it to wrap presents, which looked lovely.

I had a good rummage through the pile at the shop, selecting the oldest, largest folios and those that were stapled rather than glued
in the centre. The lady, obviously differently discerning to me, looked over them, and said 'what an interesting selection of music'. I was flattered that she thought I'd chosen it to play, but she was delighted when I told her why I'd bought it.

I also covered a couple of boxes with music to give as gift boxes.

And here is the jacket I made earlier, all finished with button and pockets.

And here is two batches of aprons I made for all my kids' friends. Inevitably, I got the idea online, but can't remember where. All you do is cut the corners off a tea towel, and sew bias tape round, leaving good long tails to tie behind the bag and making a loop to go over the child's head. I also used bondaweb to iron on monograms and little motifs (stars and flowers mostly). They met all the prerequisites I have for bulk gifting: low unit cost, lost time cost, highly personalisable, appropriate for girls and boys of different ages. And they were sweet! I used really cheapy tea towels, but you could really get carried away with some of the beautiful ones you get in craft type shops. Or kitsch ones from a charity / souvenir shop.

I used this excellent tutorial for making bias tape, and now I'm obsessed with it. Expect more bias tape related creations soon!

It seems wierd blogging about Christmas decs too, but I was proud of my angels, one a cut out from the Guardian, the other Heston Blumenthal from the Observer. There's a possibility that he's actually a god, not an angel, but he was good on the tree. The funny cone things were pseudo Christmas trees for on top of the piano. Actually, they're still there.

And finally...

hot water bottle covers for the boys. It's snowing today, and they both sat huddled on the sofa with their hotties, under an ancient blanket. They were so snug! They're just felted jumpers cut up and stitched together. The sleeves make the neck, and I used the waist band for the opening on one side. Dead easy. Just don't tell them that.